You want to find the right match because a new glove could end up being your trusty companion for several years. A glove is like a fine wine, it gets better with age. You know what we’re talking about. Nothing beats a battle-tested, full-grain leather, rugged glove that’s weathered a few seasons of sweat and dirt. It acquires a charm of its own.
In this equipment guide, Dugout Debate covers all the bases: the best gloves types for each position, reviews of the best baseball gloves of 2018, and we go over a handful of things you should keep an eye on before making a final purchase decision. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a teenager with a heart set on going pro, there’s something for everyone. There is no one size fits all for baseball players, so you may want to try out a few of your buddies and teammates gloves to get an idea of what you’re looking for.
How to Choose the Best Glove for You
Size. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to baseball gloves. This will mostly depend on your position. For infielders, cleanly fielding the ball and the ability to make a quick transfer from glove to throwing hand is the most important factor. A smaller glove with a shallower pocket makes it easy to get the ball out of the glove and results in a speedy transfer. We talk more about positions and types of gloves in our next section below. Rawlings also has a nice table for glove sizing.
Webbing. The webbing connects the thumb of the glove to the rest of the finger slots. This is the part that folds and expands the easiest, creating the “basket” that assists the player in catching the ball. Glove manufacturers have come up with all sorts of cool names for their special webs, but they generally fall into two broad categories. Closed webs use a tight woven pattern of leather that features no gaps in the webbing. Pitchers usually use this type so they can better hide their grips pre-delivery. Open webs use cross-like patterns of leather pieces to create gaps which the player can see through which can be helpful for tracking fly balls (though you’ll sacrifice some of your ability to block out the sun). Open webbing also allows dirt to fall out through the spaces so you don’t scoop a glove full load of dirt when fielding a ground ball.
Backing. This is the part of the glove that rests on the back of your hand. The backing is either an open or closed design. Backing tends to be more of a personal preference thing, as both open and closed backed gloves offer similar performance. The key difference is that an open back allows more flexibility in the wrist and is generally favored by infielders, while a closed back provides extra wrist stability and is usually preferred by first basemen and outfielders for those laser beam line drives. In addition, open backs provide more ventilation for sweaty hands which is a nice benefit on hot summer days.
Material. The main differentiator in the quality of a baseball glove is the grade of the leather. Leather quality has a drastic effect on the mitt’s durability, softness, performance, look, feel, and break-in time. A general rule of thumb is that the stiffer the leather, the higher the leather quality. In turn, this also means it’s going to take a hell of a lot longer to break in. For example, a Rawlings Heart of the Hide is going to start out ultra-stiff until you beat it up some. Eventually, however, leather of this quality will mold to the player’s hand and last many seasons. Types of leather include:
- Synthetic Leather: very affordable, great for newer players.
- Top-grain Leather: second-highest quality of leather, thinner and more pliable than full-grain.
- Full-grain Leather: highest grade leather, the grain remains providing excellent durability as well as breathability.
Price. You’ve heard it before, “You get what you pay for,” blah blah blah. You don’t have to buy the most expensive mitt out there to get the best performance. There are quite a few fairly priced gloves that will do just fine. No one needs Rawlings’ top tier glove to field a ground ball. The main thing to look for is the quality of the leather and set your expectations accordingly. Don’t expect to buy a synthetic glove and have the thing last more than a couple seasons. Keep in mind by the time you go pro, you won’t need to worry about buying fancy gear anyway.