Best Japanese Baseball Gloves

5 Best Japanese Baseball Gloves: A Primer (2021)

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It seems not long ago when Japanese-made baseball gear took the sporting scene by storm, with more players going with Mizuno spikes instead of the typical Nike, Adidas or Puma cleats. The wave continued with baseball mitts, with advanced features typical for companies from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Models by Mizuno and SSK dominate today’s selection, but truly, what are the best Japanese baseball gloves? It does come down to those top brands, which then makes it a choice among particular models. Both Mizuno and SSK offer complete baseball glove lines that make choosing your preferred model comes down to individual taste and comfort, possibly the position played, and maybe what you can afford.

In general, outfielders prefer bigger, longer gloves to more easily stretch out and nab balls out of the air in bigger pockets, or use it wide open to block out the sun while tracking a ball. Infielders tend to go with smaller models with closed webs, best for transferring balls faster to prepare for quick throws to beat fast base runners.

Pitchers mostly use infielder’s gloves, though they may be a bit longer or even modified. Mitts for catchers and first basemen are distinct to those positions, with their shapes and padding designed for the rigors of their particular spot on the field.

Quick Summary

Who Should Get a Japanese Baseball Glove?

Any baseball player or coach should consider baseball gloves made by Japanese manufacturers, because they compare favorably with those offered by U.S. brands. In fact, most baseball gloves of the American-based brands are manufactured outside of the United States. (Nokona baseball gloves made in Texas being a notable exception). Japanese brands have proven to be popular across the board including in Major League Baseball as well as in youth, college, and adult league softball leagues.

What to Consider When Choosing a Baseball Glove

Features or elements to consider in buying a baseball glove include:

Size

As stated above, outfielders use longer gloves while infielders prefer smaller ones. Aside from catcher’s mitts which are measured by circumference, baseball gloves are measured from the tip of the index finger down to the bottom end of its heel, ranging from 9 to 13 inches, generally. Adult-use baseball gloves are typically 11 or 12 inches. Softball players might go even longer since the ball is bigger.

Pocket Webbing

Is the webbing between the thumb and index finger open, e.g. has holes you can see through, or closed (no or little visual through it)? Pitchers prefer closed webbing so batters can’t get a glimpse of their grip on balls. Likewise for infielders, who prefer to avoid having fingers get stuck in the hole of an open-webbed pocket while transferring the ball for quick throws.

Backside

Even the back of the glove down at the wrist and lower hand have differences. An open back means there’s just a strap at the very bottom and an opening between it and where the glove’s fingers begin. Closed means just that, there is no hole and leather covers everything. Pitchers might prefer closed to help avoid tipping pitches with raised fingers during deliveries. But some players prefer open for the ventilation during hot, sweaty days; plus they can prove more flexible at that point of the wrist.

Interior

Does the glove have special padding inside, like sheep skin? Even when you purchase baseball gloves online, you can look for descriptions about what’s inside.

Durability

Baseball gloves made of synthetic materials will cost much less but are aimed at very young players as they do not last long under rigorous playing conditions. Look for the most top-quality leather — some say the stiffer the leather and harder to bend when new, the better. The highest-grade is full-grain leather, followed by top-grain leather which is thinner and more flexible, and finally the synthetics which are lighter and even more flexible but less lasting.

Price

The higher the price, the better the quality of the leather, laces and production. The quality of the leather is imperative with baseball gloves as moisture, sunshine, sweat and dirt can quickly age a glove and shorten its lifespan.

Top Japanese Baseball Gloves: Our Choices

We have reviewed a number of Japanese baseball gloves based on a variety of factors including leather grade, features, and general popularity among players. Here are our the 5 best Japanese baseball gloves, per those parameters:

1.   Best Japanese Glove Overall: Mizuno Classic Pro Soft Baseball Glove Series

For the features and price, it’s hard to go wrong with the popular Classic Pro Soft Baseball Glove Series by Mizuno. Here, the manufacturer applied decades’ worth of experience making gloves for professional baseball players to a series especially for amateur players.

Sure, more expensive gloves — even a couple of Mizuno models mentioned below — might offer more bells and whistles. But for players interested in the most core demands of durability, comfort, design, and performance, this is the baseball glove for you.

Take note of the Throwback Leather, known to be rugged and even to look good color-wise. It comes pre-oiled for easier break-in, providing a soft glove body that holds its shape as years pass. Quality of leather is vital for baseball gloves, and it appears Mizuno makes highest-quality a focus for this series.

What We Like:

  • Patterned according to preferences of professional players Mizuno has worked with.
  • Mizuno’s own “Throwback” leather, pre-oiled to break in faster, yet rugged enough to retain shape after rigorous play.
  • Roll welting to maintain stability through the fingers.
  • Ultra-soft palm liner for lasting comfort.
  • Affordable price for the features. Read the reviews: “Great glove for the price” seems a recurring theme.

Not So Much:

  • Not much to dislike about this glove, unless you’re thinking of a lower price. You might get that, with inferior leather, but the durability and performance probably won’t match the Classic Pro.

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2.   Best Japanese Glove for True Pros: Mizuno Pro Baseball Glove Series

If price is no obstacle, this glove is certain to make any baseball player shine. Mizuno has been manufacturing baseballs and gloves since 1913, and it seems it applied all its industry knowledge into this model. There’s a reason the Mizuno logo can be seen on the wrists of MLB standouts like Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Corey Kluber, and Ian Desmond.

With this model, Mizuno really tried to apply what it learned working with MLB players over the years to deliver those same likes and desires to the general public. Especially noteworthy is the application of Kipskin leather, a very soft and rather luxurious cowhide that weighs less than regular cowhide which helps make for faster hands and better play.

It appears that Mizuno added several other features to boost player comfort levels including the high-end palm liner; and lower placement of the pocket area to let the glove shape more naturally to play. All in all, a solid Japanese baseball glove.

What We Like:

  • Patterned according to preferences of professional players Mizuno has worked with.
  • U.S. kip leather with tighter fibers for extra durability, premium feel, and top performance.
  • Shell leather palm liner for added comfort.
  • “Hand-based” patterns, such as placement of the pocket lower under the webbing to let natural play shape the pocket.

Not So Much:

  • Once again, not much to dislike about this glove, except maybe the price tag. This is a glove for serious baseball players.

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3.   Best Japanese Glove to Use Fast: SSK Select Professional Series

This company might only lack the marketing prowess of competitors like Mizuno, because SSK has been delivering high-quality baseball gloves for over a half-century and remains preferred for some notable MLB players including star shortstops Javier Baez, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bo Bichette, along with Robinson Cano and Ronald Acuna.

Those who have used SSK gloves know about their feel and comfort. True to form, among the attraction points listed by the company for its Select Professional Series gloves is ease of breaking them in, and their thinner and more flexible top-grain leather.

Generally, SSK gloves seem like top-quality right from the get-go, and users rave about the leather and durability. Gloves from this series should not be an exception nor disappoint. For this price point, you could do worse.

What We Like:

  • Top-grain cowhide leather that’s been praised by users.
  • Designed specifically to allow faster break-in.
  • Thinner and more flexible leather grade promotes feel and comfort.
  • Grid and net webbing is firm enough to last, flexible enough to form well from natural play.
  • Affordable price for the quality and comfort.

Not So Much:

  • At this price, not much to complain about.

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4.   Best Japanese Glove for Comfort: Mizuno Pro Select Baseball Glove Series

In the middle- to upper level of the price range for quality baseball gloves is the Pro Select Series by Mizuno (see Amazon). Still priced close to the luxury realm of gloves, these models are not over-the-top expensive like some others. Still, it offers some seriously attractive features.

The premium leather is built to last, but what I probably like most about the Pro Select gloves are the efforts to make them comfortable on your hand. The palm liner and even underside of the wrist strap are lined well to both ease taking it on and off, and to wear nonstop while on the field. Poor interior design can cause rashes or a breakdown of that area of the glove over time.

What We Like:

  • U.S. steer hide leather, a premium, firm glove product meant to hold up well to rigors of season play.
  • Steer soft palm liner for superb feel.
  • Variety of pocket sizes; shallow works well for middle-infielders, deep is best for shortstops and third basemen.
  • Specially designed thumb slot, a trouble area for many baseball gloves, for a more secure and comfortable fit.

Not So Much:

  • Medium- to high-range pricing.

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5.   Best Japanese Glove for Value: SSK Edge Pro Series

Once again for SSK offerings, the Edge Pro Series features high-quality leather with oil already embedded for superior durability along with feel. That seems a consistent commentary about gloves from this manufacturer: they feel good, and are comfortable. It’s a reason Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar used SSK gloves.

The Edge Pro Series gloves also are comfortable on your pocketbook, in the low end of the price range for quality baseball gloves.

Aside from the premium leather applied here, take note of the thick rawhide lacing, as some manufacturers cut pennies with thin straps that more easily dry and break after not so long. Overall, the leather used seems to be very popular with SSK users.In fact, one reviewer commented, “The leather quality on their gloves in my opinion is the best in the business.”

What We Like:

  • Superior leather quality.
  • Comfort known for SSK baseball gloves.
  • Thicker rawhide lacing.
  • Affordable pricing.

Not So Much:

  • At this price and quality of leather provided, can’t complain.

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Side Note on Catcher’s and First Baseman Mitts

Please note that Japanese manufacturers also provide high-quality catcher’s and first baseman mitts, specialized gloves that are larger or more padded than the gloves worn elsewhere on a baseball field. While specific models did not crack our Top 5, some of the glove series noted above come in catcher or 1B styles.

These mitts are generally harder to break in, and because those positions can field many more hard-thrown balls than to other positions, it’s imperative for those players to be very selective in purchasing a new glove. It is vital to do as much research as possible there.

Final Words on the Best Japanese Baseball Gloves

A new baseball glove can become a player’s best friend for years. Chosen well, the glove not only helps improve performance, but it just feels good and right on your hand. Some say the best baseball gloves even age well, getting better with extended use.

That’s not true for all baseball gloves, however. Choose a new glove carefully, especially for the quality of the leather. For further tips about selection, ask players around you. See if they mention any of the glove series mentioned here.

See Also:
How Long Does a Baseball Glove Last?
How Often Should I Oil My Baseball Glove?
Where Are Wilson Baseball Gloves Made?
What Is Hand Orientation In Baseball?