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While not as onerous as breaking in old-fashioned leather versions, getting a synthetic baseball glove ready for game play can depend on some tricks. Ever wondered how to break in a synthetic baseball glove? Here are key tips summarized:
Focus on shaping the pocket by placing a baseball or softball into the glove and wrapping it with rubber bands, string or yarn; leave the wrapped glove under a mattress overnight; and use it to play catch as much as possible before use in actual games.
They say synthetic baseball gloves come broken in, but that’s not entirely true. Baseball players are particular about the mitts worn out on the field, and just a little care and attention can make a world of difference for a new glove of man-made materials.
What Are Synthetic Baseball Gloves?
Synthetic baseball mitts are made without leather. Synthetic gloves are manufactured from types of plastic and are geared more at young players because leather versions tend to be heavy. Additionally, who knows if a child might continue to use it beyond a first season?
Synthetically made gloves are usually less expensive and can serve as wonderful “starter gloves” for young players who haven’t yet made a full commitment to the game.
Simple actions can help shape a synthetic baseball glove to improve comfort and performance and comfort. In more detail, consider:
- Brand new synthetic gloves sometimes do not truly mold to a little player’s hand, or come ready for a ball’s impact while catching; taking some time to shape a new mitt around a ball can only help.
- Give the glove pocket shape by placing a baseball (or even larger ball like a softball or over-sized Wiffle ball) and tying it shut with strands of string or yarn, or with rubber bands.
- Another old-time trick valid for regular as well as synthetic baseball gloves is to leave them overnight with some sort of weight atop it. Leaving gloves underneath a mattress for a spell has been popular for years.
- There is no need to oil or use a type of lubricant on synthetic baseball gloves. In fact, doing so might cause damages such as drying or cracking once under extended sunlight.
Care for Synthetic Baseball Gloves
All baseball gloves regardless of material are prone to damage from water, sweat and the sun’s rays. While regular leather gloves may dry and crack due to sunshine or moisture, or have the strings that hold it all together break, synthetic gloves can suffer from cracking in joints simply due to overuse.
Caring for synthetic baseball mitts means trying to keep it as clean as possible post-practice and following games. Leaving acidic sweat on a plastic or rubber material can only cause harm long-term.
Additionally, try to keep all gloves away from direct sun rays when possible. Leaving a synthetic baseball glove out in the yard all day or even overnight is just asking for trouble.
When Can Players ‘Graduate” to Real Leather Baseball Gloves?
Young baseball players can start using regular leather mitts as soon as they can handle them weight-wise, or around ages 8 or 9. Precisely what age depends on a player’s physical growth and strength.
As stated above, synthetic baseball gloves are usually purchased for players brand new to the game, such as through T-ball, coach-pitch, farm- or minor-level divisions. These gloves of man-made material, or mixed with leather portions (usually leather for the front, synthetic material on back), are softer and tend to be much less expensive than their all-leather counterparts.
Bottom Line with Synthetic Baseball Mitts
Breaking in any baseball mitt should involve repetition, and pounding a pocket to simulate hard-thrown or -hit balls popping the palm area. For synthetic baseball gloves this could involve using a mallet or light baseball bat to pound the glove pocket over and over.
In time, gloves become more pliable as balls in play pound leather or faux pockets and force them into the shape they will become. Simply playing catch as often as possible should create a well-formed, deep-welled pocket in any synthetic baseball glove.
While synthetic baseball gloves come broken in, some suggest working the padding inside the pocket, at the heel, and inside fingers to loosen tension on the interior fibers and boost comfort on a hand. Simply massage the padding, or bend it backward repeatedly to improve flexibility and softness.
Long-time players and baseball insiders are known to say the glove is an extension of the hand. That is, players hardly notice when they wear comfortable, well-broken-in gloves, and they trust them in game play. Some argue the glove is the single most-important equipment piece for a player to succeed in baseball.
For those new to the game, when trying to select a first-timer’s baseball mitt, take him or her with you to try on as many as possible. Consider the child’s age, as a T-baller does not need a glove 10 to 13 inches long or wide. Know the size of the ball of the league (some baseball leagues and all girls softball leagues play with bigger-sized balls) and see how the young player fares handling them with various gloves.
Question: Are there rules regarding use of synthetic baseball gloves?
Answer: Typically no, but it can depend on each individual league. Players at the professional, college, high school and upper divisions of youth leagues will not use gloves of man-made material. Few, if any, youth leagues would require parents to purchase typically more-expensive leather baseball gloves for young players.
Q.: What happens if you oil a synthetic baseball glove?
A.: Lots of bad things can happen if oil or a lubricant is rubbed onto a synthetic baseball mitt. Glove oils and lubricants are designed to add moisture and flexibility to dried leather, which has been processed by heat leaving it very stiff.
Leather absorbs oils; man-made materials like plastic do not. Therefore, oils rubbed onto a synthetic mitt remain on the surface, creating a mess when the glove inevitably gets rolled in the dirt. Left on a synthetic mitt too long, oils can also speed up the break-down process of plastics if left under direct sunlight.
Q.: Can synthetic baseball gloves be thrown around like leather gloves?
A.: Many can, but it is not recommended. Synthetic baseball mitts suffer the same ailments as the leather ones, including scratches and stains, broken strings between fingers, and loosened or leaking padding.