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Over the last few Major League Baseball seasons, you may have been watching a game and said, “Why the heck is that baseball player wearing mittens?” Recently, baserunners have been wearing what looks like mittens or “oven mitts” once they get on base. These oven mitts make it look like the baserunners are getting ready to take a cake out of the oven instead of preparing to steal a base. Why are they doing this?
Baseball players have started wearing these “mittens” to protect themselves from hand and wrist injuries while running the bases.
In this article, we will further investigate how these mittens (also called sliding mitts) provide protection even though they may look a bit odd.
Benefits of Wearing Oven Mitts / Sliding Mitts
Here are some of the many benefits that baseball players enjoy by wearing sliding mitts:
- Sliding mitts help prevent injuries to the hands, thumbs, fingers, and wrists. Baserunning is one of the most dangerous aspects of baseball. Sliding while stealing a base often results in lots of hand injuries such as fractures, dislocations, sprains, bruises, and lacerations. Sliding mitts help reduce the baserunner’s chances of being hurt. Less time on the disabled/injured list is always a good thing for a baseball player.
- Sliding mitts protect against a baseball player’s hands being cut. Many people may not know this, but Major League Baseball players usually wear metal spikes on their feet for added traction. These metal spikes cause lots of pain to baserunners if they happen to get stepped on during a slide. (Side Note: Hall of Famer Ty Cobb was famous for sharpening his spikes to cause infielders added pain when he slid into bases!!!)
- Some versions of sliding mitts even have metal rods that provide added protection to the baserunner’s palm and back of their hand. This gives baserunners the added benefit of extra confidence when sliding headfirst into a base.
- Another less known benefit of sliding mitts is the added warmth they can give to a baseball player’s hands. This may not seem like a huge benefit but imagine playing a game in New York in early April or late October. Burrrrr, it is COLD! (Side Note: The coldest game in baseball history was in 2013 when the Atlanta Braves played at the Colorado Rockies. The temperature at game time was a chilly 23 degrees!)
Interesting Facts about Sliding Mitts
Here are some more interesting facts about sliding mitts below:
- The first Major League Baseball player to wear a sliding mitt during a game was Scott Podsednik back in 2008 while he was playing for the Colorado Rockies. The former speedy outfielder was one of the best base stealers in the game and he thought the sliding mitt gave him an added advantage on the basepaths. Podsednik was motivated to find a solution to all the hand injuries he had suffered during his career.
- Podsednik hurt his thumb in 2003 while with Milwaukee and used a piece of hard plastic to protect it. This was sufficient until Podsednik broke one of his fingers in 2008 on a headfirst slide for the Colorado Rockies. The outfielder then sought out a hand therapist to “hand craft” a customized sliding mitt for him.
- The sliding mitt became more of a main staple in Major League Baseball in 2010 when some of Scott Podsednik’s Kansas City Royal teammates started wearing the mitts as well.
- Today, famous baseball players like Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies, Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres, and Mookie Betts of the reigning World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers wear sliding mitts to protect themselves from injury.
- Second Baseman / Outfielder Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals has been very outspoken when it comes to favoring the use of sliding mitts. The 31-year-old has caught some flak on social media from baseball fans for wearing the mitts but is adamant that the sliding mitts reduce his chances of being injured while sliding. Merrifield prefers to always slide head-first so that is probably why he finds the sliding mitts so helpful.
- Some baseball fans and players fear that sliding mitts will soon be regulated in size by Major League Baseball. The sliding mitts could give baserunners too great of an advantage if they are too oversized and increase the runner’s chances of being called “safe”.
- Before sliding mitts, many baseball players opted to hold onto their batting gloves as a way to prevent hand injuries while running the bases. This worked decently but did not prevent finger injuries and cuts to the hands. This method also did not provide any additional wrist protection like the new sliding mitts claim to provide.
- The most popular brand of sliding mitts seems to be Evoshield (see Amazon). The Evoshield sliding mitts are made out of elastic and feature “stabilization strips” for both sides of the wrists.
- The price point for sliding mitts is in the $39 to $79 range.
- Most Major League Baseball players only wear a sliding mitt on one hand. The players usually choose to put the sliding mitt on their dominant hand. Most players have a preferred hand they use when sliding head-first and this is referred to as their dominant hand.
What is Your Experience with Sliding Mitts?
Even though sliding mitts have only been in baseball for about 12 years, it appears these accessories are here to stay. Any contraption that can help keep baseball players more healthy and in the lineup each day is worth trying.
Have you ever used sliding mitts while playing baseball? Did you find the sliding mitts helpful? Did the sliding mitts help protect your hands, fingers, thumbs, and wrists from injury like many baseball players claim? Did the sliding mitts increase your confidence while running the bases?
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