The Ultimate Guide to Breaking in a Baseball or Softball Glove

February 18, 2024

23 min read

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For baseball or softball players, our gloves are our best friends.

Gloves go everywhere we do, as our reliable companion on family trips, visits to big league stadiums, and, of course, all of our practices and games.   

And when on the field, our glove becomes an extension of our arm – it’s part of us. 

Baseball and softball gloves aren’t just valuable for our performance as players, though. Elite gloves can be pricey, too – sometimes $400 or more. 

Naturally, players and parents both want to protect their investment.

If you spend anywhere near that much on a glove, you want to ensure it lasts a long time and serves you well on the diamond. 

Properly breaking in your new baseball or softball glove is an integral part of that care. 

In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about breaking in your ball glove, including:

  • Why you need to break a glove in
  • Methods for breaking in a glove quickly
  • Breaking in gloves used for different positions on the field
  • The best tools for properly breaking in a glove
  • How not to break in your glove 
🚨 Important Note: Neither SeamsUp nor the authors of this article are affiliates in any way for any of of the products mentioned below. We just know what we used and wanted to share. 

Why Do You Need to Break in Your Baseball or Softball Glove?

If you’ve ever tried to play catch with a brand new glove, you know exactly why it needs to be broken in. 

Gloves made of genuine leather are high-quality and durable, but they’re also incredibly stiff right after being manufactured. 

When playing catch with a brand new leather glove, you’ll have difficulty closing your thumb and pinky around the ball – often causing the ball to just pop right out of your glove. 

Some gloves are made out of synthetic material instead of leather.

Synthetic gloves don’t have the same initial stiffness that new leather gloves do, so they’re much easier to start using right away. 

Despite there being gloves on the market made from synthetic materials, most players still prefer genuine leather. 

And if you want a leather glove to be game-ready right after you buy it, you’ll have to break it in properly.

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How to Break in a Baseball or Softball Glove

Before we go any further on breaking in a glove, we should state a disclaimer:

🚨 Important Note: While some of the break-in methods we’ll explore below are considered more “safe” or “proper” than others, with every technique for breaking in a glove you risk a decrease in the glove’s quality. 

You can even void your glove’s warranty still with some of these “safe” breaking-in methods. 

If you’re worried about overly strict warranties and have lots of time to spare, the best way to break in a baseball or softball glove is with the traditional method, covered below.

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The traditional method for breaking in gloves

The safest way to break in a new glove is by doing so naturally. 

Play catch, field grounders, and catch pop-ups with your glove to break it in. 

With continued use, your leather glove will loosen up. It’ll also form around your hand and squeeze style.

Repeated use is the most sure-fire way to get a comfortable glove. 

🧢 Pro Tip: Many pros don’t allow anyone else to use their glove – they want it perfectly formed to their hand alone.
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The water and mallet method of glove prep

The next safest option to break in a glove after the traditional method is by using warm water. 

Many baseball and softball glove experts advocate this method, but, to be fair, there are still a few holdouts in the game who disagree. 

For this process, you need either a bucket or a plugged-up sink full of hot water. 

The water should be hot, not boiling. 

Take a cup of water and pour it gently over your glove, whilst holding it above the bucket or the sink. Only a single cupful over each side. 

Then, work the glove with your hands, applying pressure to the padding – where your palm would be. 

Also, use your hand to strike and press until your ideal pocket emerges. 

You can also pound your wetted glove with a glove mallet specifically designed for breaking in leather gloves.

These mallets save you a lot of time and cramps from shaping the glove only with your hands.   

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Image from Bradley Baseball Gloves

Using steam to break in fielding gloves

Another common method for breaking in a glove is using steam. 

You’ll have to take your glove to a sporting goods store or similar retailer, because it requires a special piece of equipment called a glove steamer. 

These stores train technicians to do the process for you. 

They’ll start by applying a glove conditioner, to open up the leather’s pores. After that, they place it in the steamer at about 150 degrees. 

Once the glove is steamed, the technician then manhandles the glove and uses a glove mallet to loosen it up further. 

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Wrapping a new baseball or softball mitt

The final commonly accepted method for breaking in a softball or baseball glove is wrapping. 

This technique is probably the easiest of the four listed here, since it doesn’t require manual manhandling. 

You place a baseball or softball in the glove’s pocket, close the glove’s pinky and thumb together, then wrap it all together securely with string, elastic, a belt, or rubber bands. 

Make sure the glove stays in that closed position as you wrap, then leave it for a few days. 

After a couple of days, unwrap it, play some catch, and repeat the process until you feel the glove is game-ready. 

Breaking in a Catcher’s Glove or First Baseman's Mitt

A glove shouldn’t be broken in the same way for every position. 

Catcher’s mitts and first base gloves are often not used in the same way as other defensive players’ gloves, for instance. 

So when you start the process of breaking in your glove, keep these position-specific considerations in mind.

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Breaking in a catcher’s mitt

For a catcher’s mitt, you can use many of the same techniques as you’d use for any other fielding glove. 

You still want the leather’s fibers to be loose and malleable, so you can use a glove mallet and pound the same way you would a regular glove. 

However, you should always keep a ball inside your catcher’s mitt when you’re not using it, at the spot where you try to catch the ball. 

And the mitt shouldn’t have a pure crease in it, but rather a roundness.

How to break in a first baseman’s glove

First base mitts differ from both catcher’s mitts and other fielder’s gloves. They’re also broken in a bit differently. 

How you break in your first base mitt depends on how you catch the ball. You either catch single break or double break style. 

📚 Definition:

Single-break is when you close your thumb and fingers together to make the mitt fold horizontally. This causes a single fold point in the glove, or “single break.” 

Double-break is when you catch the ball pulling your thumb and pinky together, closing the glove vertically. The mitt folds in two places instead of one, making it the “double break.”

You should fold your glove in the same way you’d catch a ball, then pound on the padding around the fold to help break it in. 

This video from Wilson Glove Guru Shigeaki Aso gives a great demonstration of what we mean.

The Best Tools for Breaking in a New Baseball or Softball Glove

There are several additional tools you can use to help break in your new glove. 

Apart from glove mallets, you can use oils and conditioners to help the break-in process. 

Using oil or conditioner by themselves won’t do much, but combined with other suitable break-in methods that we’ve already explored, they can be effective. 

But always use conditioners and oils that are recommended by the glove’s manufacturer. These products are made specifically for working leather gloves and won’t cause any damage to your baseball or softball glove. 

Never use products like petroleum jelly, chapstick, olive oil, mink oil, or linseed oil. They’ll either leave your glove too greasy or too dried out. 

Another thing to keep in mind concerning conditioners and oils is to only use a little at a time. 

A small dab can be enough to evenly coat the glove when gently rubbing in the oil or conditioner with a clean cloth.

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How Not to Break in a Fielding Glove

The techniques below are common, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for your glove.

  • Microwaving or Baking Never put your baseball or softball glove in the microwave or oven. Yes, the heat will soften the leather. But it can also dry it out and leave your glove brittle or cracked. This method poses too much damage risk to your glove.
  • Inside the Car Just like you shouldn’t apply heat to a glove in the microwave, you shouldn’t leave your glove on a hot dashboard to loosen it up. You’ll potentially face similar effects to baking your glove – it can come out dry, brittle, and cracked.
  • Shaving Cream – Back in the day, shaving cream used to contain a natural substance called lanolin. Lanolin is sheep’s oil, which works well as a leather conditioner. Most shaving creams today, however, no longer contain lanolin. The chemicals in most shaving creams today will dry out the leather and weaken its fibers.
  • Under a Mattress Another classic glove break-in technique is sleeping with it under your mattress. This method is supposed to work the way wrapping works, but it falls short. Wrapping gently creates a crease so that your glove folds properly around the ball. Slipping the glove under a mattress can flatten it totally, making the mitt floppy and more difficult to catch and transfer the ball with.
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Final Thoughts on Breaking in a Mitts

There’s nothing more exciting for a ballplayer than getting a new glove. 

If you want to use your glove right away and keep it in top condition, then you must break it in properly. 

Hopefully, this SeamsUp guide has set you on the right path.

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About the Authors

Courtney Withrow

Professional Writer

Originally from the U.S., Courtney is a Brussels-based freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Relations. She grew up playing softball and still loves the game.

Chase d'Arnaud

Chief Talent Acquisition Officer & Baseball Business Ops

Chase d'Arnaud is a 7-year veteran of Major League Baseball. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants.

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