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HOW TO BUY AND BREAK IN THE RIGHT SOFTBALL GLOVE

THE BASICS

Baseball and softball are similar in many ways, including most game rules, positions and gear. But if you look a little closer, you'll notice a major difference in one essential piece of equipment. Softballs are bigger than baseballs, so the gloves and webbing of a softball glove must be bigger to catch them. This difference also helps explain the extraordinary variation between baseball and softball pitches.

History

Legend has it that softball started at a football game on Thanksgiving Day in 1887. The first ball was a balled-up boxing glove, and the bat was actually a broom handle. Since then, official softballs replaced the boxing glove, and players took up real sporting bats in place of the broom handle.

Softball gloves evolved as much as the bats and balls have over the years. Changes began in the 1920s, when substantial padding was added to protect players' hands from injury. This move sparked more modifications, including the addition of laced fingers and webbing. Today's softball gloves are equipped with a range of specific features for each position on the field. The number of choices can be overwhelming, but don't worry. Academy is here to help.

ANATOMY OF A SOFTBALL GLOVE
The 4 Main Parts of a Glove
  • Webbing: webbing fills the area between your thumb and fingers. It can be woven tightly or left open based on preference and position
  • Fingers: the fingers secure and support your four fingers and thumb
  • Palm: this "pocket" in the center of your glove is used to catch and secure the ball
  • Heel: Located below the palm directly above the point where your hand meets your wrist
To choose the correct handedness, use the hand you throw with.
  • If you throw with your right arm, wear a Right-hand Throw (RHL) softball glove on your left hand.
  • If you throw with your left arm, wear a Left-hand Throw (LHT) softball glove on your right hand.
FINDING THE RIGHT GLOVE

To find the best glove for you, consider the requirements of your position.

Extra-cushioned softball mitts for catchers keep your fingers together and come with a large palm to make catching more comfortable and consistent. First base players also prefer deep pockets and some cushion, but they also need long, shallow fingers for easy scooping.

Both pitchers and third base players may opt for closed webbing - but for different reasons. Hard hits that trend toward third base require the strength and support of closed webbing, and the design is also ideal for pitchers who want to mask their next move. Infielders use smaller gloves with shallow pockets and open webs so they can quickly retrieve and throw balls.

If you're an amateur or shopping for a kid, you'll want a multipurpose glove to help you learn and practice different positions. Ask the following questions to choose the perfect fit for you:
  • Deep or shallow pockets? Go deep for comfort and consistency, and shallow if you want a quick catch and throw.
  • Open or closed webbing? Go open for more flexibility, and closed for support or secrecy.
  • More or less padding? Get more for increased protection, and less for more sensitivity to the ball.
  • Leather or synthetic? Classic leather gloves tend to be more durable, while synthetic gloves are lighter and less expensive.
  • Velcro or D-ring wrist adjustments? Pick your preference for a custom fit.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE

To fit your hand for a softball glove, flex it and measure from the tip of your index finger to the start of your wrist in inches. This is your hand size. The right-sized glove will feel snug - not tight - and can vary by age or position. Catcher's mitts are measured by circumference instead of length to provide a better idea of the catching area, for example.

Remember, kids' softball gloves should be snug, too. Parents often make the mistake of buying a glove their child can "grow in to," but doing so can lead to injuries and errors. If your child is just starting out in baseball or softball, check out Academy's Essential Baseball Gear for Kids guide for more details on how to choose the right equipment.

Slow-Pitch v. Fast-Pitch
Slow-pitch softball is played recreationally by adult men and women, while fast-pitch softball is a competitive sport for women of all ages. In addition to position-based differences in glove size, men's soft-pitch gloves typically have wider, longer fingers than women's soft-pitch gloves. Check the label to make sure you buy the right size for your gender. Then, use our sizing charts to choose the perfect size for your game, age and position.

TIPS TO BREAK IN YOUR SOFTBALL GLOVE

When you first purchase a glove, you'll need to spend some time breaking it in to get the soft, supple touch you need to play at your best. Here are some of the top methods and glove care accessories to help break in your glove without causing damages:

  • Play catch. Follow tradition. Toss a ball back and forth with someone to shape your glove's interior pocket.
  • Use a mallet. To speed up the process, beat the pocket with a glove mallet to mold it to the proper shape and softness.
  • Wrap it up. When you're not wearing it, fold the palm of your glove around a softball as if the fingers were gripping it. Then, slip a glove wrap over the whole thing to keep it secure.
  • Add conditioner. Moisturizing leather with glove conditioner or oil softens the material and makes it more workable.
  • Steam it. Steaming can also relax leather and improve flexibility. To avoid damage, find a professional who offers this service.
TIPS TO CARE FOR YOUR SOFTBALL GLOVE

You can't spell glove without L-O-V-E. Use these tips to give your glove a little extra TLC, and keep it looking and feeling good for many games to come:

Cleaning

First, grab a bristle brush and a clean rag. For leather gloves, find a quality leather-safe cleaner and conditioner. Try a mild detergent for synthetic designs.

  1. Use the brush to remove large clumps of dirt.
  2. Apply the leather-safe cleaner or mild detergent to a cloth.
  3. Use the cloth to gently rub off any remaining dirt particles.
  4. Finally, moisturize leather gloves with a bit of conditioner, but don't overdo it – too much conditioner can build up and attract more dirt.
Repair

Don't replace - re-lace. If your glove needs a new set of laces, use a knife or U-wire and a straight-lace grooved needle to remove and replace one lace at a time. You'll need approximately 3-6 new laces, depending on your glove's size and how many laces are damaged or worn.

Storage

Keep your glove dry and protected during the off-season to help extend its life. Avoid leaving it in a humid gear bag or exposed to outdoor conditions. Find a cool, dry storage space indoors, and keep a ball stored inside the pocket to help your glove keep its shape.

THROW IT HOME

Once you've got your glove, shop Academy online or in store to grab the rest of the equipment you need to hit, catch, run, train and play like a pro.

Training & Practice Equipment

At Academy Sports, coaches can find affordable softball team equipment to track games, from scorebooks and lineup cards to speed guns and pitch counters. Use our softball training aids for agility drills, speed training, and batting, pitching and catching practice.

Dress your MVPs from head to toe in protective softball helmets, cleats and apparel from top athletic brands. Then, pack all their equipment into softball bags designed specifically to organize and carry softball gear to games and practices.

Game Day Gear

Browse our aluminum, alloy and composite bats for soft-pitch and fast-pitch softball, and stock up on singles, six-packs and buckets of your preferred softballs. Finally, get game day ready with essential softball accessories and position-specific gear, including catcher's equipment and kits that come with a mask, chest pads and leg pads included.

Find everything you need to come home with the win at Academy Sports + Outdoors.