You almost certainly know what it looks like to shape the pocket of a baseball, though you may not realize it. The image is an iconic one: a baseball glove folded around a baseball and tied with twine.
This part of the break-in process is about forming a pocket perfectly suited to catching and holding onto a baseball. The pocket lives between your thumb and index finger, just below the webbing.
The best way to do this, aside from catching a few hundred baseballs, is to place one or two balls in the palm of the glove, close it up tight, and tie it shut [source: McKay]. Some players will then apply pressure – maybe stick it under a mattress and sleep on it.
You can also pound the pocket with a special baseball mallet, the head of which is shaped like, you guessed it, a baseball. Sometimes head of the mallet actually is a baseball. This mallet can also help reshape other parts of the glove, like a tough spot that rubs uncomfortably against your thumb.
You'll find another benefit in the "few hundred baseballs" approach, because you want to shape the glove to your hand, not only to the ball. Catching ball after ball – aka "using the glove" – molds the leather to your hand simply through pressure and movement, creating a custom fit.
And that's what breaking-in is all about, whether you're wearing a $400 glove or a $30 one. A baseball glove should, in the end, feel like an extension of your own hand, only stronger, bigger, and less prone to shattering when you catch a line drive.
Plus, it's tough to imagine baseball without a well-worn glove tied snugly around a ball, waiting for next summer to arrive. Never underestimate the power of ritual.