How to Break In a Baseball Glove

Soften It Up: If You Just Have the One

If gloves don't grow on trees in your world, safer is probably better. That doesn't mean you have to forgo all the interesting stuff, though.

Heat and moisture aren't always bad for a glove. For instance, experts recommend soaking a towel in hot water and wiping down the surface of the glove before forming the pocket (keep reading) [source: Erskine].

Steaming, too, can achieve leather-friendly suppleness with a combination of water and heat, opening the pores in the leather to make it more pliable [source: Lace My Glove]. This is the newest thing in glove-breaking, and even manufacturers seem to be OK with it [source: Mizuno]. Most sporting-goods stores offer glove-steaming services (see sidebar), and you can also DIY by boiling some water and suspending the glove over the pot for a few minutes [source: Lace My Glove].

And yet, you needn't steam. Or microwave. Or dunk. Or pummel.

All you have to do to break in a glove is use it. Derek Jeter has revealed that he goes the just-use-it route [source: MLB]. A few weeks of playing baseball or a lot of catch with a strong thrower is all it takes. If you have a batting cage nearby, that can be even better. Just catch every ball the machine pitches instead of hitting it. It's like playing an entire season in an hour, which means you get tons of practice while you break in your glove.

Another generally agreed-upon way to soften a glove without hurting it is with a nice, firm massage using a leather-safe oil or cream. You can use this method after steaming (or beating or heating) or as a stand-alone treatment. Some products can clog the leather's pores, which would only make it stiffer (and heavier), so choose your substance wisely [source: Vinci]. Special glove conditioner, leather conditioner, baby oil, pure petroleum jelly and shaving cream are safe choices, and five or six pea-sized drops per glove is plenty [source: McKay, Vinci]. Let glove absorb the softening agent for 24 hours, wipe off what's left on the surface, and knead the glove to loosen it up. Don't apply any more softening agent for at least two weeks. As always, too much of a good thing can damage the leather [source: Vinci].

Artificial approaches to softening are widely debated and, judging by the still-popular just-use-it approach, optional. Shaping, on the other hand, is a pretty universal break-in component.