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.
Author's Note: How to Break In a Baseball Glove
Reading about the variety of suggested (or at least reported) break-in methods, I found myself wondering if some of these people were pulling my leg. I have a leather jacket that's two years old and still isn't as soft as I want, but you don't see me microwaving it (though since writing this, I've thought about it). The running-it-over-with-a-car thing in particular struck me as a joke -- what if, unbeknownst to you, you've got dead squirrel all over your right front tire? -- until I learned that this method was passed down through generations of my husband's kin. I've never seen any of them play baseball, though. And my husband says he never tried it. And none of the MLB players I read about mentioned this approach. So ... I'm thinking some long-dead baseball fan is having a good laugh.
- Caple, Jim. "How to break in a new glove." ESPN. May 10, 2010. (June 30, 2013) http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=caple_jim&id=5173365
- Erskine, Chris. "How do you want your new baseball glove: baked, steamed or wrapped?" The Los Angeles Times. Feb. 22, 2012. (June 30, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/22/sports/la-sp-erskine-20120222
- Eye Witness to History. "The Baseball Glove Comes to Baseball, 1875." (July 2, 2013) http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/baseball.htm
- Harvey, Gordon. "Yankees pitcher becomes first to use non-leather baseball glove in the big leagues." This Dish is Vegetarian. June 27, 2011. (July 1, 2013) http://www.thisdishisvegetarian.com/2011/06/1737yankees-pitcher-becomes-first-to.html
- Hise, Phaedra. "Small glove maker lands giant MLB deal." CNN. Oct. 28, 2009. (July 4, 2013) http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/27/smallbusiness/vinci_gloves.fsb/
- McKay, Brett and Kate McKay. "How to Break In a Baseball Glove." The Art of Manliness. April 19, 2009. (June 30, 2013) http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/04/19/how-to-break-in-a-baseball-glove/
- Mizuno. "Steamer Days." (July 4, 2013) http://www.mizunousa.com/baseball/events
- MLB. "Mailbag: Derek Jeter answers his fans' questions." Aug. 24, 2005. (July 4, 2013) http://mlb.mlb.com/players/jeter_derek/news/article.jsp?story=012406_news
- Rawlings. "Primo Series." (July 4, 2013) http://www.rawlings.com/series/gloves/primo
- Silva, Chris. "The Fascinating History of the Baseball Glove." The Post Game. July 12, 2011. (July 1, 2013) http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/throwback/201107/fascinating-history-baseball-glove
- Vinci. "Glove Care." (June 30, 2013) http://www.vincipro.com/cart/glove-care.html