Baseball: Gloves by Material
If you haven’t bought a new baseball glove recently, you may find there to be more choices than there were even a few years ago. Each glove material differs in quality and performance traits, so they vary in price point as well. The good thing is that with fielding gloves, you often get what you pay for, so price is a good way to judge quality. Often these more expensive gloves will feel heavier, but don’t let that deter you from a quality material and good fit. The material you choose will ultimately affect your glove’s performance, fit, break-in time and durability.
This is a common choice for high-school level players because it tends to be mid-range in both quality and price. Usually made of cowhide, women black leather gloves is used in its original state, with no other alterations other than some tanning or oiling. Occasionally this leather will come tanned or pre-oiled to help the glove be more flexible and comfortable from the beginning. This process is skipped in some models though, for players that like to use their own break-in methods.
Since leather is made to be extra durable, its break-in time can take awhile. Once the leather is broken in though, it’s very good in terms of performance, and will still remain durable. Catcher’s mitts are usually made of either full-grain leather or steer hide because of the level of control that this material provides.
Be careful when choosing a full-grain glove though, as the wording can be spun to present the glove as higher quality than it actually is. If a glove is labeled as “leather”, without saying “full-grain”, you may be getting a lesser quality hide that will be noticeably heavier. If a glove is full-grain quality, it’s a selling point, and the manufacturer will tell you. On the same note, be weary of black leather gloves that have the label of a “genuine leather palm”. This means that only the palm is leather, and the rest of the glove may be a low quality material. For a high-quality leather model, try one of the Mizuno Global Elite gloves.
Steer hide is a premium-level material that is the choice of a lot of professional players. These players put their gloves through the most work, so they want a material that is stiffer, heavier and more durable than regular leather. This hide comes from the back shoulder of a grown steer, giving it the extra strength. Because steer is tougher than cowhide, you should expect a lengthy break-in period. Getting a glove that is pre-oiled will help cut down on this time.
Some manufacturers have moved away from steer hide because players are starting to demand softer gloves. So far though, we’re still seeing them among the professionals. Catcher’s who prefer the strength of steer hide include Buster Posey and Jason Varitek. The fielder’s love it too though. Rawlings has a big share of the professional glove market. Their steer hide models, like the Heart of the Hide Fielder’s Gloves, are worn by Carl Crawford, Troy Tulowitzki, Cliff Lee and Derek Jeter, among others. You can also find steerhide in certain models of Wilson’s A2000 gloves, worn by players like Dustin Pedroia.
Yak leather is new in 2012, an innovation exclusively from Wilson. Wilson’s Yak gloves are naturally lightweight, due to the nature of the material. Because yak hide is so thin, it can be used without splitting the leather. This keeps the natural fibers intact so, even though there is less material, it is kept incredibly strong. In fact, yak is about three times stronger than cowhide. Before this material, this combination of strength and lightweight was practically unheard of.
The thinness of this material allows for excellent feel in the pocket and its innate oiliness will stop any spin on the ball. With a yak men genuine leather gloves, you’ve got a very short, if any break-in period. These gloves are touted as being game-ready from the moment you put it on your hand. They also don’t have much stretch so you can count on the glove keeping its fit on your hand for quite awhile. We’re waiting to see what pros will be wearing yak this season, but Wilson has let some players try it out, like Brian Wilson and Josh
Softer and more supple than cowhide, kip leather is used by some of the top manufacturers. Taken from a young hide, it’s strong and smooth. It’s also about 20% lighter than steer hide as well, so it’s a common choice for elite players who demand quick hands, like shortstops. The fibers in kip leather are naturally tighter, so this material tends to be more durable than steer leather. What’s surprising about kip leather is that despite its incredible durability, it has a quicker break-in than most other leathers. If you’re looking to check out kip leather in the majors, look to Ryan Zimmerman or Jose Reyes. They’re both rocking Rawlings’ Pro Preferred Gloves.
SuperSkin™ is a Wilson-specific material. It’s made of leather but includes PU microfiber particles. These particles give a SuperSkin™ glove twice the strength and durability, while dropping the weight by about half. This material is very good at repelling moisture and requires less break-in time than full-grain leather since it’s slightly thinner. Darwin Barney and Elvis Andrus have been using Wilson’s SprintSkin™ on the field.
Nokona gloves have been using kangaroo leather for over 50 years now, but this material is relatively new to the glove market overall. This material has one of the highest tensile strengths of any leather, including the highest grades of steer hide. Because of this strength, less material is required for durability and the glove as a whole becomes much lighter. Be aware that even though the material is durable, it can lose its shape after you play with your glove for a while.
To lessen the weight of cow or steer hide gloves, some of them are built with kangaroo leather backs. The palm is built with a more traditional leather though, because these materials tend to stand up to repeated use better than kangaroo leather does. You can find a combination of a kangaroo back with a cowhide palm in the Nokona Buckaroo gloves.
Known for its toughness, buffalo hide is a similar alternative to full-grain leathers. And like kangaroo leather, this is a material that, despite its durability, can lose it shape. Because of this, you may also see buffalo combined with a second type of hide. Buffalo skin on the backhand of your glove will give it a soft feel, but a more common leather will add sturdiness to the glove’s construction. Right now, we’re only seeing Buffalo leather used in Nokona gloves, and it tends to be found at their highest price points.
The positive aspects of pigskin are its super-fast break-in time, its soft feel and its flexibility. It makes for a pretty inexpensive glove, but does come at a price as far as performance is concerned. You’ll probably never see a professional playing with this material. It lacks durability and can fall apart very quickly. It may be ok for young players but it isn’t capable of standing up to an advanced game
Mesh is used on the back of leather gloves for a number of reasons. It adds flexibility and breathability to your glove, which is nice if you’re playing in consistently warm climates. Using mesh for a portion of a glove also removes some weight from the overall product. For these reasons, we’re seeing mesh begin to grow in popularity among top players
Generally, synthetic is believed to be suitable only for young players who can play with inexpensive gloves. Usually a synthetic material is stiff, but lacks durability and players tend to shy away from gloves that have any synthetic on them. This trend may be changing though, as manufacturers develop high-quality synthetics. In the 2011 season, Yankees pitcher Brian Gordon wore a 100% synthetic glove. It’s believed that he is the first professional player to ever play in a non-leather glove.
When buying a glove, there’s no replacement for having it on your hand. While it’s tempting to find the softest, most easily broken-in glove you can, try not to make that your only consideration. Actually, some sturdiness in a brand new glove is a good thing. Anything that is advertised as “pre-broken” is likely to wear out much faster than you’d like. These weakened leathers will show stress near the lacing holes, in the web and on the fingers. You might see this breakdown happen within a few months and that is unacceptable for any glove that has to perform at the competitive level. If you think you’re ready to make a decision, check out all of Eastbay’s baseball gloves. Each will have the material written into the product description.