Brand new isn’t always best
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
| 4 min read
Most parents want the very best for their kids, But, when it comes to their first baseball glove, “the best” isn’t always what they need, says James Lowe, a.k.a. Coach Ballgame, who runs baseball programs for kids across the country.
Here’s what parents need to know when outfitting their newbie baseball players with baseball gloves.
A glove that doesn’t fit quite right or makes it hard to catch the ball can turn kids from the game, Lowe says. That’s why gloves for kids simply need to be easy to wear. Think: lighter and smaller.
“You want a glove that a young ball player can fit on their hand, it feels comfortable and they can manage it,” he says. “You don’t want it dropping off the hand. You don’t want it to weigh them down. You don’t want it to be so tight that you can’t squeeze it.”
If you’re not sure whether a glove is the right fit, administer the “eyeball test,” Lowe says. Have the child put on the glove and then toss them some tennis balls. Ask them if the glove feels comfortable and then, as you throw the tennis balls to them, look for these signs, says Lowe.
If the glove is easy to use and not falling off, you probably have the right one.
No need to buy a brand-new glove for that brand-new ball player. Lowe recommends getting a used one, which you can find at used sporting goods stores or from a neighbor down the street.
New gloves can be stiff, and it can take more than a year to break one in. Used gloves have a season or two of play already in them and are more supple, which leads to less frustration and more success for young ball players out on the field.
“I always recommend a hand-me-down, a used glove, something that’s been worked in for a year or so,” Lowe says.
Some of baseball’s greats, including Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Ozzie Smith, didn’t start out with top-notch equipment. Clemente used an empty milk carton for a glove, Lowe says. Smith used a paper bag.
“Once they got on TV, yeah, they got the best of the best,” he says. “When you’re just learning to crawl, keep it affordable.”
In other words, your 8-year-old doesn’t need a premium leather glove. Synthetic leather is a fine alternative and typically a good, more affordable solution for a young player.
Elite players on travel teams to the pros use gloves designed for their specific position. An outfielder’s glove is a little longer, so they can get the fly balls, Lowe says. An infielder’s glove is smaller, so players can toss the ball quickly. A 1st base mitt is as “big as a house,” Lowe says, making it easier to pick up those ground balls. And a catcher uses a smaller, stockier mitt that protects their hand, he says.
Young players shouldn’t be specializing in a position, Lowe says, and don’t need to worry about any of that. “Just get that manageable glove that you can play all the positions with,” he says.
As kids gear up for their first seasons of baseball, getting the perfect equipment should be low on the list of parents’ concerns, Lowe says. Just make sure the glove is comfortable and easy for the child to use and focus on ensuring their coach makes learning about baseball fun, he says.
“For a kid that’s just starting out,” he says, equipment “is like 15th in line as far as priorities go.”