Wednesday, May 13, 2009
What It Is The Correct Size Glove For Baseball Players?
Glove selection can be a critical choice that determines a players success. We all know the most important thing is the player wearing the glove. The glove isn't going to change whether or not a player can catch. However, I do think glove selection is a very important detail. I am not going to argue which glove company is better then another. Not unless they send me some free gloves and let me put them to the test anyway. By the way any glove companies who want their gloves reviewed I would be happy to do it on this blog. What I am going to argue is what is the right glove size?
Have seen a trend happening over the last 10 years or so at the high school level that I do not agree with. Mainly what I am talking about here is the size of infielders gloves. Specifically I am talking about shortstop, third base, and second base. Before I get to that however, I want to review my beliefs on glove size for the other positions.
I will start at first base. Let me first say that if your are going to play first base make sure you wear a first basemans mitt. The advantage of wearing the glove is the fact that it is design to pick balls out of the dirt. A skill any first baseman worth his salt needs to perfect. Here is my advice. Find a rule book for your league. Then buy the biggest glove you are legally allowed to wear. The advantages of having the biggest glove you can have are three fold.
First you have a bigger target to scoop balls out of the dirt with. Picking balls is about the players skill but the bigger glove only makes him better. Think of it this way. The golfers on the PGA tour have the best swings in the world yet they still use the drivers with the biggest sweet spot to improve their game. That's what I want on my first baseman. A glove with a big sweet spot!
Second, as a first baseman you need to be able to catch poorly thrown balls left, right, and over your head. The bigger glove allows you to get to balls you wouldn't catch with a smaller glove. Equipment is our best friend so let's take advantage of it!
Third, it gives you that little extra reach on balls in the hole and down the line. As a first baseman catching the ball is more important then being quick out of the glove with it. I am not saying first baseman do not need to have good ball skills. They need to be quick on both double play feeds and relay throws. But there first main responsibility is to catch poorly thrown balls and ground balls. Let's face it anyone can catch a good throw across the infield whether it's a big or small glove.
As far as the relay throws go, you should be catching the ball in the bottom of the web on your index fingers bottom knuckle. If you catch the ball properly the size of the glove will not make a difference. Bottom line, bigger is better in this situation!
Outfield gloves in opinion are the exact same philosophy. Use the biggest glove you are legally allowed. Using anything smaller makes absolutely no sense. You need to get to every ball you possibly can reach. Again think of it this way, if you were trying to scoop turtles out of a pond would you rather use a net with a 4 foot pole or one with an 8 foot pole?
Once you get the biggest glove allowed there is another trick you can use to make the glove another half inch to an inch bigger. Put your little finger and ring finger in the little finger hole. Then put your index finger in the ring finger hole. Take you index finger and either put it in the middle finger hole or keep it out of the glove. Your thumb of course stays in the thumb hole.
By doing this two things happen in your favor as a fielder. First, this slides the glove up your hand slightly making the glove even bigger. Second it also creates a softer pocket for you to catch the ball in. It will feel weird at first but give it some time and you will love it. A big glove worn properly will give you the edge you might need.
Finally, in the outfield you need to be able to make charge plays on do or die situations. Having a big glove might make it a little harder to find the ball but like anything if you practice the play enough you will learn to do it. Plus in the outfield the charge play is not as quick as turning a double play. Although you need to field the ball and get it out as quick as possible, you have time as you gather your feet. It is not a take the ball out the split second it hits the glove type play. Go big or go home!
This bring us to our middle infielders and third basemans. I mentioned earlier about a trend I have seen over the last 10 years at the high school level that I completely disagree with about glove selection. The trend I have seen is infielders going to small with their gloves. I have seen a lot of 11.00 inch gloves roaming the infield. It is simply to small of a glove to play those positions. You are giving the advantage back to the offense.
Here is what I believe in. Shortstops and second basemans should use 11.50 - 11.75 inch gloves. Preferably to me it should be 11.75. At third base players should use a 11.75 - 12.00 inch glove. Again preferably to me 12.00 inches. The reason being you are giving away inches. Alright a half inch to an inch. Last time I checked baseball was a game of inches. I want those inches on my side.
Now I know players are going to argue that the smaller the glove the better they can find the ball and the quicker they get the ball in and out. My scientific response, bull****! What they are really telling you is I feel comfortable with this glove because I play with it everyday. I feel uncomfortable with a bigger glove because I am not use to it. It is human nature that when you make a change you feel uncomfortable. It is also human nature to fight change even if it is good for you!
If we were talking about going from an 11.00 -11.25 inch glove to a 13.00 inch glove I would agree with them. I have been an infielder all my life and you need that feel to do your job. But we are not talking about adding 2 inches to your glove. Bottom line is this, the bigger the glove the more balls you can get to. Over the course of a season we might be talking about only 4 or 5 extra balls you can reach. But those 4 or 5 balls could determine the outcome of your season. Why not take advantage of it!
Let's go back to the idea that the smaller the glove the quicker you find the ball and get it back out. If you are any good as an infielder when you catch the ball and have to be quick getting it back out, you don't catch the ball in the middle of the web. Instead we learn to catch the ball in the bottom of the web where our index finger connects to our hand. We don't even close the glove. It hits right there and at a fraction of a second later we are pulling it back out. It doesn't matter what size glove you use, you will be catching and pulling from the same spot.
If you can agree with that then you can understand having a glove 11.75 inches is in your favor. Personally I did throw in 11.50 earlier in the post but I think that is too small as well. However, if I can get a player to go from 11.00 - 11.50 I'll take it as a start because at least I am gaining a half an inch.
At third base you need to be 11.75 - 12.00 inch. You need to be able to cover both the hole and the line. You have little time to run over and field those balls. In a lot of cases it's a step and a dive. Take the bigger glove and get to more balls. It really is that simple. If you the practice with the glove it will not be hard to find the ball. These are still not huge gloves that the balls disappear in. Third baseman need to be quick in and out of the glove but not quite as quick as the middle infielders so the added length is well worth it.
I have had the opportunity to be in major league locker rooms and see the gloves the infielders wear. They are not going extra small. They want the reach because they understand what it can do for them, their career, and the team. I remember Cal Ripkin Jr. using one of the biggest gloves of any shortstop. My guess is it was the biggest but I don't know for sure. I also read in a chapter in his book about his manager Earl Weaver telling him to use the bigger glove so he could get to more balls. It is not rocket science here. Can you imagine the bus ride home after losing the State Championship because the last out tipped off your shortstops 11.00 inch glove?
I have had players play with gloves that small. I understand mom and dad paid $300.00 for that glove and they aren't buying another one. As a parent I get it. But if you are player reading this and you are buying a new glove don't go small. Go with the a glove that gives you both feel and the range. Use your equipment to your advantage!
Finally, we will end with the catchers mitt. I am not an expert on the catchers mitt because I have never caught. Common sense makes me believe that you should choose a mitt much like an infielders glove. Don't go huge and don't go small. Get a glove that's both big enough and gives you the feel you want. I realize that basically tells you nothing. Since I can not give any better advice on the catchers mitt I went to my catching coach Bullet. Bullet was an outstanding high school catcher who caught Division 1 baseball and spent some time playing minor league ball. Here is his belief on selecting, wearing, and taking care of a catchers mitt.
"A Catcher’s mitt like any glove are very similar to an infielder’s glove except by size, I always used a 32.5 Wilson a2403 which is the Pudge version! The reason I say they are a lot like infield gloves is because they should be small for transfer and also to frame the ball better because you have more control of a smaller glove. The stitches should be kept tight at all times so that there is no give in the glove so you can frame better, and you never keep your catcher’s mitt in your bag with the rest of your gear, it is your baby I called it my girl you don’t treat her wrong! Last but not least your whole hand should never go all the way into your glove, once your knuckles are in your are far enough and have the glove in the proper position. And never lay the glove on it's back, always leave it face down and open they way you want it when you catch a ball!"
Pennsville High School Baseball
Baseball is your trade and your glove is your tool. Select the right tool for the job and you will be more efficient. Forgot what looks cool or what your friends are wearing. Instead, use common sense and make the right choice. I am sure there are players and coaches who may have other opinions and I would love to hear from you. Your comments and questions are greatly welcomed on this site. It is the only way we can all learn and develop as coaches and players!