If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1000 times…a catcher’s mitt is his most important tool and he must take excellent care of it! That means protecting it while it’s in your catcher’s bag and not letting it get smashed, mangled, or mis-formed. It also means that you don’t toss it on the ground in the middle of the dugout between innings, but you gently set it down where it’s not going to get lost or stepped on.
You may think I’m crazy and going over the top with taking care of your mitt, but I genuinely think it’s that important. If it’s not that important to you, maybe it should be…
Taking care of your mitt starts the second you buy it in a local sporting goods store or receive a box from Baseball Express on your front doorstep.
In this article I want to talk about the most important thing you can do to help get your mitt the perfect shape for you and then how to help keep it that way.
It all starts with how you break it in.
In almost 30 years of either catching, or coaching catchers I’ve heard it all when it comes to how you should break in your mitt. Some of the tips and tricks are really good, and others can damage your mitt. Maybe you’ve heard a few of these before:
Below I’ll discuss what you should, and shouldn’t do, when breaking in your new mitt.
Like I mentioned above, I’ve heard of players using everything under the sun to try to break in their mitt more quickly. Overall, I have to say that I’m not a fan of putting any foreign substance on a mitt…that includes oil, vaseline, shaving cream, etc.
From my experience, when players put these substances on their mitts the leather seems to almost always break down more quickly. This means that it’s going to rip sooner and you’re going to have to buy a replacement sooner…more money out of your pocket!
While I don’t use it every day, I do still have my All Star mitt that I used my least year in pro ball with the Braves and it’s in great condition. I probably need to tighten up some of the laces, but other than that it is game ready right now! I believe there are two reasons it’s still in game shape.
Please don’t do this…
I don’t know another way to put it, but if you love your catcher’s mitt please don’t do this. It may seem like a “quick fix” because cooking it like it’s the Thanksgiving turkey will make it come out softer and more pliable, but it’s bad for the leather. It makes the leather weaker and causes it to break down faster. If you want a rip in your catcher’s mitt this would be a great start. If you want it to last a few seasons this is not the way to go.
Simply put, keep your mitt out of the kitchen!
I’ve found that one of the best way to preserve the shape of your mitt is by keeping a ball (or a few balls) in the pocket of the mitt when you’re not using it.
So, every day when you’re done using your mitt go ahead and place a ball in the pocket. This will help keep the mitt in the proper shape when you’re not using it and help prevent it from getting smashed or misshaped.
It can also be helpful to put a belt around your mitt after you’ve put the ball in the pocket so that you know it’s not going to come out.
It’s not rocket science, but here it is…
The absolute best way to break in a mitt is by simply going out and using it. Grab a teammate, brother, dad, neighbor, anyone who likes to play catch and ask them to throw with you.
Use it in bullpens to help break it in even more quickly. If you have access to a pitching machine set it up and receive some balls coming in at a high velocity.
The reason that actually using it works the best is because it’s going to shape to your hand when you do this.
Think about your favorite pair of flip flops…they’re soooo comfortable, right?! How about the first day you bought them? That’s right, they were about as comfortable as wearing the box they came in. But, they get more comfortable over time because they shape to your feet. Your catcher’s mitt is no different, and the more you use it the more quickly it will shape to your hand.
If you were hoping to read this article and get some shortcut quick-fix for breaking in your mitt, I hope you’re not disappointed. There certainly are things that you can do quickly to soften the leather like drowning your mitt in oils and using the Stouffers Lasagna recipe. But, ultimately, those do much more harm than good and they’re not recommended.
Whenever you get a new mitt start playing catch with it…a lot!
Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!