Imagine catching a baseball bare-handed. Painful, right? Back when baseball first began, there were no baseball gloves. Fortunately, legend tells that A.G. Spalding saw a glove being used by a first baseman to protect his hand in 1875. Spalding then started the trend of wearing a glove for baseball, and the gloves became a standard in the game by the late 1890s.
By that time, softball had become popular and soon gloves were being worn in that sport as well. Today, there are specific gloves for all field positions as well as different gloves for baseball and softball.
What is the difference between a baseball glove and a softball glove? Naturally, the biggest difference is in the size. The softball itself is larger than a baseball, therefore you would need a larger glove to catch and field the ball easily. Baseball gloves range in length from 10.5 inches to 12.5 inches, depending upon the position played. Softball gloves are 12 inches long to 14 inches long.
Just as the gloves differ, so do the bats. Baseball bats are generally 31 inches long to 34 inches long. Softball bats are a bit longer, ranging from 32 inches up to 34 inches in length. Bats vary in weight between the two sports as well. Softball bats weigh an average of 23 ounces to 30 ounces. Baseball bats weigh 28 ounces to 31 ounces.
Now that you know the history and differences, it is time to purchase a glove. Choose a softball glove carefully, as it acts as your “hand” during play and should feel natural, not overly bulky or heavy. Ask a coach or other players for advice. Refer to the glove-maker’s website, as it often has valuable information that you need to learn before making your purchase.
Years ago, it took a long time for a player to “break in” a baseball or softball glove. This usually meant oiling it thoroughly, wrapping up a ball inside the pocket and even sleeping with the glove under the mattress! Today’s softball gloves are made of softer leather and have a nearly broken-in feel; however, it is still important to break in and care for your glove according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Gloves still need to be oiled, but not over-oiled, to maintain their proper level of moisture and prevent cracking. Be sure to oil the laces as well to avoid brittleness and breakage.
Most of all, play ball often with your glove. That is the best way to get a good feel for the glove and form it to your hand. Use it as much as you can, and have fun!