Tag Archives: Sports

Breaking In Your New Glove

So, you just bought a new baseball or softball glove and it’s a little stiff, what do you do?  Well, there are a million different schools of thought on this issue and we truly believe that there isn’t just ONE right way to do it. Today we’ll talk about a few of the more common ideas about glove conditioning and provide you with some links to other resources.

Softening the Leather:

No matter how you choose to break in your glove at some point you’re going to have to soften the leather so that the pocket is able to form and you get a good “hinge” effect when you open and close the glove.  There are several ideas about leather softening, including mink oil, linseed oil, neatsfoot oil, shaving cream, saddle soap, and petroleum-based substances like Vasoline.

A can of neatsfoot oil and a small dollop of t...

Image via Wikipedia

We like lanolin for leather softening because it lubricates the leather without clogging the natural breathability of the glove.  Since lanolin is derived from sheep skin and not petroleum it won’t lead to the eventual  drying and cracking that can occur with other products.  Another good option is mink oil, which is similar to lanolin.

In addition to these oils just about every glove manufacturer has there own blend of glove oil or conditioner.  Just remember, whatever you choose DO NOT overdo it, a little goes a long way and you don’t want to end up with a sticky, oily mess.

Forming the Pocket:

Now that you’ve got the leather nice and soft you’re going to need to mold the pocket.  Depending on which position you play you may want to consider different shapes or sizes of pocket formation.  Overall though you want to acheive a deep pocket in order to hold onto the ball but not one that is so deep that it becomes hard to get a handle on the ball when you need to make a throw.  There is nothing worse than having to dig around for an extra second before you fire to first.

With pocket formation there are again several ideas about how best to achieve the desired effect.  Obviously, the best way to form a custom-fit pocket that is molded to your hand is to go out and toss the ball around; there is simply no substitute to actually working with the glove.

English: Nokona Baseball Glove

Image via Wikipedia

However, there are things you can do when you aren’t using it to help the pocket form faster.  We like to take a softball or grapefruit and place it deep in the pocket near the bottom of the webbing and then tie a heavy rubber band around the whole thing, making sure to center the pressure around the object that is forming the pocket.  Using an object that is slightly larger than the ball you are catching will allow a bigger, deeper pocket to form.

You can apply even more pressure by placing the glove under your mattress and sleeping on it, though this can sometimes be uncomfortable.  We don’t recommend this unless you are truly committed to the idea.

Once you have softened the leather and formed the pocket you should be good to go.  You can repeat this process if you need to.  However, we reccommend that you actually play with the glove a few times before repeating since you won’t know how the process worked until you use it.

Other Considerations:

Heat – Some people swear by the heat-treatment method.  This technique  requires you to put your glove in a 300 degree oven for 3-4 minutes.  When doing this you must turn the oven off once it has reached temperature, you don’t need constant heat.  You can also use a microwave as some Major League players do.

We DO NOT recommend this method as it can very easily damage your glove beyond repair.  A better idea for heating your glove is to leave it out on a rock in the sun for a while.  This should give you enough heat to allow the oil or conditioner to penetrate deeper into the leather.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24:  Mark Teixeira #25 of t...

Shaving Cream?Image by Getty

Shaving Cream – Some people swear by this method of leather softening.  We’ve never really seen it work any better than the natural oils you could use and since there are a lot of chemicals in shaving cream it might not be the best for your glove over the long term.  Those who do use this method say that it is quick and effective.  You are on your own with this one.

Steaming – There is a realitively new process offered by some sporting goods stores where by you steam your glove in their steam chamber machine.  This works on the concept of heat, pressure, and moisture and will soften a glove very quickly.  However, some people claim that the glove becomes heavier because of the water that is forced into the grain of the leather.  Eventually this moisture will evaporate but the long term effects of steaming are still somewhat unknown.  If you have a place near you that offers this service it might be worth having a conversation with them, it might be the route you decide to go.  Whatever you decide, though, make sure to let the professionals handle this one, not something you want to attempt on your own.

– Mike from Mattingly

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What I learned from Tommy John

Photo of former MLB pitcher Tommy John, taken ...

Tommy John; Image via Wikipedia

I recently read a great article in Baseball Digest about how “Tommy John” surgery has saved so many pitchers’ careers.  Having underwent the surgery myself at age 17 I was immediately drawn to the article, as I could relate to nearly every point the author made.  Historically, articles about Tommy John and the surgery that bears his name always touch upon the fact that the rehab afterwards requires a great deal of focus and determination and they always talk about the adversity that a player must overcome in order to make a comeback.  Usually the articles will then shift focus to the causes of the injury; why the UCL (ulna collateral ligament) tear occurs.  Is it because of overuse?  Is it because of how competitive players and coaches are?  Is it that young players get introduced to breaking balls too soon?  Is it because of poor mechanics?  Rarely do any of these articles talk about the personal, emotional experience of the player.  I cannot say for certain why I had to undergo the surgery, but my guess is that it was a combination of the aforementioned reasons that were to blame.  I never looked back on the reasons though because to me it never mattered and I soon realized the surgery and subsequent rehab was a blessing and made me into the player and even the person I am today.  The appreciation for baseball was reinstated in me.

From a young age, I considered myself better than average at baseball.  For no reason that I am aware of, I was able to throw harder than most players my age and, for most of my career, I was able to hit respectably.  I always played for the love of the game and hardly thought of my future with it.  All I cared about was the team I was playing for and how we were going to win the next game.  I participated in no other sports competitively.  So, in the offseason, I would hit in the cages and continue to throw off indoor mounds.  At times in the summer, I would play in more games than days in the week and it was great.

In high school, I was having great success and was fortunate enough to be in the process of choosing a school for which to play collegiate baseball.  Then, while on the mound, in the last inning of the first game of a fall high school doubleheader, I threw a fastball and felt a pain in my elbow that I never felt before.  I thought to myself, that’s odd, but I still need to get this batter.  One more painful pitch took care of the batter and the game, and I thought to myself, “Thank goodness I don’t need to throw another pitch today”.  I’ll save you the trials and tribulations leading up to the procedure, but about 10 months later, I had Tommy John surgery.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  A fan of the Tex...

Image by Getty Images

For as long as I could remember baseball was my life and I was now faced with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to play baseball for quite some time.  It was a tough pill to swallow at first, but I made the decision early on to do everything I needed to do in order to get back on that field.  It seemed unfathomable when, shortly after surgery, I was in an arm brace that limited my arm flexion.  Over 12 weeks the brace was calibrated to progressively reach maximum range of motion a few degrees at a time.

Around the sixth month post operation, I was told I could begin tossing a ball.  A simple feat I took for granted that now brought me so much happiness.  I stood not farther than ten feet apart from my trainer, glove on my left hand and ball in my right.  I cautiously brought my arm down, around and released.  I felt no pain and all I could do was smile.  I wanted the ball back as quickly as it left my hand.  I could have stayed there all day and lobbed the ball to my trainer, but was certainly limited based on my doctor’s instructions.  Following a post-surgery throwing program, with proper resting in between each session, I threw for several more weeks off the mound, extending my throwing distance each time out.  Sometime during the process, I was cleared to actually be on the field for any non-throwing activity.  I quickly found a position that most other players shied away from – “the bucket.”

For those of you unfamiliar with “the bucket”, it is basically ball shagging.  During an organized batting practice session, there is usually at least one person who fields the balls from the players fielding the batted batting practice balls.  This player, normally a freshman, would stand behind a protective net with a bucket to put the balls into to run them in to the batting practice pitcher.  Now, I say most players avoided “the bucket” because, in my opinion, everyone had too much pride.  Most, if not all, freshman on a college team used to be the star player at their local high school and used to being “top dog.”  Now at college, they all thought they were too good to do such a demoralizing task for the team.  I embraced it.  So many high school players who were unable to play baseball in college would have embraced it.  It meant the world to me.  I was finally able to be on the field again and, more importantly, I was finally able to feel like I was making a contribution to the team.  I enjoyedthe simple act of accepting the throws (or the weak tosses that hardly reached a 20 foot circumference of me, but that was just the upperclassmen picking on a freshman – don’t think I didn’t notice), but I would find always find myself locked in on the batter.  For one, for safety, but also in hopes that I would actually get the opportunity to field a live ball, and when I did I felt like a kid again.  I was slowly re-introduced to a game that I took for granted for so long.

Overall, the nature of the game of baseball is failing.  To paraphrase Ted Williams, If you fail 7 out of 10 times at bat, you are considered a good hitter.  So many young players dwell too much on the failures of the game (MLB players should because they get paid to dwell on those failures).

English: An image of Major League Baseball hal...

Ted Williams; Image via Wikipedia

But, if I can offer any advice to a young player it would be to simply enjoy the game and don’t ever take it for granted.  I would never wish an injury on anyone, but I bet any player who has had an injury that kept them out of the game can relate to my experience.  Ever since my surgery and rehab I have had a whole new appreciation for the game.  Perhaps that is why I still competitively play today, even though I have been out of college for almost six years now.  In my league, I am becoming the “old guy”, as not too many continue to play after their college days are done, but I was given a second chance almost eleven years ago to play again and I still embrace that.  While I was too young to remember if I was excited the very first time I picked up a ball , I certainly remember the first day I was able to throw again after surgery and I take that excitement with me every time I step on to the field.  I know I will stop eventually playing competitively once I fail to live up to my expectations, or if life’s events don’t allow me to participate, but until then, I want to be 60 feet, 6 inches away from the action and that is where I plan on staying.

– Joe S. from Mattingly 

Joe Smeraglino is the current Operations Manager for Mattingly Sports.  He was a relief pitcher for UCONN from 2003 – 2006 and had a reasonably sucessful college career.  He is currently pitching for the West Haven Twilight League in Connecticut.  

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A Little Mattingly Love!

So, we’ve had a lot of submissions from fans over the past year of some really great Mattingly memorabilia and we figured that it would be great to show the world.  You can check out more pictures here.

Thanks to Richie Alava (@Robric819) for the pictures of his extensive Donnie Baseball collection, Jojo (@jottino) for her AWESOME hoodie design (which we are STILL trying to get permission to print!), and Carolyn S. (@baseballchickie) for her tattoo pics!

Got some great Mattingly memorabilia, skin art, custom designed clothing, or anything else having to do with The Hit Man himself?

We’d love to see it… leave a comment below, email a picture to twitter@mattinglybaseball.com, or just post on our Facebook page!  You can also send pictures to us on Twitter or head over to Google+ and upload a snap shot.

And, on the off chance that you might actually need a baseball bat… well, just swing over to the Mattingly Sports website.

– Mike from Mattingly