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Iowa baseball players make each glove their own

BY TOMMY REINKING | MARCH 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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Eric Toole’s glove is all black with a checkered web. He had two other options for which outfielder’s glove he wanted, but he chose the all-black one. When describing what made that glove better than the others, the biggest factor was just how it “feels.”

Ask any player on the Iowa baseball team, and he’ll say not all gloves are created equal.

Toole could tell the glove he has this year is the best he’s used in his college career as soon as he put it on.

“The way you put it on, you know it’s the right glove,” he said. “Last year, I kind of had a crappy glove. It was floppy. This year’s glove is more sturdy, and I like that a lot.”

Toole’s outfielder glove is longer than the gloves used by other positions on the team. An extra one or two inches in length on the gloves the outfielders use make it easier to catch fly balls or make diving catches. Infielder gloves are often smaller and allow the players to get the ball in and out of the glove more quickly.

The catcher’s mitt is far stiffer than a fielder’s glove and is filled with padding to protect the catchers’ hand while catching upwards of 100 pitches a game. For first basemen, the glove that is generally used is a sort of hybrid between a fielder’s glove and a catcher’s mitt. The glove is more rounded along the edge to create a wider area to catch the ball in or pick the ball out of the dirt on a low throw.

“I don’t like [my catcher’s mitt] to be too big,” Hawkeye catcher Dan Sheppard said. “But you can make your glove into what you want to make it. Some guys know how to break in gloves better than others. It’s just what you make of it.”

There is a multitude of different ways for players to break in new gloves. Iowa players received their gloves from Louisville Slugger — with which the team has a contract — in mid-November and started breaking them in as soon as they receivedthem. The most common way to break a glove in is to simply play catch, but some players have found faster, different routes.

Toole said he’s seen players catch balls from a pitching machine to break their gloves in faster and has even seen players place a ball in a new glove and then hit it with a bat to make the glove able to catch balls easier.

“For my catcher’s glove, I put two baseballs in it and then I sleep with it under my bed,” freshman Blake Hickman said. “That flattens it out. With my first baseman glove, I just play catch with it as much as possible.”

The team receives a certain number of gloves from Louisville Slugger each season. Every pitcher and outfielder is required to use a glove provided by the company, but other position players have the option to. If a player orders a glove, he must use it throughout the season.

Head coach Jack Dahm said that all but a handful of catchers and first basemen use the gloves provided by Louisville. The others get their own gloves made by Rawlings because they prefer how the glove feels.

“It’s all about comfort,” Hickman said. “You have to make sure it’s not too stiff and easy enough to close. It’s very important to have the right glove in a game.”


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