When baseball was first introduced, players used their bare hands, but, as the game began to progress and evolve baseball gloves became a standard. Today, a variety of gloves are used in the game so for any player or fan, it pays to know how baseball gloves are produced.
Aside from the small plastic reinforcement placed at the base of the small finger and thumb and the nylon thread, the glove is made completely from leather. Cattle, kangaroo, and buffalo are the most common types of leather used.
Cattle hide leather are tougher and more durable while softer types of leather, like kangaroo, although softer and faster to break in tends to wear out faster. The animal skin is turned into leather using either vegetable or chrome tanning methods. These are the most common tanning methods used even for modern day baseball gloves.
The Manufacturing Process
The leather arrives at the factory cured and tanned, which means they are ready to be turned into gloves. The leather will be graded for color and tested for its strength initially. The entire process is rather simple and easy to follow.
- The four basic parts to make a glove, the shell, the pad, the lining, and the web, are automatically cut using a machine.
- Brass stamping die is used to burn the manufacturer’s label into the leather.
- While inside-out, the shell is sewn together and wetted to prevent cracking or ripping. It is then turned to insert the lining.
- A hot hand, metallic hand-shaped mold, is used to heat the shell and form the correct size. This ensures that the finger stalls correctly open.
- Better quality gloves make use of two-part pads for easier flexing in the right direction when it is squeezed. The padding that goes into the heel of the glove makes use of two leather layers that are stitched. Five layers of leather padding are used for the catcher’s mitts to give it a thicker palm compared to other types of gloves.
- Plastic reinforcements are then inserted at the thumb and little finger sections of the glove for added support. This material also helps in protecting the fingers of the player from accidentally being bent backwards during practice or the game.
- Several pieces of leather will be used to fabricate the web. Specifically, bout 2 to 6 pieces of leather can be used depending on the type of web preferred.
- The baseball glove is now ready to be assembled. Lacing the edges of the glove normally requires about a 90-inch long rawhide to keep the glove materials together. The process of lacing begins either at the thumb or the little finger. The lacing ends at the web section of the glove with non-leather, usually nylon thread, stitching used for individual parts. Sheepskin or synthetic material can be used for the strap that goes across the back of the glove.
- Both the catcher’s mitts and the first baseman’s glove require the palm, pad, web, and back parts to be sewn together. The palm and back are sewn first before stitching the other parts using rawhide lacing.
- The manufacturing process is finished off with a lay off operation where the glove is placed on the hot hand for final shaping and adjustment to ensure the finger stalls remained open and not accidentally stitched together.
Eventually, the production process may evolve as the game of baseball progresses and becomes even more competitive.