Baseball gloves are the tools of a fielder's trade and, as in any profession, there's a right tool for the right job. A good carpenter wouldn't use a hammer to drive in a screw, and a good baseball player shouldn't use a catcher's mitt to chase down fly balls. Baseball gloves come in many shapes, sizes, and purposes. Glove length, webbing, and pocket sizes are all designed to provide distinct advantages to players at every position they play. Here's a look at the benefits different types of baseball gloves have at each position.
Outfield Gloves: Outfield gloves are the longest gloves on the field. Designed to give the outfielder maximum range, these gloves are generally 12-14 inches long, giving you the extra reach you need when snagging line drives or deep fly balls. These gloves also have large, deep pockets to prevent balls from popping out of the hand or off the heel of the glove. The webbing on outfield gloves are widely varied. Open web designs can provide slightly more visibility when catching fly balls, but closed, basket style webs prove to be more durable.
Infield Gloves: The infield positions require quick reaction times and deft glove work. Therefore, infield gloves are smaller and often made of lighter materials. Second basemen use the smallest gloves. At 10-11 inches with small, shallow pockets, these gloves allow second basemen to transfer the ball to their throwing hand in the shortest amount of time possible; a key quality to have when trying to turn double plays. Players at third base and shortstop should use slightly longer gloves, 11-12 inches, for greater range. Third base gloves have slightly deeper pockets and open webs, designed to snag those hard line drives that give third base it's nickname, the "hot corner".
First Base Mitts: Called a 'mitt' because it lacks individual fingers, they are designed specifically for first base and are not used anywhere else on the field. Between 12-13 inches, these mitts have deep pockets and a wide, curved outside edge to give the first baseman an edge in scooping thrown balls out of the dirt. The larger size also gives other infielders a bigger target to throw to. It is not uncommon or inappropriate to use outfield gloves when playing first base.
Catcher's Mitts: Also fingerless, the catcher's mitt is the most specialized type of baseball glove on the field. Heavily padded and uniquely shaped to direct pitches into it's deep pocket, the catcher's mitt presents the pitcher with a wide target to throw at while providing the catcher's hand with maximum protection. Though other baseball gloves are measured from the tip of the index finger to the heel of the glove, catcher's mitts are measured by circumference, usually between 32 and 34 inches around.
Pitcher's Gloves: Although any infielder glove will do for the pitcher, using a glove with a closed web will help hide your grip on the ball from the batter.
Like the carpenter, a good baseball player uses the right tool for the right job. There are many different types of baseball gloves, and each is designed for a different position on the diamond. So whether you're running down drives to the wall, turning a double play, or playing some catch in the yard, just remember to leave the hammer at home and keep your eye on the ball.