If you spend any sort of time around the baseball diamond talking to outfielders, you will quickly learn that one of the most important pieces of equipment they hold dear to their heart is their glove. A good outfield glove is worth its weight in gold, and in speaking to players you’ll know that each have their own preferences and favorites. So what really is the best outfield glove available right now?
Because gloves are such a personal item, it may be difficult to ascertain what qualifies as a good outfield glove. Some players may prefer Rawlings, while others like Mizuno. Some may like authentic leather while others prefer synthetic material. Still, are there some common traits to look for in purchasing an outfield glove that all players can agree on? What are the things that should be considered in making a glove purchase?
What’s Different About An Outfield Glove?
If you’re just starting out looking at gloves, it may be difficult to distinguish between an outfield glove and any other gloves. What is it exactly that differentiates a glove for an outfielder versus a glove for an infielder? As an outfielder, what are the things you should be considering when purchasing a glove that separates outfield gloves from infield gloves?
The first thing that an outfield glove normally features is a closed web. Although some outfielders like to have an open web to track the ball all the way into the glove, the majority of outfielders prefer a closed web as it will provide shading from the sun. Imagine tracking a fly ball as an outfielder, then all of a sudden losing it in the light of the midday sun. A closed web can help shield your eyes and buy you time to find the ball in the sky. Infielders don’t have to worry about this problem, so they generally prefer open webbed gloves.
Another feature of outfield gloves is that they are usually larger than infield gloves. Where an infielder might prefer a smaller glove so that they can quickly find the ball to make throws to first, or to turn double plays, outfielders generally do not need to make quick throws after making a catch. As a result, outfielder gloves tend to be a bit larger. In general, you will find most outfielders prefer nothing smaller than 12.5 inches for a glove. The extra size helps to catch balls that a player might not normally catch, and also provides a large pocket so the ball will stay inside.
What Things Should I Look For In An Outfield Glove?
When you’re buying an outfield glove, here are 5 things to consider when making your purchase:
- Sizing: Remember that you will likely want a glove at least 12.5 inches, but usually no more than 14 inches (as sanctioned by your league).
- Toughness: Find something durable that can last you several seasons.
- Closed Web: Helps block out the sun on pop flies.
- Adjustable wrist strap: This comes in handy as you can loosen and tighten your glove at will; a velcro strap is quite common in many outfield gloves.
- Pocket Size: A deep pocket will help the ball stay in the glove and keep it from moving around on running catches.
Product Reviews - Which Is Right For You?
Here are 5 outfield gloves that you should check out for 2018:
Nokona: “Classic Walnut” Series
Nokona has developed a bit of a cult following among those in the know on the baseball diamond, and the classic walnut series is another example why their fan base is growing so quickly. Top quality, USA-made, materials combine with excellent craftsmanship to form a fantastic 12.75” outfield glove in a beautiful walnut tone.
- Cowhide “Walnut Crunch” leather provides excellent durability and toughness
- Leather becomes pliable and soft after initial break-in period but maintains high durability
- Made in the USA
- Web pattern is a modified trap web with a nice pocket size
- Moderate break-in time to get this glove game-ready
- Some players may prefer a larger size than 12.75”
- Open-back design may not be suitable for all players
- One of the more expensive gloves on this list
It’s easy to see why so many veteran ballplayers are starting to choose Nokona after going with other manufacturers for many years; the excellent quality and durability are quick becoming trademarks of the brand and the classic walnut series falls right in line with those expectations.
Rawlings: Player Preferred ‘Sporting Goods’ Series
Rawlings has been around forever with their Player Preferred gloves, and the Sporting Goods series is another fine product offering in line with prior models. Although not strictly an outfield glove, many outfielders (particularly those who play slow-pitch softball) have taken a liking to specifically using this glove in the outfield as they love both the sizing and deep pocket.
- Basket-web technology gives an oversized pocket to better catch fly balls
- Suitable for casual players of different ages and abilities
- Reinforced Zero Shock lining reduces shock and sting in the palm
- Conventional backing also includes pull straps that can be easily adjusted for tightening and loosening
- Real leather full-grained lacing that has a pre-oiled shell for easy break-in
- More suitable for slow-pitch and not fast-pitch
- May not be great for more advanced, serious players
Formidable choice from Rawlings that is a very versatile option for players of different skills and ages. The Player Preferred Series has been very popular historically with many players and this once again shows why it is a fan favorite.
Wilson: WTA08RB16 “Showtime” Series
Wilson’s Showtime series is ready for the spotlight and this 12.5” model shines brightly on the ball diamond. A low profile heel with 100% leather build (including laces and straps) provides a durable offering that is surely to please for the 2018 season.
- Leather conforms quite nicely to the player’s hand, creating a bit of a ‘custom’ feel
- Palm construction is reinforced with a separate piece of leather to provide a bit more cushioning and support.
- 100% leather construction with a single post web that gives an oversized pocket for outfielders to secure fly balls
- Slick blonde / dark brown leather
- Ready and broken-in from day 1
- Heel is fairly low profile which gives the glove a bit more flexibility and will prevent injuries on jammed and sprained wrists
- Some players may not enjoy the low profile heel
- Sizing may be small for players who prefer a larger glove
Wilson once again delivers on their Showtime Series glove which is a terrific choice for those who are looking for a smaller outfield glove.
Mizuno: “MVP Prime” Series GMVP1277SE4
Mizuno has always been a large player in the outfield glove market, and the MVP Prime series is another terrific offering from this reliable company. Mizuno is always at the forefront of new technologies, and this is evident in their Bio Soft leather as well as the Center Pocket palm reinforcement.
- Engineered Bio Soft leather breaks the glove in before ever being worn, making for a glove you can use straight out of the packaging
- The palm has a center pocket pattern that centralizes the pocket directly under the player’s index finger, also increasing break-in time
- Flexible heel prevents injuries
- Palm is reinforced with a soft palm liner to create greater comfort
- Laces are specially enforced on the exterior to increase stability in both pinky and thumb
- Durability may be questionable as the glove already comes broken in
- 12.75” sizing may not be adequate for players who want a larger glove
A great choice for anyone looking for a fairly reliable glove that is ready to use right away. The nice soft leather gives a comfortable feel that is suitable for any player.
Louisville Slugger: “Pro Flare” Series
LS’ flare design has reportedly increased catching surface by up to 15% versus conventional outfield gloves, and the Pro Flare series is an excellent choice for outfielders who want every little extra advantage possible.
- 13” glove features pre-oiled steerhide Gaucho leather (professionally graded) for excellent durability and toughness
- Glove is flared out at the thumb and pinky which reduces transfer time for players looking to make a quick throw; also makes it easier to pick up balls with just the end of the glove
- Wide lacing makes sure this glove will last multiple seasons
- Nice, sleek look
- Closed back has a hook / loop wrist strap
- Oversized pocket is deep enough to secure many pop flies
- Takes a longer time to break-in
- Not made in the USA
LS has made quite a splash in the market with their flare design and make higher level collegiate players are starting to take notice. The increased surface area will help you make many catches that you normally might not, and at the end of the day this could make the difference between winning and losing.
Many good choices here but personally I love the Nokona Classic Walnut Series. I switched from Rawlings to Nokona a few years back and have not looked back since; their craftsmanship and overall quality are truly second to none.
Still, all of the options would be excellent choices for you as you traverse the outfield in the 2018 season. Best of luck out there!