As a baseball player or enthusiast, maybe you’ve wondered how baseball gloves are made. Yes, having some background info of your favorite game puts the whole sport into perspective and gives you exciting insights about the game.
Wearing this gear to protect one’s catching hand has not always been considered a manly in this sport’s early years. This is more so in the years following the Civil War. That was the time when this game spread its wing through the country like a bush fire.
While the purpose of this write-up is not to turn you into a professional glove-maker, it will give you an overall picture of what goes into glove making. We, therefore, will provide you with brief insights on how the professional manufactures make these gloves and wind up with a simple step-by-step guide on how you can try your hand on the craft and see how it goes.
How Manufacturers make Baseball Gloves
While this section is not a comprehensive guide, it shows you the overall outline of what the mega-manufacturers go through to ensure you get high-quality gloves for your baseball sport.
A glove is made entirely of leather, usually from cattle. However, you must have noticed tiny plastic reinforcements at the base of the thumb and the small finger, plus some nylon thread.
Some baseball is not made using cowhide but kangaroo hide, which is softer than leather. What makes kangaroo hide a preferred option is that this material’s gloves take a shorter time to break-in.
However, Kangaroos are not as common as cattle, so their hides are not easy to get. So, generally, cowhides constitute the primary material in use today, just as in the past.
A tannery first processes beef cattle hides. The finest leathers, those without nicks or other blemishes, are delivered to the glove factories.
The Manufacturing Process
Below is a simplified version of the manufacturing process of baseball gloves:
Step 1: Cowhide Treatment
By the time these cowhides get at the factory, they’ve already been cured. This involves drying or salting to kill bacteria. The hides are also tanned or chemically treated to petrification at bay.
All this treatment prepares the hides to be turned into gloves. At the factory, the hides are then graded. Next, based on texture and color, after which they are tested in a laboratory for strength.
Step 2: Die-cutting the glove parts
This involves cutting the glove parts automatically into four pieces—the shell, pad, lining, and web using a machine that works like a cookie-cutter. The parts are then sewn together using a long string of rawhide leather. Let’s highlight the significant steps that follow from there:
Step 3: Shelling and lining
At this point, the maker saws the shell of the glove together while inside-out. The outcome of this process is then turned right-side-out. This allows the manufacturer to insert the glove’s lining. Before reversing the glove, the shell is mulled, steamed, or wetted for flexibility. This helps to prevent the glove from cracking or ripping when it is turned.
The resulting shell is then put on a tool known as a hot hand. This is a hand-shaped metallic form, and its high temperature helps to get the shell to form to its required size. Besides, the hot hand ensures that all finger openings or finger stalls are open correctly.
Step 4: Inserting the Pad and plastic reinforcements (Padding)
At this point, a pad is inserted into the base of a glove. The padding you see in a glove is made of a double layer of leather, hand-stitched together. The plastic reinforcements are then inserted at the toe (little finger) and thumb sections of the glove. These tiny devices give added support for the glove. They also protect the player’s fingers from bending backward accidentally.
Step 5: Webbing
Before the manufacturer laces all the parts of the glove together, they fabricate the web out of several leather pieces.
Step 6: Lacing and stitching
Finally, in this truncated version of the glove-manufacturing process, the maker laces and stitches the glove together. Laving is stitching the ball using strips of leather, while stitching is an excellent aspect of the joining task using solid strings.
Step 7: Quality Control
Quality control starts right from when the hide arrives at the factory, and the manufacturers monitor his aspect throughout the manufacturing process. However, many credible manufacturers work hard to ensure they meet the quality and standards set by baseball associations and sports authorities.
So next time you use your glove, appreciate the meticulous work that has gone into assembling this essential part of your baseball gear. Remember always to keep your baseball or softball glove in good shape, use it as recommended by the manufacturer, and it will serve you for many tournaments in the future.