At first glance, you might say that baseball gloves are exactly the same as softball gloves. And yes, they do share many similarities. Their general shape is pretty much the same, and the material that you use to make softball gloves can also be used for baseball gloves.
But when you dig deeper, the subtle differences between the two gloves start surfacing. And there are quite a few differences here. You see, baseball and softball are two entirely different games, and the gloves that you use for the two games also feed quite differently.
When designing a glove for a specific game, the manufacturers tend to prioritize one thing over the other. Sure, if you are playing a casual game of baseball with your friends on the weekend, you can use a fastpitch softball glove and get away with it. But in competitive matches, that’s a ground for disqualification.
So, what are the differences between a softball and a baseball glove? Well, that’s exactly the question that I want to address in this article. Let’s dive right in.
Baseball Gloves vs Softball Gloves – Differences
As I said already, there are quite a few differences between a softball glove and a baseball glove, though you don’t notice it at first. You see, the overall design of each glove compliments their respective sports. Before I get into greater details, let me give you a quick chart highlighting the major differences between them.
|11.25 to 12.5 inches
|11.5 to 15 inches
|Shallow and long
|Deep and short
· Size Range
One of the first noticeable differences that you will see between a softball and a baseball glove is the sizes they are available at. Now gloves come in different size ranges for different age groups. And your personal preference also has a big part to play in the size that you would go for in your glove.
That being said, however, since baseballs are smaller than softballs, and baseball players usually favor mobility over control, baseball gloves have a smaller range of size options.
The standard baseball glove size ranges between 11.25 inches to 12.5 inches for adult players. However, the size range in softball gloves is much greater, giving you the option to go from 11.5 inches all the way up to 15 inches in glove sizes.
· Fit and Feel
Baseball and softball players rarely see eye-to-eye when it comes to how they like to wear their gloves. Softball players, for instance, like to go with a tight-fitting glove that stays on their hand when they are playing defense. On the other hand, baseball players like a more relaxed and looser grip on the glove.
To accommodate players’ preferences, softball gloves often come with cinch straps on the back of the shell that let them tighten up their glove to make it as snug as they want. Baseball gloves don’t come with this type of strap.
As a result of those cinch straps, a single-size softball glove can fit different hand sizes. Baseball gloves are not as adaptable, and you need to choose the right size of baseball glove for your hands.
· Pocket Depth and Size
You will also notice that the design of the pocket is also different in addition to the size of the glove itself. Of course, the depth of the pocket can vary depending on your position, but generally speaking, softball gloves have a deeper pocket compared to baseball gloves.
Baseball players prefer shallower pockets in their gloves for two reasons – firstly, the ball is smaller, and secondly, it allows for quicker transfer of the ball to the throwing hand. Sure, a decent outfielder’s baseball glove has a deeper pocket than an infielder’s glove, but even then, it’s not as deep as a softball glove.
Since softballs are much bigger than baseballs, softball players require a deeper pocket to hold them properly. Apart from the depth, the overall size of the pocket is also different between the two types of gloves.
The pocket in a baseball glove is also longer, which helps the player control the spin of the ball. Since baseballs travel faster as the batter hits it harder, the additional length comes in handy to tame it.
On the other hand, softballs are rarely hit as hard, and a short pocket in the softball glove allows for less spin and better control for the player.
· Web Design
Webbing is a critical part of a glove that can drastically impact its responsiveness and performance. In baseball, infielders prefer one type of glove webbing, while outfielders go with another. The choice of webbing for a pitcher is also different from what a catcher generally goes for.
In softball gloves, however, the choice of webbing doesn’t matter all that much. A typical softball glove comes with a basket web pattern, and that’s about all there’s to it. Web design options in softball gloves pale in comparison to the sheer versatility that baseball gloves offer.
If you want to know more about different baseball glove web types, you can read my article on baseball glove webbing.
· Hand Opening and Finger Slots
Another way that a softball glove differs from a baseball glove is the size of the opening at the bottom of the glove. Now logically, a bigger glove will have a wider opening. But when the sizes are the same, baseball gloves generally have a bigger opening compared to softball gloves.
Since most of the players playing softball are either kids or female athletes, the smaller opening can accommodate their hands better and offer a snugger fit. Inversely, the bigger hand opening in baseball gloves allows adult male players to get a loose and relaxed fit on their baseball gloves.
The same design direction applies to the hand openings in the two gloves. Softball gloves have smaller finger slots, while the finger stalls in baseball gloves are slightly bigger. Of course, this can also make it a bit awkward to figure out how to wear a baseball glove for some users, but that’s a story for another day.
· Price Range
If you already did a bit of searching around yourself, you should know by now that softball gloves are relatively more affordable compared to baseball gloves. While there are high-end options in both glove types, typically, a baseball glove is considered the pricier glove of the two.
A high-end baseball glove can cost you anywhere from 400 to 500 dollars, whereas you can pick up a similarly-made softball glove for around 200 to 300 dollars. The price gap is pretty huge. However, if you are shopping on a budget, you would not notice that big of a difference here.
Can You Use Baseball Gloves for Softball?
No, if you are playing in a competitive league, using a baseball glove in your softball game is grounds for dismissal. And even if you are willing to break the rules of the game – softballs are bigger than baseball, and it’s hard to catch a softball properly with a baseball glove.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using a baseball glove for a friendly game of softball among friends. In fact, if you don’t already have a softball glove in your home, but your friends arranged for a casual game, there’s no reason to go out and buy one.
However, if you are planning to compete professionally in the sport, it’s best to get a glove that’s specifically designed for your game.
Are Softball Gloves Bigger than Baseball Gloves?
Yes, softball gloves are bigger than baseball gloves. They also have a slightly deeper pocket and more adjustment options compared to baseball gloves. The bigger size of the softball glove allows you to control the larger softballs as it’s flying toward you.
Of course, this also makes the glove less maneuverable compared to baseball gloves. But since softballs travel much slower than baseballs, it doesn’t affect your performance in the field.
The Bottom Line
Softball gloves and baseball gloves might look the same, but the difference between them is like night and day. To a less trained eye, the differences might not be apparent at first. But that doesn’t change the fact that using a glove meant for baseball in your softball game is not a wise idea.
If you are a baseball player who regularly plays competitive games, investing in a high-quality baseball glove is the best thing you can do for yourself. And if you want to enjoy a few games of softball on the side with your friends, you can easily pick up a budget softball glove without breaking the bank.
I hope my in-depth look into the differences between a softball and a baseball glove could help you understand what sets them apart. Cheers!