The first baseball glove that I remember using came from my dad. It was a Christmas gift, and naturally, he didn’t go all in on expensive gloves since he had no way of knowing whether I would take the game seriously or not. Basically, it was a no-name, 25-dollar synthetic leather glove, but hey – I was happy with it.
Besides, I was too young to notice any difference between a cheap and an expensive glove. Later on, when I got my hands on an expensive Wilson glove, I realized how big of a difference it made. The grip, the control, and the overall feel of the expensive glove are a thousandfold better than a cheap one.
And to be honest, baseball gloves aren’t expensive for no reason. Yes, the brand name does hike up the price a bit. But the material choice and the different technologies that go into making the glove are the real reason why an expensive glove is priced that way.
That’s the short and sweet answer, and don’t worry – I won’t take my leave just yet. In this article, I will help you understand how an affordable glove differs from an expensive glove to help you decide whether going cheap is worth it for you.
Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Baseball Gloves
This quick chart will help you get a general idea of the things to come. However, you need to read on if you want to know the nuanced differences.
|Synthetic LeatherFull-Grain Leather
|Full-Grain Leather, Steerhide Leather, Kip Leather
|6 months – 1 year
|Moderate – High
|Overall Feel (After break-in)
|Not very comfortable
|Soft and Comfortable
|20 – 70 dollars
· Material Quality
As I said already, high-end baseball gloves are expensive because of the type of leather used in their construction. While synthetic leather is an affordable type of leather and works pretty well for a baseball glove, its quality is really not on the same level as something like steer hide leather.
Full-grain leather serves as a middle-ground here. While full-grain leather isn’t exactly too expensive, if it’s treated properly, it can give you a lot more performance than a synthetic leather glove. So, if you are buying a cheap baseball glove, I would recommend looking for one that’s made of full-grain leather.
When you are investing in a high-end, expensive glove, you are promised a full-season worth of use even if you are extremely reckless with it. Of course, I would always recommend taking care of your baseball gloves, but even if you don’t, an expensive glove should serve you well for a couple of seasons at least.
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However, you can’t say the same for cheap gloves. Even when you are careful with how you handle them, cheap gloves start to wear out after six months. If you are lucky, you might be able to make the glove last for a year, but after that, you will start noticing cracks and weird stiffness in your glove.
· Break-in Period
One positive side of going with a cheap baseball glove is that, in most cases – they come game-ready right out of the box. You see, cheap leather doesn’t have the stiffness that you will find in real leather. As a result, you don’t need to spend any time loosening up the glove.
With expensive gloves, the break-in process is sort of a rite of passage for the players. It can take anywhere from a couple of days to even two weeks, depending on the quality of the leather. However, you can start using synthetic leather gloves the moment you get your hands on them.
· Overall Feel
No matter how well-made a cheap baseball glove is, it’s still made of cheap materials. And as a result, it doesn’t feel as good on your hand as a genuine premium-grade leather baseball glove.
For a casual player using the glove only over the weekends, the difference might not even be noticeable. But when you get a proper taste of what a high-quality baseball glove feels like, you will have a hard time switching back to a cheap glove. They just don’t feel right in your hands.
Why Are Baseball Gloves So Expensive?
I’m sure you have noticed how some high-end baseball gloves can run you well over 300 dollars while there are many gloves available in your local sporting store that barely crosses the 50-dollar price mark. What’s the reason behind it?
You see, baseball gloves, though they look simple, are designed with a lot of thought. Everything from its material choice to the amount of padding that the manufacturer put into it is done according to a plan. And all that contributes to the overall price of the glove.
Let me go over some of the key reasons behind baseball gloves being expensive.
1. Material Choice
The primary contributor to hiking the price of a baseball glove is the choice of material that’s been used to make it. Now, most baseball gloves out there, even the cheap ones, are usually made of leather. But there are many types of leather. And the price of the leather varies pretty drastically depending on its rarity.
There are some gloves that are made using low-grade leather, which feels decent but doesn’t survive as long as high-quality leather. Let me give you a quick rundown of some of the common leathers used to make baseball gloves so that you can understand them better.
· Synthetic Leather
For affordable baseball gloves, manufacturers typically go with synthetic leather to keep the cost low. As the name suggests, it’s not real leather but rather a synthetic polymer designed to replicate the feel and resilience of genuine leather. It does the job well enough for casual players, but serious players don’t usually go for it.
You see, the main drawback of synthetic over leather is that it’s not as durable. If you were to use this type of glove in your competitive games, you would be lucky to make it last more than six months between your drills and matches. But if you are a casual player who only takes it out occasionally to play, it should be fine.
· Full-Grain Leather
While full-grain leather is technically “real” leather, gloves made with this material still manage to stay within the affordable range. That is why most manufacturers use this material for their entry-level baseball glove for youth players.
The price of a full-grain leather baseball glove usually ranges between 60 to 150 dollars. But there are certainly some expensive full-grain leather gloves that cost around 200 dollars out there.
· Steerhide Leather
Steerhide leather gives you the first real taste of what a truly premium, high-end baseball glove feels like. As you might expect, steerhide leather gloves can get quite pricy, some of them ranging well over 300 dollars. But frankly, the quality of these gloves is well deserving of their price tag.
Since the leather is stiff when you first take it out of the box, gloves made of this material require a bit of breaking in. But once you break it in properly, the leather becomes extremely soft and comfortable. Most MLB professionals use steerhide leather gloves for their competitive games.
· Kip Skin Leather
At the top of the chain in glove materials, you get Kip skin baseball leather gloves. This material is even more expensive than steerhide. But it’s not used as commonly as steerhide leather.
Typically, kip leather is used in custom gloves that are specifically designed for a player. If you want to place an order for a kip leather glove, be prepared to pay a steep price exceeding the 300-dollar price mark.
Quality-wise, it’s softer and lighter than steerhide and also requires less breaking in. And if you take care of your kip leather baseball glove, it will easily last you more than five seasons.
2. Size and Age Group
Baseball glove manufacturers typically classify their gloves into two categories – youth and adult baseball gloves. And in most cases, the price of a youth baseball glove is a lot less than their comparable adult glove.
Now there are a couple of reasons behind it. Firstly, youth gloves are smaller, which means smaller bits of materials are needed to manufacture them. Another reason is that manufacturers cut some corners to lower the cost so that youth players will have an easier time affording them.
On the other hand, glove manufacturers tend to go all out with adult gloves both in terms of material quality and features. And naturally, that hikes up the price a bit.
3. Brand Value
If you keep up with the top baseball gear hitting the shelf, I’m sure you’ve noticed how there are some big brand names that keep coming up. And naturally, if you are going with a big brand, your glove is going to cost extra.
You see, big brands spend a lot on marketing and promotion, and to make up for it, they do charge a bit more for their equipment. Despite that, going with a well-known brand such as Rawlings or Wilson is still a good idea because the quality of their glove is top-notch.
The good news here is that big baseball glove brands also manufacture some gloves in the affordable range, which can give you a taste of what they have to offer.
Is it Worth Buying an Expensive Baseball Glove?
Well, it depends. If you are a serious player who wants to hone his skills and mark your spot on the team, then I would say it’s worth investing some money towards your baseball glove. But if you only play over the weekends with a group of friends, then a cheap, synthetic leather glove should be fine.
A piece of advice though if you do get an expensive glove – make sure you take care of the baseball glove and store it properly. That way, you will be able to make it last a couple of seasons easily. The problem with cheap gloves is that you will eventually have to replace them after a year.
How Much Should You Spend on a Baseball Glove?
Again, it all depends on what sort of player you are. You see, baseball gloves come in a wide range of prices. You can pick one up for 50 dollars if you want, or if you have the budget, you can also go as high as 450 or 500 dollars.
If you are playing casually, then I wouldn’t recommend spending any more than a hundred bucks on your new glove. You can find some nice full-grain leather gloves at that price, and that should serve you well for one or two years.
However, for competitive baseball, if you can afford to spend more – spend more. There’s no argument here. Just make sure the glove you are buying is the right size for your hand and also has the right webbing for your preferred playing position. To know more about different types of glove webbings, you can check my article.
Getting a new baseball glove is always exciting. But going over your budget can often lead to buyer’s regret, and that never feels good. So, make sure you consider everything before you set your budget for your new glove.
The price of a baseball glove reflects its quality. And the truth is you can’t expect a cheap glove to perform on the same level as an expensive glove. The overall feel, performance, and durability of an expensive glove will always exceed what you will get with an affordable one.
I hope my comparison between cheap vs expensive baseball gloves could help you understand the differences between them. Cheers!