Whether playing baseball or softball, finding the right size glove is essential.
While it’s certainly possible to own more than one glove, and serious players often do, the casual softball player will want to find one glove to use for both practice and games.
So, how do you size a softball glove? Let’s take a closer look at this important equipment topic in this article.
Accommodating a Bigger Ball
In baseball, the ball is roughly 9 inches in circumference or a little larger.
When playing softball, however, the ball is significantly larger – roughly 12 inches in circumference.
This is why it’s important to buy a softball glove that has been designed specifically to work for softball players.
A large baseball glove could work in a pinch, but it would be better to have a dedicated softball glove that is specifically designed with the larger ball size in mind.
If you use a glove that is too small for your needs, it will be difficult to catch the ball and have it stay in the glove.
Even if the ball lands properly in the pocket of the glove, it may be able to pop out before you can secure it due to the undersized glove.
With a little bit of practice and the right glove size, you should be able to learn how to catch the ball secure time after time with very few mistakes.
How Do You Size A Softball Glove (Two Basic Options)
With a couple of exceptions – which we will talk about later – there are two basic options that you need to consider when picking out a softball glove.
These two options are infield softball gloves and outfield gloves, and at first, they are going to look exactly alike.
If you see these two kinds of gloves next to each other on a store shelf, you won’t be able to tell the difference without a closer inspection.
The difference between these two comes down to size. Infield gloves are slightly smaller than outfield gloves.
Most infield models for adults will range in size from 11.5’’ up to 13’’, while outfield models are found between 12.5’’ and 14’’ (gloves for youth players are smaller).
There is a little bit of variation in the size of infield and outfield softball gloves because players have personal preferences on the size and feel of their gloves, but these ranges cover most of the gloves available on the market.
Why Are Infield Gloves Smaller Than Outfield Gloves?
Using a smaller glove in the infield as compared to the outfield comes down to the way the game is played and the requirements of each individual position.
In the infield, players often must catch the ball and quickly throw it to another base.
For example, a groundball to the shortstop needs to be picked up off the ground, taken out of the glove, and thrown on to first.
With a slightly smaller glove, it is easy to get the ball out of the glove in a hurry.
If an infielder were to use an outfield glove, that player might struggle to get the ball out quickly enough to make the throw-in time.
Also, a smaller glove is lighter, and therefore can be moved faster – important when trying to react to a ball that has been hit particularly hard.
The requirements in the outfield are a little different. For one thing, outfielders have more time to react than infielders, since they are standing farther away from home plate.
As a result, outfielders typically don’t need to move their gloves as quickly from side to side, so a little extra weight isn’t a big deal.
And the added length of a larger glove can make all the difference when trying to track down a fly ball while running at full speed.
It’s hard to catch the ball while on the run, so every little bit of extra glove space is helpful.
There also isn’t much of a concern about the size of the glove slowing down retrieval of the ball in the outfield.
Sure, outfielders need to throw the ball in quickly after they catch it, but they usually don’t have to turn it around as fast as infielders.
For all these reasons, infield gloves are slightly smaller than outfield gloves in softball.
Specialty Gloves – Sizing For Softball Gloves
Two positions on the softball field typically use specialized gloves that are not used by other position players – first base and catcher.
These are positions that regularly catch the ball throughout the game, and the demands of these spots on the field dictate that they need slightly different performance characteristics from their gloves.
First, let’s talk about the catcher. Obviously, this position is on the receiving end of the pitch after pitch, all game long.
Unless the ball is hit, the catcher is going to snag the ball after it flies over the plate.
Softball catcher’s gloves are bigger than other types of gloves, and they have a rounder shape, as well.
This shape makes it easier to catch a range of different pitches that will be thrown throughout the game and provides some protection for the hand of the individual playing that position.
Also, catchers are required to “block” pitches that are in the dirt, meaning they use the glove to stop the ball without actually trying to catch it. The shape of a catcher’s glove is suitable for blocking as well as catching pitches in the air.
The story is similar for first base, although the glove looks a little different. A first base glove isn’t as round as a catcher’s glove, but it has a wider flange to help the player dig the ball out of the dirt on low throws.
It’s possible to play first base with a regular infield or outfield glove, but the player would be at a disadvantage as compared to using a standard first base glove design.
When shopping for a catcher’s glove or first base glove, it’s not too important to pay attention to sizing. As long as the glove is meant for softball and is designed for the position that you expect to play, it should work just fine.
Developing Personal Preference
The last thing to keep in mind when picking out a softball glove is that there is some room here for personal preference to come into play.
Some players just like having a smaller or larger glove than normal for their position, and that’s just fine. The goal is to optimize your performance and to have your glove not get in the way of how you play.
As you gain more and more experience in the field, you should get familiar with what you want your glove to do and how you want it to feel. Have fun out there!