Outstanding in the Field
By Ray Hernandez
When it comes to defense, a ballplayers best friend is their glove. With a growing number of manufacturers and models available, buying a new gamer can be a complicated process. In this column, I hope to simplify the process with by offering some position specific perspective on available glove models. In this segment I will pay special attention to the needs of the outfielder by focusing our attention on the essential features that every outfielder needs to consider in buying a new glove: size, Web style, back style, and pocket. While ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference, the prevailing wisdom suggests that the outfielder needs a glove that is large enough to be able to develop a long, deep pocket for reaching and gloving rapidly moving fly balls and line drives. In addition, an open web allows the outfielder to track fly balls all the way into the glove and also to shade the playerвЂ™s eyes from the sun. Finally, the outfielder needs a back style that offers both comfort and control.
Glove manufacturers make the matter of size easy as most outfield gloves run approximately 12.75 inches. There are of course some exceptions to this with WilsonвЂ™s outfield gloves running 12.5 inches and other companies like Akadema and Easton offering 13 inch models in addition to the standard 12.75 sizes. While this segment will focus on Rawlings, Wilson, and Mizuno, future installments will explore the offerings of other companies as well.
While the choice of webbing is largely a matter of personal preference, there are some practical factors to consider in the choice of Web style. First, you want to be able to see through the webbing, on those on those sunny days when you when youвЂ™re going for fly balls high in the air and an art can be blinded by the sun. Open webs will allow you to use the glove to shade your eyes from the sun and will still allow you to see the ball all the way into your glove. The second issue is flexibility as you want to be able to close the glove rapidly and firmly around the ball to assure catching it and hanging on. With these two factors in mind, glove manufacturers generally offer two different kinds of webs for outfield gloves: the trapeze web or flytrap web as itвЂ™s called by some companies, and the dual post or Pro H. Web. The main strength of the Trap style glove is its flexibility while the strength of the dual post or H-web is that it is sturdy and affords the outfielder a great sight line.
When it comes to trap style gloves, Rawlings is the granddaddy of them all as inventors of the original trapeze model. It is also known as a six finger model, because the web is actually a part of the glove itself and not merely an attachment. This web functions like a sixth finger that is secured by lacing on both sides, creating a large pocket glove with a hinge that closes nicely around the ball when it is caught. The down side of this model is that while there is some visibility thru the lacing on the trap web, it is more limited than some other designs. Rawlings offers a variety of models featuring the Trapeze web in both their вЂњHeart of the Hide (159.00) and Pro-Preferred (239.00) lines. And, if you are inclined to go for real luxury, Rawlings now offers their new Primo line. This glove is made of fabulous Italian hand crafted and sewn leather that is firm but relatively easy to break in, in my opinion. Using Italian leather is a new thing for Rawlings however, and while the comfortable fit and brilliant hand stitched welting seem great, it really is too early to tell whether the softer Italian leather will be truly durable over the long haul. In the final analysis, these are luxury gloves (399.00), but if you really want the top of the line, go Primo. Finally, all these Rawlings models are available exclusively with a closed back, designed to enhance stability and control.
If you happen to prefer a slightly smaller glove, Wilson offers a 12.5 inch variation of the trap web in both their A 2000 and A2K lines. The A2000 KP92 (169.00-189.00) is a fine reliable glove made of good sturdy pro stock leather. It sports a modified trap web that Wilson calls a вЂњT-web,вЂќ which is composed of a strip of leather attached to the glove by lacing on both sides and secured to a вЂњT-BarвЂќ on the top. Wilson also offers a luxury option with their A2K KP-92 model (279.00). The A2K line might just be the most comfortable stock models on the market today. The Select Pro-stock Kip leather and micro-perforated lining make this glove a really sweet fit. Among my favorite features of these gloves are the cushy thumb and finger loops, and the luxurious wrist padding that is designed to remove moisture, as well as create a comfortable fit. Both of these gloves also come with open backs.
Finally, Mizuno seems to have found a way to have it all with two open back models featuring their вЂњIchiroвЂќ style trap web used by Gold Glove winning right fielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners. Their Classic pro GCP 51 model (169.00) allows for the development of a deep pocket, while at the same time featuring a nicely sized mesh style web that provides a terrific sight line along the entire length of the webbing. With a reputation for featuring some of the softest leathers on the market, these gloves are relatively easy to break in while remaining quite durable. For those who want Mizuno their way to the next level of quality and luxury, Mizuno offers a Pro-Limited line for around 299.00 that features their new Deguchi leather and an advanced, position specific design that enhances the playerвЂ™s ability to glove the ball by supporting the natural function of the hand. One word of warning here though; if you go for the Pro-Limited Model (GMP7), be prepared to put some time and effort in to the break-in process! While Deguchi leather is ultimately extremely soft, it is not immediately so. Having said that, I can assure that if you do take the time, it will be worth it.
In future installments we will consider the offerings of some other glove makers, and weвЂ™ll give some thought the infielders best friend. Until thenвЂ¦Play On!