Get the Best Youth Baseball Glove, not the Most Expensive

As I enter into my sixth year as a youth baseball dad (and sometimes manager or coach), I have noticed a few patterns for players struggling to catch a baseball or field a grounder:

  • Fielding skills need many repetitions in order to fully develop.
  • Field bumpiness can make grounders hard to field.
  • Lapses of attention can be a factor, especially at ages 8 and below.

But some fielding difficulty has to do with not having the right glove. So here’s a short guide for how to get the right glove, for players aged 12 or younger.

The most obvious sign that your kid has the wrong glove: The ball often pops out after a catch. Less obvious but more telling: Can’t easily squeeze the pocket of the glove shut. Why does this happen? It can be for one of three reasons:

  1. The glove is too big.
  2. The glove is too stiff.
  3. The glove is poorly constructed.

When shopping for a glove, it’s tempting to go for a high quality, stiff, glove that will last for years. This is a great approach for adult and high school players who play frequently. However, if you follow this approach for a kid, you’ll be tempted to get something a little too big so your kid doesn’t quickly outgrow it. Don’t do this.

There are several techniques for breaking in a glove, which makes it easier to open and close the pocket. One common technique is to oil the glove, put a baseball in the pocket, and then weight it shut overnight. However, it is still going to be hard to squeeze and control if it’s too big. You’re much better off acquiring a glove that fits well. It can be a used, broken-in glove from an older kid who no longer needs it, or a new glove that’s pre-broken in.

If you have an opportunity to get a used glove, make sure your kid tests it. One test is to see how easy it is to open and close the pocket. The other test is to play catch for 5 minutes and see if it’s easy to catch the ball. Your kid will know.

Buying a new glove is hard if you consider all possibilities. Many gloves will be stiff and require a break-in procedure before you can even tell if they’ll work out. Even after the oil-and-keep-shut treatment, some gloves will need dozens of hours of use to sufficiently break in. It is certainly possible to get a good, stiff, glove and break it in properly—and then have it work very well. It happens all the time. But why take a chance on breaking in an expensive glove when your kid will just outgrow it in a couple years? Or maybe even lose it in a couple months?

So simplify your life. Don’t get an expensive, stiff new glove. Many models are already easy to open or close. In my experience, the best brand for pre-broken-in youth gloves is Mizuno, thanks to their patented power close technology. I once presented a Mizuno glove to my son just before a game started, and he used it with no issues for that game.

This is that glove:

Mizuno Youth Prospect Ball Glove, 11.5-Inch, Left Hand Throw

Our Mizuno Prospect Series gloves have cost $45-$55. I can’t speak to Mizuno’s more expensive models, but I can say that Mizuno Prospect series gloves have two minor down sides.

  1. They don’t last as long as gloves that are stiff when new. This is not a big deal as my son is always ready for the next size up by the time the glove wears out.
  2. The model numbers and names change frequently. My son loved the Mizuno Prospect Series GPP1152 so we wanted to get the same thing but a half size larger when it wore out. It was discontinued and it took me at least half an hour to figure out that the Mizuno Youth GPL1203 Prospect Fielder’s Mitt was pretty much the same thing, just half a size bigger. As far as I can tell, if it has Mizuno and Prospect somewhere in the name, it will be similar to the glove my son likes.

If you see “fastpitch” in the glove description, then it’s for softball, not baseball. A baseball will easily pop out of a pocket that is designed for softball, so only get a fastpitch glove for playing softball.

This link displays all Mizuno prospect gloves on Amazon except for fastpitch models:

Mizuno Prospect Series Baseball Gloves

You may be tempted to get position-specific gloves. Don’t. Below the age of 11, most youth baseball teams will rotate players through several positions. Even at the 11-12 year old level there’s position rotation. It is usually not until around ages 13 and older that players specialize in a single position, so that’s when you may want to start thinking about getting a glove that is position specific.

The one exception is if your son is a catcher. You need extra padding from hard throwing pitchers. You may be able to use a catcher’s mitt provided by your league, but if not, I again prefer pre-broken-in Mizuno. I purchased a Mizuno Catcher’s Mitt for my son after he struggled with balls popping out of the mitt provided by the league. Now he can catch.

The sizing on Mizuno Prospect models appears in the first three digits of the model number. For example, the 115 in GPP1152 means 11.5”. And the 120 in the GPL1203 translates to 12.0”.

The sizing measurements for gloves are not perfectly consistent between brands. Size refers to the distance from the top of the index finger by the pocket down to the palm heel bottom. Generally, infielders prefer smaller gloves while outfielders prefer larger gloves.

An easy way to get the right size of Mizuno glove is to use their find-the-perfect-glove tool. There are a series of questions, including player age.

One question asked by the Mizuno tool is how many games you play per year. If you answer anything more than 0-15 games per year, Mizuno tries to upsell you a more expensive, durable model. I can’t really speak to the quality of the more expensive models, but I doubt they’re necessary for kids below age 12, no matter how much they play. My son has participated in something like 60 games and 120 practices since he started using his GPL1203 a year and a half ago. It cost around $50. It’s fine for now and may be able to make it until he’s 12, when it will be time for another glove anyway.

I will probably go with a more expensive, durable model that takes longer to break in when he turns 12. Throws will come in harder, the number of games he plays per year may increase, and we won’t have to worry about his hand quickly outgrowing the glove.

If I had to do it all over again we would still go with Mizuno Prospect gloves from age 5 to 11. They can be used immediately, they easily mold to fit, and they’re comfortable. Most importantly, he catches the ball.

Author: Joe Golton

I’m a dad with a son who loves baseball. Professionally, I’ve been a software developer, investor, controller, and logistics manager. I now make my living from this blog, supplemented with occasional consulting gigs.

22 thoughts on “Get the Best Youth Baseball Glove, not the Most Expensive”

  1. Very informative post, agree, my son has been using Mizuno Prospects now for a couple of seasons and the only issues I’ve had are some of the laces breaking. I bought a lace tool and some high quality leather from a local shop and re-laced the sections myself. Only drawback that I can see in the lower quality Mizuno, and other brands too, is the thin lace they use in their gloves so keep that in mind with the lower priced models. But, again, easy enough to beef the glove up with thicker lace.

  2. on our second Mizuno just ordered the 10.5 black MVP glove – pigskin leather. I believe smaller gloves are the way to go for 8 yr olds to develop quick ball glove coordination. question; I cant tell what the MVP difference is on the Mizuno do you know?

  3. youth prospect MVP that is. went 10.5 up from 10 for this year. 11 seemed big and ball popped out often.

  4. Dave – Mizuno changes their names and model numbers very often so I haven’t bothered to try to keep track of it all. However, every Mizuno I have seen used in our league that has “prospect” in the name has the same power close technology and is very easy to open and close. In other words, if it has “prospect” in the name, and it’s got the power close technology, it gets the job done.

    I haven’t seen an expensive glove that I thought more appropriate for players below age 12. But I do intend to get my son a much more expensive, stiffer glove, within the next year. It will take many months to break in. But around the age of 12 or so, the size of glove stops going up. Therefore, that’s the time to invest in an expensive glove to last a lifetime, for the player serious about baseball.

  5. Joe thanks for the bat review which was very well researched and insightful. After reading that I wanted to check out your opinion on gloves. I played some pro cricket back in the day but my first intro to baseball was 2 years ago with my son.
    He’s 6 now about to start his second year in Pony. He’s also playing on a travel team. I assist with coaching as there are a number of crossovers between cricket and baseball but when it comes to equipment and some techniques I go research.
    What I have found is that younger kids are using gloves that are way too big. I’m seeing 5 and 6 year olds with 11″- 11 1/2″. They don’t hand the strength in their hands to close them, even the soft ones. Most of them don’t fasten properly around the wrist. Even with the 10″ and 10 1/2″ gloves the designs are such that the ball doesn’t land in the palm.
    I think, like with bats, there’s a tendency to go too big too quick with the glove.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Richard. I agree that it’s easy to go too big on gloves. The big test is whether you can open and close them easily.

    I think the motivation parents have for going too big is that the glove will last a while. But that doesn’t work in several respects. The players field much worse and may be so discouraged they quit. $40 – $50 gloves aren’t going to last more than a couple years anyway. And the player may think the glove is terrible and encourage the parents to get a different one anyway. So planning for when they’re bigger backfires.

    All this is completely different once a kid hits the age of 12 or so (a little over five feet tall). Glove sizes stop going up at that point so it then makes sense to get a more expensive, stiff, high quality glove that takes many months to break in – but then last a life time.

  7. I’m a mom with a 5.5 y.o. son and my baseball experience is primarily as a spectator. This and your other posts on youth baseball have been very helpful as I’ve signed my son up for spring baseball. I’m getting ready to order his first glove and realize that I want to get one too. I’ve actually never owned one – the closest I’ve come to playing baseball is the annual softball unit in school gym class and then the coed rec team at work – 20 yrs ago. Do you have any tips for choosing a basic glove for a mom to use just for practicing in the backyard?

  8. Pippa – I haven’t done much research on adult gloves. For the light use you intend, $50-$70 price range should get you a good glove. Make sure it’s not too big, or you’ll have trouble controlling it well. I didn’t like the glove I purchased a few years ago and recently got a new one I like much better:

    Rawlings Player Preferred Adult Glove, Right Hand Throw, 12-Inch

    It’s a little stiff still after a month of use so it will probably take a few months of use altogether to fully break it in. But I think it’s very good for the price.

    If you were playing in an adult league and catching 60MPH throws, I wouldn’t get this glove but for playing catch with kids below age 13 it should be fine.

    Also – given that you’re just getting started with baseball with your son, you might particularly appreciate my “getting started” post:

    http://www.filterjoe.com/2015/08/20/so-you-want-your-kid-to-be-a-good-baseball-player/

  9. My 11 yo son has had his Mizuno for two years now broke in quick but now seems to be getting loose and unstable compared to last season. He moves up to Major Divison and AAU so we are looking at 70+ games with playoff and tourneys. Im pointing him towards my favorite a Rawlings, he likes GG Series 11.5 model it goes for $149 but can be had for $99 on sale with a free sit in the Mizuno Glove Warmer to break in. He plays SS/2B and Outfield so the challenge is does the position glove matter? He likes the vertical lace pocket OF glove vs the full pocket all around or the horizontal IF glove all are GG Series same price . The cost isn’t a factor as much as the best option for his defense just looking for your opinion thanks

  10. Joe
    How do I tell what size of glove my grandson needs. He will turn 10 in June and generally plays infield. The glove he has been using is a 80’s era Rawlings that my son used when he was a boy. It was well broken in and has worked well but seems to be getting small.
    Thanks

  11. Sal – a little too small is way better than a little too big. If the Rawlings glove is fairly high quality and he’s catching balls well with it, I would keep using the Rawlings for as long as possible, assuming it’s not falling apart. The time to get him a high quality glove to last the rest of his life is when he’s about 12 years old.

    If it does fall apart on him, get one of the larger Mizuno prospect series gloves, either 11.5″ or 12″. No need to go above 12″.

    Joe

  12. Gary – there comes a point where position gloves (beyond just catcher mitt) do matter – and that is usually around 12 or 13 years old, which is when kids primarily start to play just one position. I have seen a first baseman with a good first baseman mitt that has helped him scoop up bad throws, for example. 11 years old is just a little young to specialize because if you get him high quality, it will be stiff, and by the time it’s well broken in, he may have just about outgrown it. How tall is your kid? If he’s not yet 5′ tall, I would advise sticking with a prebroken-in glove such as the Mizuno prospect even though it will just get him through another year or so.

    But then when he is close to turning 12, get a higher quality stiff glove and spend a few months breaking it in (he should play catch with it a lot but not yet use it in games right away).

    I don’t feel like I’m actually all that qualified to give advice on the higher quality gloves that kick in at the 12-13 age. My son is about to turn 11 so maybe a year from now is when we’ll be investing in our first $200-$400 glove. At that time I’m sure I’ll do a ton of research and eventually do a writeup. But for now, take my advice with a grain of salt as I haven’t gotten there yet.

    My about-to-be-11 son by the way has a beat-up two-year old Mizuno Prospect and not much gets by him. There’s no way he’ll be using this at the age of 13, though. The throws will be coming in too hard for such thin leather.

  13. This is a great blog post. How do I decide between the Mizuno 10.75, 11 and 11.5. My son is turning 7. He was using a 10 or 10.5 Louisville Slugger Genesis glove. I bought a 12 inch mizuno used but that was too big (i think it was incorrectly labeled as a youth glove).

  14. for young kids 5-8 I recommend louisville slugger genesis 1884 Gloves… I tried few different gloves with my kids and with these catching was so easy even for a 5 year old… You can get off ebay used for under 20 usually 10-15 and they are strong enough for this age group… I think once kids get to minors you will need to change as they have little padding but I see some parents give their kids gloves that have 0% chance of catching but with these I think kids can catch rather quicky.

  15. I have an 8 year old going into select baseball playing 35 games. He’s about 4′-7″. Old glove is worn out. Can’t decide on which glove.

  16. Pre-broken in gloves such as Mizuno Prospect gloves will be fine, as explained in the above article. It’s not until the age of 12 or so that you need to start thinking about higher quality gloves requiring a long break-in period.

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