Can You Use A Baseball Glove for Softball?

Michael Claunch

Can You Use A Baseball Glove for Softball?

Baseball and softball evolved from the same basic concept and share a majority of rules, so they are often grouped into the same family of sports. However, there are significant differences between them and one of the most obvious is the type of equipment used on the field. As everyone knows, softball is played with a larger ball and a shorter bat, but what about gloves worn by fielding players? Unless you have direct experience playing both sports, it can be tricky to decide how good of an idea is to try using a glove designed for one of them for catching a differently sized ball.

In this article, we’ll try to provide a comprehensive answer to the question ‘can you use a baseball glove for softball’ and explain what would happen if someone attempted to do so.

The importance of wearing a glove in baseball and softball

Catching a flying ball is one of the central elements in both baseball and softball, and this action is greatly aided by wearing a large mitt on one hand. The glove helps to control the ball and reduces the damage to the hand from the impact of a fast-moving object. The difference between a caught and a dropped ball can be quite dramatic, so every piece of equipment that assists with ball skills is hugely valuable. Since they are essential for playing the game and protect the health of players at the same time, sports gloves are carefully designed taking into account the exact conditions they will be expected to encounter.

For baseball and softball players, a glove is an important part of equipment that greatly impacts their performance so it’s only logical they pay a lot of attention to its specifications. Not only there are gloves made specifically for baseball or softball, but there is a wide range of models made from different materials in a variety of sizes. Because of this, beginners are often unsure which glove they should get and whether they need more than one type of glove if they want to play both softball and baseball.

The differences between a baseball glove and a softball glove

The main difference between a baseball glove and a softball glove is the size, which follows directly from the fact that softball is played with a larger ball. Consequently, the gloves worn by softball players need to have a larger ‘catch zone’ that allows for easier handling of incoming balls with one hand. Ideally, the glove should be large enough that it can comfortably close around the ball, securing it and allowing the player to make the next move without any risk of dropping it. However, if the glove is too large for the ball you are trying to catch, it can act as an obstacle to swift and precise handling and lead to errors.

Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

Since baseball balls measure around 9 inches in circumference, a glove between 11 and 12.75 inches is suitable for this version of the game. Meanwhile, softball balls range from 11 to 12 inches, and consequently, the size of gloves for this sport is between 12 and 14 inches. The most optimal choice for each player depends on his position and style of play – it’s generally recommended for infielders to use a tighter fitting glove to better control short hits, while outfielders prefer having a larger catching surface. The design of the ball-catching area also differs from one model to another, some featuring the narrow-closing I-web or modified trap, while others include the traditional H-web trap. That’s why all rules about glove selection are just broad guidelines, and every player needs to find the glove that gives him complete confidence in his ability to field the ball.

Is it possible to use a baseball glove for softball and vice versa?

It goes without saying that professional players will always use original equipment made for their sport, as they can’t tolerate any decrease in performance. A more interesting question is can you use a baseball glove for softball at youth levels, where access to gear may not be taken for granted? Many recreational players also dabble in both sports depending on the day, so it would be expensive for them to purchase two full sets of equipment. Since gloves for both sports are made of similar materials and generally follow the same blueprint, they can be serviceable even if used outside of their intended role.

Notably, there is no rule preventing the use of a baseball glove for softball or vice versa. Any advantages or disadvantages resulting from it are quite small and are not considered threatening to the integrity of the game. In particular, the difference between larger outfielder gloves for baseball and softball gloves is almost negligible, so they can be readily substituted for each other. Still, it’s important to remember that a player needs to trust his glove, which is why it is justified to get a dedicated glove for the sport that he primarily intends to play.

Choosing the right glove and breaking it in

Now that we answered whether baseball and softball gloves are the same and under which circumstances it might be OK to use them interchangeably, we should mention that choosing the right glove is just the first step. A brand new glove won’t behave as it should, as it takes some time for the leather to soften and for the glove to assume the shape of the owner’s hand. This will occur naturally after a period of use, which explains why baseball and softball players tend to have a favorite glove they keep using for a long time.

A glove that’s been personalized through usage is said to be ‘broken in’, and it helps the player achieve a better grip on the ball while catching and throwing. Hence, baseball and softball gloves shouldn’t be replaced as soon as they collect a few scratches, and older gloves may remain in functional condition for many years with proper maintenance.

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