When watching a baseball game, you might see some baserunners wearing what looks like an oven mitt on their hand. It might seem odd because not everyone wears one during a game. So, what is the point of using this baseball sliding mitt during a game? Here is the full breakdown of why baseball players wear oven mitts on the basepaths.
What is the Purpose of a Sliding Mitt in Baseball?
The primary purpose of a sliding mitt is to protect a baserunners’ fingers and hand from getting hurt. For example, if a player is stealing second base, they might jam their fingers as they dive into the base, which can cause an injury. When playing little league baseball, bases can easily slide off during a slide, but they are secure to the ground in professional leagues, which can cause finger injuries.
Another hand injury can occur if a baseman steps on your hands by accident with their cleats. You tend to see players’ hands get stepped on during a steal, but it can also happen at a play at the plate. By colliding with a catcher at home or a baseman on protecting the base, they might fall back and step on your hand, which can do a lot of damage.
By wearing a baseball sliding mitt, you protect your entire hand, wrist, and fingers from common injuries on the field. You will receive more protection than not wearing any gloves or using batting gloves instead while being a baserunner.
When Do Baseball Players Put the Oven Mitt On During a Game?
Baseball and softball players don’t bat with this mitt on during a game. Instead, they retrieve this mitt from the coach while on the basepaths after getting on base from a hit or walk. After putting the mitt on, they tend to put their batting gloves in their back pocket.
What Hand Do you Wear the Sliding Mitt on During a Game?
Baseball and softball players can wear a durable sliding mitt on their left or right hand during a game. Some players choose to put the glove on their throwing hand to protect that, while others use the hand they tend to lead with during slides. Wearing it on your left hand or right hand comes down to the baseball player’s choice. Most of the time, players will only wear this mitt on one hand while keeping the other one free.
What is the Baseball Sliding Mitt Made out of Typically?
A baseball sliding mitt combines plastic, hard lining, and a velcro strap together. You will also find compression straps that support your wrist, which is essential on head first slides into bases. Most of the gloves have a thumb hole to allow the baserunner to free their thumb or tuck it into the protective mitt if they choose.
Are There Benefits to Using a Sliding Mitt on Gameday?
The primary benefit of using a sliding mitt during gameday is the additional reach a player can get on a headfirst slide. Without a mitt, you don’t want to extend your fingers on a slide since you can jam them, so that can be the difference on a bang-bang play where a player was out by a hair. If you are wearing this mitt, you, in theory, can have a bit more reach when trying to reach a base.
Is there a Size Limit to Sliding Mitt Gloves?
According to the official baseball rules in 2019, there isn’t any mention of a size limit for these mitts. However, umpires are the ones who can approve or deny a sliding mitt if they deem it to have an unfair advantage on the baseball diamond.
Who was the First MLB Player to Wear a Sliding Glove?
Scott Podsednik received credit for wearing a sliding mitt back in 2008. Scott Podsednik wore this mitt because of a previous injury to his thumb, which required him to wear protective gear around it. Later on in his career, Scott Podsednik injured his pinkie sliding headfirst into second base, which was when he opted for a more protective piece of equipment, the sliding mitt.
More and More Players Using the Mitt Today
After Podsednik, who was an All-Star player, began using the mitt in 2008, more players began using it as well. All-Star outfielders Brett Gardner (New York Yankees) and Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies) began utilizing the mitt during Major League Baseball games. Other prominent stars like Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Fernando Tatis Jr (San Diego Padres) began incorporating that protective equipment on the basepaths soon after.
Do Players Need to Wear Protective Gear on the Basepaths?
There is no rule in baseball that says a baserunner must wear a sliding mitt. Baserunners can choose not to use any gloves, their batting gloves, wrist guards, or a sliding mitt if they choose. As long as the glove is not extensive in length, only used for protection, and was approved before game time by the umpire, a player can use it when baserunning.
Why Do Some Players Hold their Batting Gloves as they Run?
Old school baseball would have players clench their batting gloves as they run to stop their fingers from extending on a slide. By extending your fingers, you run the risk of jamming them on a base or getting stepped on by a player’s cleat. The concept of holding on to your gloves ensured you wouldn’t extend your fingers because you would then drop your gloves on the dirt.
Why Do Some Baserunners Hold Dirt in their Hands?
Like players holding their gloves on the basepaths so they don’t extend their fingers when sliding, some players hold onto dirt instead. Typically, you will see players who don’t wear batting gloves hold some dirt in their hands. The concept behind holding dirt is to discourage your fingers from sticking out as you slide.
Conclusion: What is a Baseball Sliding Mitt?
In summary, a baseball sliding mitt is a protective equipment to protect a player’s hands and fingers from potential injuries. The oven mitt reduces the chance of jamming your fingers when you slide headfirst into a base and also protects from players stepping on your hand with their cleats. The next time you see a player using that type of glove, you know it is for protection.