I am currently a fourth year pitcher at a Division 1 Power 5 school. In my first 3 years we went through 3 different glove deals. Starting with Wilson, then Rawlings, and Marucci (for two years). With an unbiased perspective, I am going tell you my experience with each brand and their models and how they have held up over time. I will also offer up some insights as to how these brands do their customizations, leather grading, and overall quality. While its good to do your research before buying a glove, always remember that your glove will only last as much as you allow it to. You must take care of your gear and treat it well and it will do the same for you.
1st Year | Wilson A2000 CK22 11.75″
Starting with my freshman year, we had a deal with Wilson and it was the first year our school would get custom gloves rather than the stock versions of the models. I went with the CK22 GM 11.75″ model ($280, Wilson.com), which as the name suggests, is the Clayton Kershaw model. It had a two-piece closed web and blonde leather. I went with the traditional all leather shell, but some guys went with the Superskin shell which is Wilson’s hybrid shell, comparable to Rawlings’ pro mesh. We went through Wilson’s custom glove builder website and made whatever customizations we wanted (within reason obviously).
The glove arrived looking very sleek with smooth leather and came super stiff. As someone who cannot stand a “pancake” or floppy glove, I was a fan of the leather. The leather broke in nicely and held up pretty well throughout the season. After three years, the leather has actually held its shape pretty well and doesn’t immediately crease or fold. Something I noticed right away throughout the season was the leather itself cracked a lot and wore down. While that didn’t affect the quality of the glove, the cosmetics of it decreased because that smooth shine went away and cracked along the back shell of the glove. As for the customizations, we got our logo and number embroidered on the thumb of the glove. The color stitching they used for our logo didn’t match our team colors or gloves at all, which was a letdown. But all in all, Wilson provided good gloves that lasted the season.
2nd Year | Rawlings Pro Preferred PRO205 11.75″
My second year, we signed a new contract with Rawlings which was exciting because, in my opinion, Pro Preferred leather is the best leather in the game. Again, we went through Rawlings custom glove builder website and we even got to personalize our glove (on the thumb) so I went with my name. Some guys did bible verses, Twitter usernames, or any sentimental name or mantra. We had complete freedom. I chose a Pro Preferred PRO205 11.75″ model (shop PRO205 at Rawlings.com for $205-$360) with a basket web for a classier-looking web instead of the traditional pitcher’s web, two-piece closed. I also went with the Pro Mesh back because I liked the appeal of how light it would make the glove. I went with mocha (dark brown) leather and gold trimming.
My glove came in great condition and because I had chosen “extra stiff” in my customization, it was super tough and stiff as a board. My only problem with my glove was that even though I ordered an 11.75″ inch model, it was closer to 11.5″ and felt super small. It was labeled an 11.75″ but upon comparing it to others I could see it was indeed smaller than a traditional 11.75″ should be.
As I played with it, the glove condition has held up great and the laces have stayed super stiff and strong. I haven’t had to tighten them much at all. I’m a big fan of how light the Pro Mesh made the glove; as an outfielder or catcher, I would really appreciate that feature. It takes weight away while maintaining the quality of the leather and overall glove. Some of my teammates went with the Heart of the Hide leather which is typically a more game-ready leather and much softer than my Pro Preferred. It is a preference thing, because with Rawlings softer does not mean lesser quality, as it is still a strong leather.
3rd and 4th Year | Marucci Capitol Series Two-Piece 12″
Most recently we switched to Marucci. As a team, we were not very happy. Going from Rawlings to Marucci for gloves was not ideal. Early in the fall, Marucci sent a box of sample gloves for us to play around with. They have two main types of leather, Capitol Series and Cypress Series. Capitol is their more pro grade kip leather and Cypress uses steerhide leather. The samples they sent were all a natural blonde leather color and, as ballplayers, we were not impressed. They felt extremely soft and weak. We could have played with those gloves immediately, and it felt like any line drive in the web would snap it. We were told by their rep that the dye is what would dictate the stiffness of the leather. I chose the glove color with the stiffest dye and went with a 12″ inch (to make sure it wasn’t 11.5″ like the Rawlings) Capitol Series with a two-piece closed back. (Shop Capitol Series at Baseball Express for $220ish.)
I really like the simplicity of the Marucci gloves. They are clean looking and I was happy with how mine turned out. The glove came stiff, but I could tell it was pretty soft in its core. Some guys had gloves that came extremely soft with poor quality. I would say the gloves that came soft were comparable to a Rawlings Gold Glove Gamer model, with the leather already wrinkling up. After using mine for only a week or two it became very soft and floppy. The laces had to be tightened weekly, and we had a few webs completely break. The catcher’s especially had issues with the quality. The color and shine immediately faded as well and overall the quality was far below that of the Wilson and the Rawlings.
I will be using my Marucci from 2020 again in 2021 because we did not receive a new Marucci for this year due to Covid and budget cuts. I am just going to close my eyes and pray that it can make it through another season.
One thing I have found with these three glove brands is that they give out different quality leather based on your “rank.” I would categorize it into three levels:
- Pro Grade (top of the line best leather in the world for professional players)
- College Grade (not as good as pro but still good leather)
- Sporting Goods Store Grade (labeled as pro grade but not as stiff or brand new as other grades and the quality may not be the same on each glove)
We had some pro guys come back to workout at our campus and they would talk to us about these grades and about how good these pro leather grade gloves were compared to the one we received. This could be because of how fast they have to mass customize our gloves and get them shipped. And obviously pro guys should get the best leather. I do find it interesting that you could have three of the same labeled gloves with three very different levels of quality. Different colleges also get different levels of this “college grade.” For example LSU is going to get a better grade Marucci glove than other less-accomplished schools. And we are going to get a better Marucci glove than a mid-major would.
Who’s the Best?
To sum things up, Rawlings has the best leather in the game. Wilson would be a close second, with Marucci needing some improvement to the longevity and quality of leather. As a player I think that quality will always trump style and customizations, because at the end of the day your glove needs to be able to withstand the grind of a college season. I do appreciate all the cool colors and options available with each brand. Each guy gets a chance to show their personality and style. I’m happy I got to share my insights and experiences with you all. Of course, I haven’t tried all the companies, and probably need to get my hands on a Mizuno, All-Star, SSK, and 44Pro among others to really know for sure what’s best. Let me know what you think and thanks for reading!