Anyone who has considered a Rawlings glove has been faced with the question, Heart of the Hide or Pro Preferred? Lets see if we can clear things up.
From Rawlings, about Heart of the Hide:
“Handcrafted from the top 5-percent of steer hides, Heart of the Hide leather tends to be the prime cut or center portion of the smaller hide and is usually thicker and more durable than other leathers, resulting in a firm glove that is easier to shape. The top-grade leather will allow the glove to mold to the player’s hand for a proper feel while maintaining the durability needed to play at the highest level.”
About Pro Preferred leather:
“Supple kip leather provides a tight grain structure for a smooth look and feel… Pro Preferred gloves feature an impeccable kipskin leather that breaks in to specific playing preferences, forming the perfect pocket. The high-performance sheepskin lining wicks moisture away, keeping the hand dry for better control when players need it most.”
These descriptions aren’t bad and decently informative (for a sales pitch), but I’m always skeptical of marketing speak. If you’re reading this, you’re probably like me and need a little more than that to commit to a glove, the Most Sacred Piece of Equipment in All of Sports. So, you go ask someone you trust, a coach, or a teammate, or your dad, and you unfailingly will get an extreme opinion on one or the other. If they like their HOH, then the Pro Preferreds are “garbage” and “overpriced” or if they’re a Pro Preferred guy then they will tell you why HOH sucks. I have seen anonymous message board ogres argue the same exact points for both gloves—on one forum, HOH takes longer to break in but lasts longer, on another forum, its Pro Preferred that is the longer-lasting glove.
Instead of consulting anonymous people who most likely have no idea what they’re talking about, I figured I’d seek professional opinions.
Note: You’re probably not going to get a black-and-white answer from reading this post, but what I tried to do was get a few guys who had experiences with each (playing a pro-level schedule) to get a body of knowledge on the subject.
Daniel Klein, Catcher, Blue Jays Org.:
“I’d go with Heart of the Hide, but I’d prefer most brands instead of Rawlings. In my experience, Rawlings leather tends to vary based on the color of the leather. I found that the Pro Preferred all black took a very long time to break in and it seemed to keep form much longer than other Rawlings. I used a Pro Preferred Mocha for a very short period of time in 2013 and It broke in easily and turned into a P.O.S. way too quickly. It got soft and had lost all previous form after a few game uses. Not a big Rawlings fan.”
Taylor Motter, UTIL, Rays Org.:
“To start, as a utility guy I don’t have time to break in all the gloves I’m going to need for the year so I need a glove that is game ready in a week or two. In the outfield I can have a glove that is a little stiffer and be fine with it, that’s why I like the Rawlings’ Heart of the Hide in the outfield. The Pro Preferred is to hard to break in and have game ready in less then a week. Heart of the Hide is easy to break in, but that doesn’t mean its bad leather. It is great leather—most big leaguers use HOH. Heart of the Hide is a little heavier but in the outfield that doesn’t bother me. It’s more about feel and comfort. The HOH doesn’t crack and dry up as much as the Pro Preferred does, it stays moist and doesn’t dry out. HOH holds form well and can be formed by just playing catch.
Pro Preferreds are still great gloves. They’re very light and the leather on the glove makes for a little longer break in, but they hold form very well. The binding of the Pro Preferreds are very stiff, which makes it harder to break in. One negative in my opinion is that the Pro Preferred leather can dry out pretty quick, causing cracks. However, I found a trick that has prevented cracking—it is a spray you can find at any auto store, it’s called Lexol in a brown spray bottle. After using the glove for 2-3 months it will dry out, so 2-3 times a week (if you use the glove everyday) spray that stuff on the entire glove, rub it in with a towel, let it sit for the night and the leather should suck that stuff up and stay moist.”
Giuseppe Papaccio, SS, Cubs Org.:
“The differences between Rawlings HOH and the Pro preferred are mostly in the durability of the glove. The Pro Preferred definitely takes longer to break in but from my experience, it is certainly worth it because the glove lasts a long time.
Heart of the Hide seems to be a tiny bit thinner leather, so it breaks in a little bit easier and gets worn out a little faster. I used an 11.5 all black I-web Pro Preferred last year and it held the shape for over 100 games that I played in along with practices so I loved that one.
I used a HOH Pro Mesh and either I broke it in bad or it just isn’t what I thought t would be. I used it for a month and sold it because it wasn’t stiff enough for me.”
David Lyon, Catcher, Rangers Org.:
“I used Rawlings my entire collegiate career. I found that the Heart of the Hide glove took a fair amount of time to break in. I used it for roughly 2 weeks of games before the leather ripped and I had a 3 inch hole in the pocket. The mesh-backed catchers glove (also Heart of the Hide) I owned was very easy to break in. It became floppy very quickly and almost felt as if the glove was bending every time I caught the ball. Just awful.
I only use Pro Preferred now after trying the different kinds in college. The Pro Preferred takes a long time to break in, but I believe that is why it lasts so long. This is the only Rawlings glove that holds up to the every day beating. It holds form great and the leather stays soft but durable with little treatment. (I like to use saddle soap to condition my gloves probably once or twice a month.) Ultimately, I prefer the Rawlings Pro Preferred catchers mitt over any other make and model.”
Joshua Bell, OF, Pirates Org.:
“I’m definitely all about the Pro Preferred models but this year Rawlings is releasing the Gold Glove Collection which I’m gonna check out for sure. That is supposed to be Rawlings ‘best’ leather. As for Heart of the Hide, it is a softer fit. I like hard leather but that means more effort in the break in process.”
What These Opinions Tell Us
I think there’s a few interesting points in here, one especially from Motter, the Rays Utility guy. He relies on HOH to be game-ready quick whereas he sees Pro Preferred as a longer-term option that “holds up to the every day beating.”
Bell made mention that the harder Pro Preferred leather “means more effort in the break in process,” which is also something to consider.
As for the catchers (Lyon and Klein), they clearly have a strong opinion on the HOH’s not being catcher-capable, which I can completely understand when you’re talking about a “softer” leather getting pounded with 90+ mph ched on a daily basis. To me (a guy who’s caught a total of 1 very confused and disoriented inning in his baseball career) I feel like the stiffer the leather, the better off you are. You don’t want something that’s going to flop around when you’re trying to quietly frame a pitch, right? Just seems counter-intuitive. So, to me it makes sense that these guys would opt for Pro Preferred leather.
So how about the MLB stars we’ve profiled?
Of the 33 WPW-profiled MLB players wearing Rawlings, 21 wear Heart of the Hide and 12 wear Pro Preferred.
This is an interesting split, 64% opting for the Heart of the Hide. As for my call on catchers wanting stiffness, I was completely wrong, or so it seems. Every catcher (Yadi, Buster, Mauer, Wieters) we polled uses Heart of the Hide. Why? I have a theory, and you might agree or disagree: guys like the ones we profile get their gloves by the plenty, whenever they need one. They don’t need them to last 3 seasons like a lot of us out there, even minor leaguers. It is not an “investment” like it is for the average player, so its less risky to go with a glove that will break in easier, even if it might not last as long. In that way, I think it might be more of a luxury to go with the softer HOH leather, knowing that you can just re-order when it loses its shape. Also, there is the possibility that these catchers, all Rawlings contract guys, get the finest .000001% of leather and that the label means absolutely nothing.
What do you think?
Feel free to chime in in the comments below, but keep in mind we just heard from some of the most qualified people in the baseball community, so you should be ready to back up your opinions. And let us know, if you’re a Rawlings guy, which is the leather for you?