One of my favorite times is when I receive a new catchers mitt. There is just something about the process of making that mitt your own. Forming it to your hand, shaping the pocket how you want it and in general, making it your own.
This (January/February) when youth catchers should be working to break in their new catchers mitt. You want that mitt near game-ready when you get into your pre-season practice period.
Your mitt is your most important piece of equipment and one you must rely on for every pitch. It requires care and attention to ensure it lasts and continues to do the job you expect it to perform.
Some catchers mitts come from the factory come already broken-in (near game-ready), meaning you can fairly easily close and open the mitt. Don’t be fooled though to think you are ready to catch a game with it. These mitts still require that you play catch (a lot) before using it in a game. The time playing catch will help form the mitt to your hand and allow you the opportunity to form the pocket as you wish.
For those mitts that come less broken-in they will obviously require more time and effort to get them game ready. As with the mitts that come near game-ready, the process to break the mitt in should focus primarly on playing catch. Playing catch is by far the best way to beak-in a new mitt. There may be times though when you are crunched for time and need to move the process along more quickly. In these cases you can use a mallet to break help break in the mitt. This process doesn’t replace playing catch but it can serve to move the process along toward making the mitt game-ready.
I personally like to use a pocket shaper to aid in shaping and maintaining the pocket. It is too easy for your mitt to be smashed in your equipment bag between practices and games. Being smashed can result in deforming your mitt’s pocket which can ruin your mitt. I have been pleased with the Delux Glove Wrap by Hot Glove. This is an inexpensive resource that is comprised of a near softball sized wiffle ball and an broad elastic band. Simply place the wiffle ball in the pocket (right at the base of the mitt’s web) and then tightly wrap the band around the mitt. This is a great way to maintain the shape of the pocket in your mitt.
Additionally, many people use either oil or a leather conditioner on their gloves and mitts. This is a personal prefernce but one I have engaged in for years. I like to use a Rawlings glove oil in a spray bottle. This allows me to spread the oil lightly and evenly across the who surface of the glove. I like doing this to further soften and condition the leather but I limit my use.
Bottom line, care for your catchers mitt and lean heavily on playing catch to break it in and shape the pocket.