If you enjoy playing baseball or softball, or if you know of someone who does, the one piece of equipment needing maintenance year after year but is usually overlooked is the baseball glove. Like all leather products, the life of a mitt will increase substantially if proper care is taken.

To begin with, a new glove takes at least one season of play to break in, but a mitt can be softened up much quicker if a conditioning agent, such as neatsfoot oil, is applied to the leather. Once the solution is administered, some ballplayers let the dry glove overnight with a baseball or softball in the pocket.

Furthermore, whether it's a new glove or a flycatcher with years of playing time behind it, the leather should be reconditioned at least twice during the playing season. It's also not a bad idea to routinely clean a baseball glove. This measure allows air to circulate more effectively around the hand, reducing sweat absorbed by the leather.

The lacing on a new mitt should be flexible enough to last several years, but a seasoned glove needs to have its leather lacing checked after each game. If you're in the middle of a ball game, it'd be a bit hectic trying to re-string the pocket or fingers with shoelaces.

If the lacing is torn or looks as if it's about to tear, any shoe repair shop should be able to re-lace the glove (and perform other repairs to the glove as well). Plus, there are lacing kits available to re-string the mitt at home. If you decide to re-lace the glove yourself, remove the old lacing one hole at a time, following its path with the new leather lace.

When the ball game ends, the mitt should be placed in a cardboard box or paper bag, and stowed in a dry, ventilated area. If stowed in the trunk of your car, heat will dry the leather out, causing the glove to deteriorate much quicker, and moisture causes mold to form, which stiffens and stains leather.

Extra care does mean extra effort, but it means adding years upon years to the life of a baseball glove. Your kids, or perhaps even the future grand kids, will appreciate the time and effort when the umpire shouts, ìLet's play ball!î