One of the more difficult hurdles new players face when trying to learn the game is learning to secure the softball when they catch it. This is partly because new players are usually very young, and their equipment is often cheap and/or ill-fitting. Easton designed the smallest versions of the Natural Elite Fastpitch series softball glove with these players in mind.
Players enter the game at varying ages and abilities, but they often hit a roadblock in their improvement early on. Gloves can have finger stalls that are too large, making the glove shift around on the hand during use. Also, using a glove that is not broken in can make closing the glove difficult for a new player. The disadvantages to new players can quickly become frustrating.
The 11- to-12-inch Easton Natural Elite Fastpitch Series Softball Gloves exist to ease these players’ transition into the game. Easton took a common-sense approach to the problem, and ended up with a winning solution.
- Basket web – works for multiple positions
- Easton’s Grab-All web – larger than typical youth gloves
- Extra deep pocket — 40% larger than most in the class
- Adjustable, hook-and-loop closure strap
- Z-Flex elastic straps on heel
- Smaller-than-typical finger and hand openings
- VRS Palm pad
The Z-flex heel is an innovation that makes it easier to close the glove and secure the softball. Easton utilizes two elastic bands, one in each of the typical hinge points on either side of the heel. These bands let the glove fold more easily, assisting in closing it, and the length of break-in time is reduced in the process.
The main material of the glove is a softened leather, further reducing the break-in time. Users rave about how they can take this glove directly into gameplay, and the soft leather is why. It isn’t top-quality leather, of course. But it is still a quality leather, and Easton’s use of mesh explains the affordable price. Generous heel padding also keeps young palms safe from hard-hit balls.
The web and pocket on the Natural Elite Series gloves are perfect for younger players who will move around the field in a utility role. The basket-weave webbing excels at most infield positions, is useful in the outfield, and hides the ball well when the player moves inside the circle to pitch. An extra-deep pocket and the large web help young players secure the ball.
With sporting goods, the current year’s models tend to sell best, and softball gloves are no exception. Easton has moved on from the Natural Elite series, though some are still available online. If you can find one in your size, this glove is a bargain. If you like the model, but your size is unavailable, the Easton Youth Z-Flex Fastpitch Softball Glove is the newer version of the same glove pattern. The Z-flex series, which utilizes pig skin instead of tumbled leather, continues to get solid user reviews on Amazon.
The supple leather that makes these gloves ready for play right off the shelf is not the longest-lived material. Users have complained that the lacing is of lower quality, and the glove likely won’t last for more than a couple of seasons. For younger players, though, this is rarely a problem. They grow fast, and their hands will not likely fit in any glove for more than two years.
Synthetics and mesh
Mesh is a love-it-or-leave-it material. If you live in a warmer climate, the breathability of mesh is attractive, but its longevity is a question mark. Also, this glove utilizes mesh in the web, which makes the pocket ready to receive a ball at game speed, but lacks the strength of leather. Again, though, these gloves will not need to last more than a couple of years.
If you are in the market for an affordable, entry-level glove for a young player, the smaller Easton Natural Elite Fastpitch Series gloves are hard to ignore. Kid-friendly features — large hand/finger openings, creased heel, extra-large pocket, etc. — elevate the level of play for many beginning players. And the VRS palm pad, similar to the padding Easton uses in some of its higher-quality catcher’s mitts, should take some of the sting out of hard-hit balls.
For more serious players, like those in travel ball for instance, this glove may not prove durable enough for the rigors multiple seasons. But, for players taking up the sport, it may be a perfect fit. Easton makes quality products, and this glove will certainly last long enough for a young player to outgrow it. The ease of break-in means the glove is ready for play as-is, though its soft leather will conform to its owner’s hand, and it will become even more playable as the season grinds on.