Debating Rawlings’ top models is a never-ending battle. You have the players who grew up on Heart of the Hide and swear by it, and you have the players who game a Pro Preferred and won’t use anything else.
To break through the biases, we’re going to take a step back and compare the models head-to-head on the five most important categories:
Rawlings’ Pro Preferred gloves use Kip leather on its shell, while the Heart of the Hide uses a select Steerhide leather.
Both are high quality materials, but the Pro Preferred leather is certainly the better material. It’s softer to touch, lighter weight, and although Kip leather has a reputation of being a bit less durable, we have yet to see that with the Pro Preferred gloves.
Pro Preferred wins this round, as Rawlings’ Kip leather is probably the best on the market, while the Steerhide has a ton of competition in a crowded market.
Just like the materials used on the shell, the lining materials of the two models vary slightly. The Pro Preferred uses the Pittards’ Sheepskin lining, and the Heart of the Hide uses Rawlings’ famous Deer Tanned Cowhide.
Another differentiator is that the Heart of the Hide uses a foam-like material for the wrist lining, while the Pro Preferred uses a soft wool wrist lining.
In terms of comfort, the Pro Preferred is going to feel amazing out of the box. Although Rawlings has made huge strides on their Deer Tanned Cowhide, the Sheepskin lining is simply amazing. The Pro Preferred wins on sheer comfort.
Issues may arise after some use, as the Pittards’ lining has been known to tear and the wool can start to smell if not cleaned. We haven’t noticed the same issues on many Heart of the Hide models, and the foam-like wrist on the Heart of the Hide is amazing at hiding smells.
This category comes down to comfort versus durability: which do you value more? The Sheepskin will feel great for a while, but the HOH lining will last an eternity.
At the time of this writing, there are about 20 available Pro Preferred models across the nine positions on the field. Meanwhile, there are over 50 available Heart of the Hide models on Rawlings’ website.
Although this seems like a night-and-day difference, a lot of the Heart of the Hide models look a bit funky. Sure, you can get a glove in many different sizes, webs, and patterns, but some of the colorways on the models are not my style.
The Pro Preferred offerings are more limited, but they cover the best models that Rawlings offers. They offer lowkey colorways as well, which is a big plus in my book. Therefore, we give this category to the Pro Preferred, as you still get the models you want, albeit with fewer flamboyant colorways.
When we broke down the number of active players in our database who used Rawlings, we found about an even split between players who used a Pro Preferred and those who used a Heart of the Hide. This round is a draw.
The most notable players who use the Pro Preferred line are Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Manny Machado, and Mike Trout. Notable HOH users include Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, and Cody Bellinger.
Of course, a huge factor in this debate is the price. A Heart of the Hide costs $300, while a Pro Preferred costs $380.
Despite the steeper price, when it comes to the value offered by each glove, we have to put the Pro Preferred on top. Many companies offer a great steerhide glove, but few companies truly offer a top-of-the-line Kip leather glove. And for $80 more, it’s tough to beat the value you get. With that said, the durability of a Heart of the Hide is outstanding, but it wasn’t enough to sway my vote.
If you’re looking for a high-end Rawlings glove, look no further than the Pro Preferred.
Here are some of our favorite Pro Preferred models:
- Infield: PROS204-2C, an 11.5” mitt with an I-web
- Outfield: PROS3039-6TN, a 12.75” outfield glove with an H-web
- Catcher: The only option, but a good one at that – PROSCM43JR10, a 34” catcher’s mitt
- First Base: PROSDCTCC, a 13” First Base Glove
- Pitcher: PROS205-30C, an 11.75″ mitt with a grip-concealing two-piece web