Yesterday was one of those days that you love as a baseball player. New Stuff Day!!
Whether it's the smell of fresh glove leather, picking stuffed tissue paper out of the toes of new cleats, or even a brand new pair of (unworn and therefore un-smelly) sliding shorts, getting new stuff does something to us. As a minor leaguer especially, there aren't a whole lot of perks, and the separation between you and Mr. Big Leaguer is quite vast. But not on this day...on this day both of you are on the same level. The orange Nike shoe box is just as bright. The gloves are just as pleasantly unbroken-in. Whether, like me, your stuff gets in before Spring Training so that you relish it on your own, or they get sent straight to your locker at ST so that players all around you crane their necks to get a peek at your surprise, it's quite a rush.
My new glove got in yesterday. Wilson A2000. Same model as last year's mit, just shinier and less pliable. I'm gonna be honest, I bought last year's glove because I saw Greg Maddux wearing it in a braves photo magazine. Nostalgia, I guess. Anyway, I've come to realize that this glove makes all other gloves obsolete. It's the perfect weight (not too heavy, not to light), perfect length (11.75 in.), perfect color (All Black), and the perfect fit because of it's adjustable dial. It's got a great pocket that neither you nor the hitter can see through. The brilliant yellow "W" on the front shines having yet to see dirt, pine tar, or opposing hitters. It's untested in the battlefield, but if it's anything like its older brother...it'll do just fine.
Last year's model broke in almost instantly. It fit my hand like, well, a glove. A week into ST last season and the old guy was ready for game action. A real trooper. He gave up a couple home runs and saw more than his fair share of strike outs. Year before that I had a real gem of a glove. It was my first mit with my name embroidered on the side. I was excited to get my hand in it (insert inappropriate comment here). Unfortunately, it was no more than 2 weeks into the season that it began to fall apart. The lining began to separate from the inside stitching and the pocket grew too deep.I was afraid that every throw would come straight through the webbing and hit me in the mouth. I had to put him down. My first year in Pro ball I was still using the Wilson A200 that I used in College. I couldn't part with it. It saw me get a scholarship, get drafted, and get my first pro hitter out. I still use it every once in a while, but the leather has gotten so stiff that it cracks a little bit more every time out.
We all remember our old gloves. I remember my first glove. Dark red and black. 12 inches. smushed together like a pancake. Run over with a car. Rubbed with shaving cream. Anything that would get it to close just right. I'd put a ball in it and put it under my mattress at night. I'd throw a ball into it constantly until someone in the house would tell me to shut up. It was kinda crappy, probably about $25 from the local Sports Authority, but it suited me just fine. I think deep down inside every ball player wants to grow up and show all his old things to his children and grandchildren. I can't wait to whip out these 4 beauties and start telling the stories.
"There was this one time. I was just 20 years old. Nervous as I could be..."