I grew up loving baseball. I played other sports, but as I grew older I realized that I didn’t care about them. Not like I cared about baseball. I’d go through the motions and show up to practice, but baseball was my passion. I truly sunk everything, physically and emotionally, into baseball when I played.
I love everything about the game. The timeless innings, the headfirst slide, the hours of repetition to make routine fielding and hitting actually seem routine, the stats. I’ve missed it since the day I stopped playing organized baseball, and that definitely influenced my decision to spend my early spring days coaching varsity baseball at the high school down the road from where I teach. When I actually sit down and think about the wealth of knowledge I have about baseball, it surprises me. What surprises me even more is that there’s still a lot of things out there for me to learn about the sport. So this season I’m really looking forward to imparting my knowledge of the game to these young gentlemen while I continue to learn about more intricacies of it from my other two coaching counterparts (one of whom pitched at the collegiate level and has a baseball IQ through the roof).
As I was gearing up for the season the other day, I stopped by my folks house to grab my baseball mitt in preparation for open gym next week. I asked both of my folks about the location of my old SSK infielders mitt.
Andy: Mom, have you seen my baseball mitt?
Mom: I don’t know, but I didn’t sell it.
Andy: Dad, have you seen my baseball mitt?
Dad: I don’t know. Your mom probably sold it. **
So I took a look through the attic. I dug through some boxes of old sentimental things my mom is holding on to in the hopes that someday I settle down and she has a daughter-in-law to show all of that stuff to. After 10 minutes or so, I’d come to the conclusion that my mitt was no longer an heirloom in the safekeeping of my parents. (Apparently my mother decided I would never have a child who would want to play baseball and use his dad’s ol’ mitt from the glory days.)
This revelation had me feeling quite down. I loved that mitt. Probably more than a man should love any inanimate object. I already had a slew of outfielders mitts, but I didn’t have a suitable glove for the days I played second or third base, so my dad and I looked through the infielders mitts and found a perfect little SSK. I remember the day that mitt arrived in my possession after my dad and I sat down and selected it from an Eastbay catalog. At 11 1/4 inches, it was the most beautiful piece of black and gray leather I had ever seen. I spent that first summer day with my mitt oiling it, tossing it in the oven, then pounding a ball in the pocket. The smell of clean leather on a warm summer day on our deck was intoxicating. It was the kind of perfect summer day that should make every boy want to be outside. I spent hours curving the edges of the mitt into a perfect arc so that when I closed it, the ball couldn’t escape. I tightened the laces to fit my skinny hands. By days end I had a glove that I felt like I had owned for years. We had a good run for those four years we spent together playing organized baseball. In fact, I grew so impartial to my little SSK that I started to use it when I played in the outfield instead of my traditional 12 1/2 inch glove. Wherever it’s now at, someone has a great hunk-a leather.
Anyways, my awesome baseball mitt may not seem like a big deal to a lot of you. I wouldn’t expect it to. Very similar to how I wouldn’t much care about your grandma’s porcelain sets or your uncle’s stamp collection, I don’t expect you to understand the significance of that glove to me. It may not carry the historical significance of the Ark of the Covenant or the Fountain of Youth. However, there’s a lot of diving catches and throws from the hole that that glove has been an active participant in. It’s a very small blip in the timeline of my life, but a very important one.
And the other day when I told my friend Dan that my mitt had come up missing, he turned to me and said, “The little gray one? That was a nice glove.”
**My mother has a well documented history of selling things that have little sentimental value to her, but any kind of monetary value.