1. My first baseball mitt was a black Rawlings signed* in silver by Bobby Bonilla. The mitt made me happy on two accounts: a) I never ended up with the wrong glove at the end of practice. b) The name of the guy who signed it rhymed with “vanilla”** — the stuff I loved to sniff when my mom and I baked cookies.
2. The mitt with whom I had the longest relationship was a Wilson signed by one Barry Bonds. The thumb stirrup came loose about once a week, which caused much consternation for this young center fielder. (Surely Kenny Lofton’s glove behaved for him…)
3a. I never did find my sweet spot with batting gloves. For a time, I was bestowed mismatched cast-offs by the boys next door. The gloves were probably the best thing I ever received from them, though, since other tokens of their attention included garden hose blasts to the back of the head, Nerf passes to the ribs, and my first kiss to the mouth (from the younger one, after being chased around the front yard for ten minutes then form-tackled… I think we were eight at the time…).
3b. Imagine my surprise when I learned why some baseball players, when they got on base, took off their batting gloves and clutched them like Victorian ladies. Turns out, sliding head-first was never top of mind for me — nor were broken fingers from hitting a base hands-first.
4. According to myth, Cal Ripken, Jr., wouldn’t let anyone touch his glove (or “gamer,” in ball-player parlance). I don’t know if that’s true, but what I do know is that if I end up being reincarnated as a man for some reason, I would like to be Cal Ripken, Jr., or Paul Newman. Why Cal? For The Streak. Why Paul? For that smirk.
*Let’s be honest: I mean “stamped.”
**I learned not long into my relationship with that glove that the name was actually pronounced “bo-NEE-uh.” Imagine my surprise.