Baseball Basics

Glove Frustration

In the mid 70’s growing up in East Tacoma, not the best neighborhood and not quite the worst, there was little to do for a boy whose lot in life was to stay at home with his older sister and younger brother while mom was at work. There were no such things as ‘after school activities’ or ‘select leagues’. We had the Boys Club. A mere 8 blocks from home (if you knew the short-cuts, 13 if you followed the streets). The grumpy old man that ran our boys club, Jim, was actually a monument to commitment. He was still the grumpy old man that ran it when I was in college.

Games were on Saturday and the turnout was usually light. Some Dads, some Moms, some Grand-pa’s. There was always 2 or more Dads with new shiners they received the night before; proud of how they mixed it up. Some of the Moms were a little more quiet. Covered with scarf’s and over-sized sunglasses or just a little extra make-up if the swelling wasn’t so bad.

Grand-pa’s were always the regulars. Chewing on smoldering stogies and arguing about something from the moment the left the parking lot. If they weren’t arguing with each other they stood shoulder to shoulder nagging the umpire about his vision. Which I thought was funny as I could only imagine what these seniors could actually see through the pop bottle bottoms they wore for glasses. Morning games always had lighter attendance. Afternoon ones a few more. Standing at the end of the fence were the Dad’s sipping out of a paper bag.

The Club provided the shirts, hats, bats, catchers gear and the standard GI issue duffle bag to lug it all around in. We provided our own gloves. Pants and shoes were the run what ya brung variety. Gear was predominately purchased at the B&I. With its own celebrity, Ivan the Gorilla, we all went there, we all wore the $4 jeans, we all sported various versions of what was offered, but we never talked about it.

For myself, Rawlings was the brand. 12” glove, genuine leather with a deep well pocket. I used this glove from 1972 to 1983. At a team practice or game. I could identify, on the run, every glove on our team; who it belonged to, what position they played. The balance of the team could do so as well. We didn’t have much, be there was a lot of pride in our gloves. How they helped us make the impossible plays. Catch the un-catchable ball. Just like the pro’s whose named adorned them. Even after moving to rural Puyallup in 77, players were the same, gloves of greater variety but still everyone know who’s was who’s.

Not so with current players. Gloves seem to be designed to last 1 season. $50 – $75 of annual parent frustration. The love of the glove is not the same. Disposable tool for a generation proclaiming recycling. Its just beyond my consideration.

As a parent, finances are substantially different then when I was growing up. I tend to save my money and buy the best of what I need. This goes for my kids as well. I have no qualms about getting the better end of what is available to meet their needs. My oldest on a whim decided to try out for a select baseball team and playing up a year. To my amazement they took him, but the backyard glove I’d taught him with would not be sufficient for the rigors he was to encounter. So, no problem, just find a good glove for a left hand thrower. WHAT A JOKE! I went to over a dozen stores and looked through hundreds of gloves.

I soon discovered that gloves go on sale in January when the shipments come in and the best selection is available. May is for good sales on what is already left over from the current year. Add to this that all sporting goods buyers believe that less than 1% of all players are left handed and 100% need a glove 12” or larger and you are hard pressed to get something age appropriate. Finally, not all gloves available for right hand throws are available for left hand throws. Seems the makers also feel that left hand throwers only need the larger gloves as well.

As market conditions have virtually wiped out the mom and pop sporting goods dealers in my area, box stores that have taken over have little to no ability to special order anything. If you do, its full MSRP + shipping + handling, +, +, annoying. The final selection seemed to have all the credentials, good brand name, endorsed by the Little League king himself, a little large, but small enough hand pocket to keep it in place, $60. Game ready and good pocket.

Within 6 weeks I was tightening up the laces, after 14 weeks, the outside finger area had broken down. Glove performance was poor and frustration was gaining speed. My player was loosing faith in his gloves ability to protect himself from the ball. My faith in this selection for him was also lost.

Off to the internet. Find a suitable replacement that I don’t need to re-purchase every year. East Bay, Just Gloves and Sports Diamond dominate the google and yahoo searches. All styles of the 3 majors (Rawlings, Wilson, Louisville) are there plus some of the up and comers (Nokoma, SSK, Nike, Reebok, etc ) but how do you justify a $89 glove to a $350 one.

How does one determine the upper youth model will give more than 1 season. Back to the internet to search owner comments and the individual pieces that make up a glove. Steerhide, that’s the ticket. Its generally thicker and denser than the run of the mill cowhide. The majors only use it in there most premium gloves. Even the up and comers reserve Steerhide for their top of the line gear.And when you find ads that tout their special process is “just like steerhide”, well that tells a solid story.

Do I recommend handing a $350+ glove to a 9yr old, no.

Can I justify $120, well, compared to the prospect of spending $60 each year, if I get 2 years out of $120 it’s a break even. If he can keep it all through high school, then all the better.

Where did I find a steerhide glove that met all my criteria? These guys have just what you need for the price that is extremely right. They are a small company that offers direct pricing and distributorship.

Shrewd as I can be, I bought a distributorship and the mandatory inventory. I rationalized this by the fact I can get their best stuff at an even better price and at the very worst, give it away to the players we have in the family. I was very pleased with all the gloves they sent. Everything delivered as promised.

The recurring proof for me is when I attend shows and young teenagers arrive at my table with their Dads and attest “this is just as good as the (brand x) we have been looking at and half the price!”. That seals it for me. These young players spend hundreds if not thousands of hours reading, examining, touching gloves from every source they can find. To see so much enthusiasm just moments after introduction, it truly re-enforces my belief in these gloves.

Overall, better gloves solve several problems;

1) they last longer, period!
2) you only have to break them in once.
3) annualized return on dollars spent is greater.
4) you get a lifetime of baseball memories attached to one very personal glove.

So, is $120 a good price to pay? I say yes!

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