The Baseball Desert

Friday, August 13, 2004

Falling in glove

For me, the sport of baseball is not just about what I see on the field - I also enjoy delving into all the stuff that surrounds the game, whether it's the history, the strategy or even the equipment. My inquisitive mind is always there with questions about what's going on (How does it work? Where does it come from? Why do we do that?) and so it was nice to come across a good piece yesterday on one of the things that make up the 'invisible' part of the game.

The article in question was an one on baseball gloves. For me, the glove is the symbol of baseball par excellence, simply because it's so different to other sports equipment I was familiar with growing up. Baseball has a lot of similarities to cricket, and the equipment is no excpetion - they may not look quite the same, but the two sports use bats, balls with strange stitching and caps / helmets. However, only one player on a cricket team wears a glove, and it looks nothing like the gloves used in baseball (well, modern-day baseball, at least - it is sort of similar to the kind of gloves Shoeless Joe Jackson used to wear):

So, the baseball glove, with its webbing and deep pocket, has always symbolised this exotic sport we call baseball. I watched highlights of the '86 World Series and thought "How cool would it be to have a baseball glove?". Well, I bought a cheap synthetic glove (in tasteful Day-Glo orange!) a couple of years later, and then realised that I hadn't factored in the other part of the question, which was: "How silly would I look using this thing in a public park in the middle of England?"

Undeterred by the strange looks I got from people, I would head out to the park with my brother and, armed with the two baseballs I owned and the Wade Boggs Louisville Slugger bat I bought, we would play baseball (I'm using the phrase 'play baseball' in the broadest possible sense, a little like Americans who say they 'play soccer' ;-)) .

It was only recently - when I started playing baseball here in Paris - that I actually bought a real glove and learned how to use it. Fortunately, as much as I've remained a big kid at heart as far as all things baseball are concerned, I've managed to get past the glove worship stage, and now it's just something I use to try to catch those towering fly balls in center field. It hasn't lost its symbolism, though, and when, in the depths of winter, I want to conjure up images of warm and sunny Sunday afternoons at the ballpark, I'll dig it out and see if it still fits. And it does - like a glove...