MLB Players Have Unique Relationships With Gloves – The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — When Seattle Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez misses a ground ball, he shoves his face into his glove and has a few choice words for his leather companion.

“I’ll say, ‘Come on, come on, ’” he recalled recently in Spanish. “‘If I don’t eat, you don’t eat. ’”

Yes, Suárez talks to his glove. It doesn’t have a name, but this individual admitted it is like a person to him. “It’s there with me and helps me give my best on the field, ” he said. And as a result, he goes out of his way to make sure his buddy is comfortable.

Suárez, 31, doesn’t put it on the ground, preferring to rest it on a bench or rack. In his locker, he said it always has its own shelf. In his travel duffel bag, it has a case and its own space. But what if a teammate wants to touch it?

“You can, but use it? No, ” he said. “A hand inside? I don’t like that. ”

Baseball players are a quirky and superstitious bunch. The Major League Baseball season is arduously long: 162 regular-season games over six months, not including six weeks of spring training and a month of the playoffs if a team reaches the World Series. So players naturally develop routines to add some semblance of order. And when they are successful on the field, habits tend to stick — even if the difference exists only in their heads.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

‘I care for it as if it were my wife. It’s my baby. It’s the most precious thing I have in my locker. ’

Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs

So Suárez, in his ninth major league season, is not unlike many other baseball players who have, we’ll say, special relationships with their gloves.

“I care for it as if it were my wife, ” Willson Contreras, an All-Star catcher for the Chicago Cubs, said with a smile. “It’s my baby. It’s the most precious thing I have in my locker. ”

Santiago Espinal, an All-Star second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, also sees his glove as family: “It’s like my son. There are even times I sleep with my glove. When I buy a new glove, I sleep with it. ” (Technically, he clarified, the glove sleeps on his nightstand. )

As a catcher, it makes sense for Contreras, 30, to have deep feelings about his mitt. But the elements (heat, dryness, humidity) plus pitchers’ throwing harder than ever (the average four-seam fastball was 93. 9 miles per hour this season) quickly wear down and rip Contreras’s most essential tool. He does his best to pamper it so it can make it through the season, and then he donates the glove at the end of the year.

“If I could use the baseball glove for more than a year, I would, ” he said. “But I do have to change them. ”

The same is true for Yadier Molina, the St . Louis Cardinals catcher who has won nine Gold Glove Awards throughout his 19-season career and plans to retire after the 2022 campaign. Molina said he cleaned his glove frequently but he still had to introduce a new one each year. His teammate Paul DeJong, a shortstop, stated he learned how to tend to his 5-year-old glove having a leather spray nearly every day in part by watching Molina do it.

“I have to take care of them because they take care of me, ” stated Molina, 40.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

‘I’ve had to take care of the baseball glove more this year, and it’s starting to get little holes in there. I’m trying to find Band-Aids for it. I’m trying to keep it alive as long as I can. ’

Trea Turner, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Some players are so attached to their hand protection that they will do anything to keep them in action. Trea Turner, the All-Star shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers, begrudgingly admitted that this is the first season that his leather pal, which he has been using for at least four seasons, has started to look “old. ” He then corrected himself, “It’s actually not that bad. ”

(Note: It is fairly bad. )

“I think it is the West Coast since it’s a little drier, ” said Turner, 29, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Washington Nationals before he was traded to the Dodgers during the 2021 time of year.

“Because around the East Coast, ” he or she continued, “that humidity keeps the moisture in the glove. So I’ve had to take care of the glove more this year, and it’s starting to get little holes in there. I’m trying to find Band-Aids for it. I am trying to keep it alive as long as I can. ”

Turner plans to retire it, though, before this reaches the levels of a former teammate’s. Jordy Mercer, an infielder who was also within the 2021 Nationals, used a glove that was over 10 years old , was held together by stitches and looked like it belonged in a museum rather than on a field.

“It was pretty gross, ” Turner mentioned. “I’m going to have to get a brand new glove before then. I don’t really like how his felt so I’m trying to keep mine alive. ”

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‘It’s flimsy, and it’s not the best. But it works for me. ’

Jeff McNeil, 2B, Mets

Jeff McNeil, the All-Star second baseman of the Mets, disagrees that will gloves have expiration dates. He has used the same baseball glove since 2013, the year he was drafted in the 12th round by the Mets. This individual originally had two, but he retired one after his first season plus framed it. The second is still going.

“It’s flimsy, and it’s not the best. But it works for me, ” said McNeil, 30, that reached the major leagues in 2018. “It’s broken within perfect. Once an infielder gets that glove, they use it for a long time. ”

McNeil said a ball once found its way through the loose webbing on his tattered glove so he had it restrung. He or she also once had it “fixed up completely” by a professional, but holes remain. “It’s my baby, ” he added.

Despite all that affection, McNeil isn’t perfect. When he makes an error, he admitted — with a chuckle — he has found occasion in order to throw his glove towards the ground. And he has secretly been forming a new relationship behind his glove’s back.

“I’m working on breaking in another one right now, ” he said, “and it’ll probably be ready in two years. ”

Several players said they did not have much to say about their gloves, regardless of how often each uses them. But even among those who insisted they weren’t particular about their mitts, there was a common third rail.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

‘If someone wants to feel the glove, yeah, go ahead. If you try to put your hand in it, I’ll be like, “No, man, don’t be doing that. ”’

Nolan Arenado, 3B, St . Louis Cardinals

“Just don’t put your hand inside it and take ground balls, ” said Xander Bogaerts, an All-Star shortstop for that Boston Red Sox. Dansby Swanson, an All-Star shortstop for Atlanta, added: “I just don’t want people stretching it out. ”

Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals third baseman who has won the Platinum Glove Award as the best overall fielder in the National League five times, has the same red line.

“A big no-no, ” said Arenado, 31, who is on his second period with his current glove. “If someone wants to feel our glove, yeah, go ahead. In case you try to put your hand within it, I’ll be like, ‘No, guy, don’t be doing that. ’ I stop them prior to they do it. It’s not that their hand is bigger or smaller than mine. I just don’t want anyone putting their hand in my glove. ”

There are some who find the rules about other players and gloves to be a tad extreme.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

‘I have to take care of them because they take care of me personally. ’

Yadier Molina, C, St . Louis Cardinals

“Some guys are crazy about that, like they won’t let you put your hand in it or barely even touch it, ” said Mariners shortstop J. P. Crawford, who won a Gold Glove Award in 2020 and normally uses a new glove each season. “That’s a little too much. ”

Some players — outfielders plus pitchers — didn’t worry at all about their leather. “I’m a pitcher so I don’t care, and I’m not that good of a fielding pitcher, ” said Mariners reliever Paul Sewald. Asked about his habits, Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ superstar outfielder, didn’t even know where his glove was in their locker at that moment.

“If I played infield, that’s exactly where I’d probably be a little superstitious with it, ” he said. “You’re taking grounders, and you got to have a certain feel for it. It’s a different partnership. In the outfield, it’s just like, ‘Make the catch. Come on, buddy. ’”

Even though he is an infielder, the Minnesota Twins All-Star Luis Arraez said this individual didn’t concern himself much with his gloves, tossing all of them on the floor and letting them get a little damp. He stated he would clean them and talk to them on occasion, saying, “Behave, we’re going to play well today. ”

Arraez reserves his extra attention, though, with regard to his bats. “My babies, ” he said. He sometimes sleeps with a smaller bat he uses regarding his pregame practice next to his bed.

“I put it by the side, ” he said, “and say, ‘Baby, we’re going to do my routine tomorrow so behave well. ’”

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