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MLB Players Have Unique Relationships With Gloves

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LOS ANGELES — When Seattle Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez misses a ground ball, he shoves his face into his glove and has just a few alternative 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 reputation, but he admitted it’s like an individual to him. “It’s there with me and helps me give my best on the sector,” he said. And consequently, he goes out of his technique to make certain his buddy is comfortable.

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

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

Baseball players are a unusual 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 so as to add some semblance of order. And after they are successful on the sector, habits are likely to stick — even when the difference exists only of their heads.

So Suárez, in his ninth major-league season, just isn’t unlike many other baseball players who’ve, we’ll say, special relationships with their gloves.

“I take care of 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 probably the most precious thing I actually 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. After I buy a recent glove, I sleep with it.” (Technically, he clarified, the glove sleeps on his night stand.)

As a catcher, it is sensible for Contreras, 30, to have deep feelings about his mitt. But the weather (heat, dryness, humidity) and pitchers’ throwing harder than ever (the typical 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 might make it through the season, after which he donates the glove at the top of the 12 months.

“If I could use the glove for greater than a 12 months, I might,” he said. “But I do should change them.”

The identical is true for Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals catcher who has won nine Gold Glove Awards throughout his 19-season profession and plans to retire after the 2022 campaign. Molina said he cleaned his glove incessantly but he still needed to introduce a recent one annually. His teammate, shortstop Paul DeJong, said he learned easy methods to are likely to his 5-year-old glove with a leather spray nearly on daily basis partly by watching Molina do it.

“I actually have to handle them because they handle me,” said Molina, 40.

Some players are so attached to their gloves that they may do anything to maintain them in motion. Trea Turner, the All-Star shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers, begrudgingly admitted that that is the primary season that his leather pal, which he has been using for at the least 4 seasons, has began to look “old.” He then corrected himself, “It’s actually not that bad.”

(Note: It’s fairly bad.)

“I believe it’s the West Coast because it’s just a little drier,” said Turner, 29, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Washington Nationals before he was traded to the Dodgers throughout the 2021 season.

“Because on the East Coast,” he continued, “that humidity keeps the moisture within the glove. So I’ve needed to handle the glove more this 12 months, and it’s beginning to get little holes in there. I’m trying to search out Band-Aids for it. I’m attempting to keep it alive so long as I can.”

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

“It was pretty gross,” Turner said. “I’m going to should get a recent glove before then. I don’t really like how his felt so I’m attempting to keep mine alive.”

Jeff McNeil, the All-Star second baseman of the Mets, disagrees that gloves have expiration dates. He has used the identical glove since 2013, the 12 months he was drafted within the twelfth round by the Mets. He originally had two, but he retired one after his first season and framed it. The second remains to be going.

“It’s flimsy, and it’s not the most effective. However it works for me,” said McNeil, 30, who reached the foremost leagues in 2018. “It’s broken in perfect. Once an infielder gets that glove, they use it for a very long time.”

McNeil said a ball once found its way through the loose webbing on his tattered glove so he had it restrung. He also once had it “fixed up completely” by an expert, 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 to throw his glove to the bottom. And he has secretly been forming a recent relationship behind his glove’s back.

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

Several players said they didn’t have much to say about their gloves, no matter how often they use them. But even amongst those that insisted they weren’t particular about their gloves, there was a standard third rail.

“Just don’t put your hand in it and take ground balls,” said Xander Bogaerts, an All-Star shortstop for the 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 most effective overall fielder within the National League five times, has the identical red line.

“An enormous no-no,” said Arenado, 31, who’s on his second season along with his current glove. “If someone desires to feel my glove, yeah, go ahead. Should you attempt to put your hand in it, I’ll be like, ‘No, man, don’t be doing that.’ I stop them before they do it. It’s not that their hand is greater or smaller than mine. I just don’t want anyone putting their hand in my glove.”

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

“Some guys are crazy about that, like they won’t let you set 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 recent glove each season. “That’s just a little an excessive amount of.”

Some players — outfielders and pitchers — didn’t worry in any respect 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 his locker at that moment.

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

Although he’s an infielder, the Minnesota Twins All-Star Luis Arraez said he didn’t concern himself much along with his gloves, tossing them on the ground and letting them get just a little damp. He said he would clean them and refer to them now and again, saying, “Behave, we’re going to play well today.”

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

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

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