Love is a strange thing. Any of you who have experienced it know what I’m talking about. It’s not always about another person. It can also pertain to an inanimate object. Some objects aren’t as inanimate as others. This is a story about one of those.
I started playing over-35 baseball last summer. I hadn’t played in a competitive baseball league in over 30 years. I had forgotten how fast the ball moves when one is standing in the batter’s box. I was so hyped when I started our season opener. I reveled in having my name announced in the lineup on the public address system, being in uniform, being in the dugout with my new teammates, standing on the foul line for the national anthem. They are all things that made game 1 of my 51st year incredibly memorable.
My team took batting practice just before the introductions. The batting cage was located behind our dugout. I was thrilled by the fact that one of my teammates was a guy whom I had coached in high school, some TWENTY-TWO YEARS EARLIER. It was a thrill, to say the least.
I made my way to the plate for my first at-bat and proceeded to strike out. It mattered little. I was back playing the game I loved. I played at first base and even though we lost it was a fantastic night.
Two days later we were scheduled to have practice. I began to repack my equipment bag when I realized that I was missing one of my gloves. Now for those of you who aren’t knowledgeable in such things, baseball gloves come in many different types. There are “fielders gloves” which are worn by 7 of the 9 defensive players on the field. The catcher and first basemen wear gloves known as “mitts,” which give them an advantage in picking the ball up on a short hop off the ground.
I played first base in the opening game, so my fielder’s glove was not used that night. I realized that the last place I had seen the glove was at the field before the first game. I called the opposing team’s coach to ask if anyone had turned the glove into lost and found, but no luck. I had to resign myself to the fact that my ‘gamer’ was now gone from my possession.
My ‘gamer’ had probably been my primary glove for at least a decade. It felt almost like an extension of my own hand at times. I was still primarily a third baseman for the vast majority of that time and a pretty good one defensively at that. I used to refer to my ‘gamer’ glove as “the place where base hits go to die.” I loved that glove. With it, I felt like most balls hit my way could be fielded and turned into outs.
Now came the hunt for a new glove. I found one quickly and worked to get it “broken in” as soon as possible. I played through the remainder of my baseball and softball seasons with my new glove. Ironically, my softball team won two summer league championships and a fall league championship in the ensuing 15 months. But I still lamented the loss of my ‘gamer.’
Players get attached to their ‘gamers.’ When it’s not there to be used, players can sometimes feel uncomfortable. I see players do things like actually spit into the palm of their glove. I could NEVER do this. I don’t even know why THEY do it. I’ve never inquired and I don’t want to know, because no reason could be good enough to justify it. But I will admit to touching the manufacturer’s logo patch to my lips before nearly every pitch when in the “ready” position just prior to the pitch. It’s part of the focusing process before the pitch is thrown. This does not happen if I am the pitcher at the time.
Fast forward to September 2013. I’m playing in a tournament about 50 miles from my home. During the pre-game, moments before one of the games, I was walking through the dugout and looked down on the bench. When I saw it. Yes, it was my ‘gamer.’
What are the odds of this happening? I wondered who was currently using this piece of leather. I didn’t wish to confront the player who had brought it with him. I picked it up and looked into the pocket, thinking that I never thought it would be on my left hand again. I took it off and set it on the bench before the new owner saw me wearing it. I made the quick decision that I wouldn’t ask the new owner how he had come to acquire my old friend. I felt okay with the fact that it was still being used at all, rather than laying around gathering dust.
I came away from the experience with a sense of being lucky enough to even SEE the glove again. The odds were incredibly high. The team I was playing on that night was a hybrid team made up of players from two different teams. The new owner plays for a team located 30 miles from my own team. I just happened to be on THAT team for THAT game.
So, my former ‘gamer’ is now someone else’s ‘gamer.’ Destined to keep recording outs for another few years.
For me, I have used its predecessor for two years now. Never quite getting the feel that I was “at one” with it, but somehow it coincided with three championships which will always make me thankful for its partnership with me.
But on the horizon, with my birthday just around the bend, I will get a NEW ‘gamer.’ Selected from about a dozen possible candidates it will arrive in time to give me about 10 weeks to make it my own before I head off to 2014 Mets Fantasy Camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. It’s not the same model or the same brand for that matter. But it will become my next true love….on the baseball field.
…..I’m just sayin’.