Brooks Robinson, a Second Hand Glove, and My Pops

There are a lot of firsts in life: first day of school, first kiss, first car, and first baseball glove to list a few. Do you remember whose name was on your first baseball glove? It’s an easy question if you spent any amount playing baseball. I was never a very good baseball player but I do remember that first glove, the player whose name was on it, and time spent with my Pops.

When my parents signed me up for park district baseball my Pops gave me one of his old gloves, a Brooks Robinson model made by Rawlings. I’ll admit I had no idea who Brooks Robinson was (I was only seven and wasn’t an Orioles fan). My Pops used that glove for a few years before he gave it to me, and he was always serious about conditioning his gloves. By the time he gave it to me it was broken in beautifully.  I felt a little embarrassed that first day of practice. I was the only kid with a ‘used’ glove. All the other kids had shiny gloves that smelled of new leather and seemed to fit their hands perfectly. I stood there with a glove that saw its fair share of dirt, smelled more of oil than leather, and was a bit big for my size. Yep, I was definitely the odd man out.

After batting practice, the coach had us line up and started hitting us ground balls. Those grounders would not stay in those new gloves. The ball seemed to bounce out not matter how hard those kids would try. As for me, I was able to scoop up everything that came my way. I wasn’t any better than those other kids, but I did believe I had a secret weapon. I thought my Pops gave me a special glove (I didn’t know the importance of breaking in a glove at seven) that just seemed to suck up anything that came near it. Years later I learned one of Robinson’s nicknames was “Mr. Hoover” and chuckled about my first day of practice. Even after my short lived career in park district baseball (I was eleven) I continued to use that glove for many years. I spent hours fielding a rubber ball against the side of my school with that glove and for countless pick up games with friends. I also used that Rawlings Brooks Robinson glove to play catch with its original owner, my Pops.

I don’t have that Brooks Robinson glove any more. The lacing on it finally gave out years ago, and by that time I’d outgrown pick up games with friends and catch with Pops. I do have the last glove my Pops used before he passed away. It’s a Louisville Slugger TPS, and like every glove my Pops ever owned it’s broken in beautifully. Every now and again I take that glove and a rubber ball to the church a few blocks from my house. I spend a half hour or so fielding grounders and I reminisce about pick up games from past days, and sometimes I pretend I’m playing catch with Pops.

-K-