Love for the glove: How the Royals break in new mitts

For baseball players, a glove is not just a tool of the game. It’s like an extension of their body.

They trust it. They depend on it. They expect for it to perform reliably and consistently.

And when they find that special glove they love, some of them don’t ever want to give it up — unless, of course, it betrays them.

“I did use a glove one time — I’m not going to say what glove it was — but I kicked a couple balls and I did blame it on the glove,” Royals minor-league outfielder Whit Merrifield said. “So I went back to my old glove.”

The glove Merrifield is using now has been with him for four years. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will get so comfortable with a glove that he’ll use the same one for years, too.

“Last glove I used was about four, five years, but I’m using a new one this year, so hopefully I’ll get some good mileage out of that one too,” Hosmer said.

Hosmer decided this season the Rawlings mitt that helped him win three straight American League Gold Gloves and a World Series had seen enough new lacing jobs.

Now, it’s time to begin the process of breaking in a new one — gold with blue laces.

“The newer ones, it takes a little longer,” Hosmer said. “For me personally, I like them a little more broken in, so you have to take two, three months. And the best time to break them in is during the games.

“There’s a lot of pounding of the gloves pre-pitch, so that’s the best way to get them broken in.”

Many players, such as infielder Cheslor Cuthbert, say playing catch is the best way to break in a glove. But patience is necessary. It takes time to get a mitt game-ready.

“As soon as I start getting a good feel for it, that’s when I start using it in a game,” Cuthbert said.

Some go to extraordinary measures to get a glove just the way they like it.

“I’ve put it in the microwave before,” pitcher Chris Young said. “Microwave it for about 30 seconds and that helps mold it, form the pocket. And then you get outside, and it makes it easier to break in.”

Some players change their glove on a regular schedule, such as Young, who said he changes his every year. Pitcher Brian Duensing, a non-roster invitee, said that while he’s kept a glove as long as three years before, he’s swapped mitts for reasons other than wear and tear.

“Errors, bad innings, bad stretches of innings,” Duensing said. “Once you start struggling, I usually get a new one.”

In the big leagues, there is no shortage of glove options. Call it a fielder’s choice.

Players can customize their gloves, including with their choice of colors. Infielder Ramon Torres goes with blue and grey, matching the Royals uniform.

Players can have their initials embossed on their gloves and some, such as Duensing and Hosmer, put their entire name on the glove so that they can tell them apart.

Others go for something a little more personal.

“Sometimes I put my mom’s name and sometimes I put my daughter’s name,” Cuthbert said.

“I always put my mother’s name on it,” said Torres, who has a glove for away games and another for home games.

“My glove has names of my three children on it,” Young said, proudly displaying last year’s black glove with the names Cate, Scott and Grant in blue script etched on the side.

“This one is obviously really special to me because it’s the World Series glove,” Young said, “but this year’s will have the names on it as well.”

Cuyler Meade is a senior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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