You may have noticed something a little out of the ordinary during Royals games the last month.
When second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield reaches base, he puts on something that resembles a blue oven mitt. Fans have made jokes on social media and Rex Hudler has mentioned it during broadcasts. So what’s the deal?
“I asked for a mitt to cover my hand,” Merrifield said, “because I go (slide) head-first and I’ve had a couple times when I’ve almost been landed on or hit the base funny. I’m just trying to avoid an injury that might come about.”
Merrifield said there are small metal rods that rest on the palm and top of the hand, and there is a bit more protection in the mitt.
“Just the other day we were playing in LA, I stole and (Dodgers shortstop Corey) Seager landed right beside my hand,” Merrifield said. “With those metal spikes, all it takes is one time coming down and it would be bad news.”
When Merrifield slides into a base the mitt helps guard against thumb injuries. In May, Angels superstar Mike Trout tore a ligament in his thumb with a slide into second. He missed 38 games.
The mitt does resemble the oven variety, but Merrifield’s version has a Velcro strap at the base that keeps the glove on his hand. The earliest iteration of the mitt appears to date to 2013 when Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner had one created for him.
When Scott Podsednik was with the Royals, he had a special glove that he told Paul Lukas in 2010 was a made of fiberglass. Podsednik said at the time it was basically a removable cast.
“I was watching games and seeing guys wear them,” Merrifield said simply. “I thought this is a good idea.”