I don’t know how old I was the first time I got a baseball mitt, though I suppose it would have been when I began playing Tee Ball in kindergarten. If my memory serves correct, I first used a light tan Ozzie Smith model glove, and if I wore it today, it would probably be scarcely bigger than the palm of my hand, like one of those old-time, miniature gloves seen in pictures of players from the 1920s. Even as a child, that glove felt small.
I grew out of my first glove pretty fast, probably no later than the third grade, and when the time came to purchase a new mitt, my parents and I set out to find the biggest thing possible, something that would never need to be replaced. We found just the glove. The George Brett Signature Model by Wilson that I got looked like the head of a snow shovel on my nine-year-old hand and quickly earned the nickname, “The Black Hole.” Balls could disappear into that laundry trap of a glove, which made it ideal for outfield duty, even if it was sometimes as unwieldy as a Buick. I remember catching five or six flies to right field one time in a game when I was maybe ten and feeling like former San Francisco Giants center fielder Darren Lewis.
I always liked playing with a glove named for George Brett. I think at the time, I felt this way largely because Brett was one of my dad’s favorite players. In retrospect, though, I think it maybe goes deeper than this. Brett offered All Star caliber play without seeming top-conditioned, something that would be unheard of in baseball today. At least to me, there was always something fairly human in Brett’s appearance, an everyman, underdog quality that made him look slightly out of place in uniform. My dad played high school baseball and never went beyond it, though I’d like to think that if he’d ever made it to the majors, he’d have looked something like Brett. To this day, it puts a smile on my face to use a glove named for Brett.
I last played Little League when I was eleven, but I still have the glove, which feels normal-sized now and remains in great shape. I use it occasionally, and it struck me yesterday, after taking the glove to softball practice that all things considered, it’s probably among my oldest possessions. Maybe I’ll give it to my son someday.