"The Finest in the Field!"
That’s how the Rawlings company explained my baseball mitt to 11-year-old me. It says so right there on the glove, just below the part that’s protected my pinkie from hard-hit line drives and ill-advised outfield dives since about 1981.
I’m not sure what role Andre Dawson had in its design, but practically every ball I’ve ever caught has come to rest just above his signature, branded into the leather that my father long ago slathered with linseed oil, wrapped in string and stuffed under a mattress to "break it in."
So I've been using it more lately. My son is 11 now, and he wants to play catch a lot. That, together with Sundays playing shul league softball for the past few summers, has kept the Mitt and me young and pliable ... enough.
When a piece of the lacing in the pocket tore this year, I tried to fix it with some dental floss. It ripped apart on the first catch. My efforts at repair were an affront to the Mitt. Somewhere in America (or Canada), Andre Dawson grimaced. But the fact of the matter was, it still worked fine. These days, no one ever hits or throws a ball to me that would be hard enough to force its way through the loosened part of the pocket.
Then I happened upon the "Dr. Glove" lacing repair kit at a local sporting goods store.
What could go wrong?
Dr. Glove was plainspoken in his directions on the back of the package: "Be sure to look carefully at the pattern of the lacing before taking it apart."
Maybe it was the beers I’d consumed earlier, but after I pulled the lacing apart, I feared I would never get it back together. Dr. Glove's admonition was spot on. For all the time I'd spent pounding my fist and staring into that glove for the past four decades, I hadn't appreciated the leather lacing labyrinth around my fingers. For all those years, the Mitt was so stable. So reliable. So dependable. And now, it was a floppy-eared rabbit puppet. It was Jello in leather.
What have I done?
Pulling the repair kit’s leather laces through the Mitt had released the smells of a thousand little league games into my kitchen. The Mitt must be saved. Its useful life — our aging selves — preserved.
An hour or so later, the deed was done. The Mitt is whole. All is right in the universe once again.
And it’s still "The Finest in the Field."
This segment aired on February 15, 2020.