It seemed a simple, rectangular box, wrapped in festive paper, waiting for my small hands to tear into it. A shoebox, actually, though even after I managed to strip all the paper off, I could sense that it concealed something other than a mundane pair of shoes. But even the creative juices of my nine-year-old brain did not predict the breathtaking gift that awaited me within that cardboard container.
My dad gave me my first baseball glove for Christmas in 1993. Military duty had called him across the Pacific to Okinawa, and my first mitt traveled that distance halfway around the world to position itself under our tree in Camp Pendleton, California. I inspected that glove dozens upon dozens of times until I outgrew it. The brown leather, the professional red-and-white stitching of the Rawlings “R” just below the web, a replica of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s signature printed in the palm. I frequently tugged at the small leather knots sprinkled over the mitt, ensuring that they were good and tight.
My younger brother received an identical glove that year, and to ensure the avoidance of quarreling ahead of time, Dad had inscribed each of our names along the thumbs of our respective gloves. When I close my eyes, I can still see “Precious” carefully printed along the edge of my glove with a thin sharpie in his small but neat handwriting.
Though I had never owned a glove before, I was no stranger to the great game of baseball. Our older brother was (and still is) a San Diego Padres fanatic, and had we lived in California much longer than we did, I have no doubt that I’d be rooting for the Padres today as well. I grew up to the names Tony Gwynn, Fred McGriff, and Gary Sheffield. We spun jokes about Mike Piazza delivering home runs like pizza. Our backyard baseball games had been played using tennis balls and the handle of a plastic toy vacuum, which we broke off. Finally, though, I found myself the proud owner of a “real” piece of baseball equipment. It was the glove I used to play Little League.
When I created The Baseball Attic (this blog’s original title) in March 2013, I did so as a means of continuing to engage in my love for the American pastime. My fellowship with baseball has lasted (disturbingly?) longer than most relationships I’ve had with flesh-and-bone human beings. People come and go, romances flourish and fail, but through all that, this great game has remained a constant in my life. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs; even the best of relationships don’t come without a little strife. But when you find yourselves repeatedly drawn back together during the most tumultuous of times, then you know it’s meant to be.