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Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Baseball makes me blind to reality. We all need something like that. The snow is rolling off our slopes in growing rivulets under a sun that appears to have rediscovered the vigor of its youth, and I could hardly care less while my brand-new giant-slalom skis sit in the corner of my office.

I have a baseball glove on my left hand, and it’s a beaut. I pound the knuckles of my bare hand into its pocket. They rebound to instinctively grab the fingers of it and then bend them over the pocket to perfect the glove’s shape. I lick my own fingers and use a moistened touch to work the wrinkles from the glove’s palm after I squeeze it shut over a phantom ball. It’s a catcher’s mitt; the stiffest and most complicated glove to break in. It’s a project to do it right, and this one has an excellent start. I only know its recent history and have to make good guesses about its past. It’s a fantasy.

I’m not in the dugout. I’m sitting behind my desk with the back of my chair reclined, fondly examining the fine work of baseball art that wasn’t mine 10 minutes earlier and, truly, is not mine now but rather ours. My son will use it. He’s the catcher in the family now. But the glove really belongs to five of us: Matt, Will, Max, me, and the mysterious person who gave it up at Use It Again Sports for a meager $25.

It’s a Wilson A-2000 catchers’ mitt, more specifically, model A-2403. It’s top-of-the line all the way, the same glove I first used behind the dish 3 1/2 decades ago, when I was 15. Since then I’ve broken in exactly eight of them. I never strayed from my loyalty to the brand or model. From worn-out to just-broken-in, my son still has all of them, most lined up in chronological order under the bookcase in his room and the “newest” in his own equipment bag.

I first saw the black beauty last summer. I remember the exact place and time. It was a drizzly night in Rifle. We were sitting in the dugout waiting for the umpire to give us the thumbs-up to play ball. Will and I were coaching the team on which our sons played together. Without saying a word, he tossed the glove at me.

You knew a few things for certain without examining the glove too closely. It wasn’t a toy. A glove of that quality is a tool. It was only on the verge of being broken in, but whoever was in charge of the process knew what he was doing. It was well-oiled but not stickily so. The pocket was perfectly formed and the palm smooth as batter’s box dirt on Opening Day. The laces were torn near the top of the webbing on the finger side. It wasn’t a Little League pitcher who threw the damaging pitch. It wasn’t a Little League catcher with the nerve to stay in front of it. At best, that chin music was only tipped with a bat.

Max sat down next to me, maybe noticing my uncharacteristic quietness anywhere near a diamond. “Wow.” That’s all he said as I handed it to him to marvel over. Will beamed. Matt beamed. They knew they had discovered a treasure.

I knew of a guy in Pennsylvania who is the best I have ever seen at re-stringing gloves. He’s unofficially recommended by Wilson over its own craftsmen. Will and Matt sent the damaged glove off. Two weeks and 50 bucks later, it came back better than new. The shape, nearly perfect to begin with, was only enhanced by the artistic installation of new lacing.

To keep this thing from going extra innings, I’ll bring in the short relief. Last week Will came by my office. From beyond the fence out in left field, he tossed the glove into my lap. “It’s yours.”

I don’t think you can overstate the effect of giving away something of value for no apparent reason whatsoever. If the value happens to be more personal than economical, all the more so. It is even harder to describe what it’s like to receive it. It’s God’s handiwork at its finest and one of the little things that change people in significant ways.

The gift that came from Will to me that was really from Matt to Max, except for the awkwardness that comes from teenage boys giving presents directly to one another, is really so much more than that. I hope you see this. I hope you realize that a hopelessly sentimental baseball story is really a gift to everyone reading it and not from me. Play ball!


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