One Saturday morning during those too few seasons after tee ball and before the double digit-age years when kids and parents start taking Little League Baseball far too seriously, my wife, Kathi, asked me a question out of the blue about Mike’s batting glove.
Mike was probably about eight and I’m pretty sure it was early in the season, so his lifetime number of at bats against a pitcher other than somebody’s dad probably numbered less than 20, including the entire previous season. He didn’t have any blisters that I was aware of – never had -- and I couldn’t figure out why she would care even a little bit about whether or not he had a batting glove.
Now I’m the kind of guy who always wants to be at the game early to demonstrate our commitment to the coach (when I coached my daughter’s under eight year-old soccer team, I always started the first six kids who showed up). So, Mike and I would always leave for the field early without Kathi. She would then come later with her mother, Mimi, or our daughter, Meaghan.
The game was already underway and I was coaching first base, so her question interrupted my concentration. I can’t remember whether that first inning interruption affected the outcome of the game (kidding), but I couldn’t imagine what could be so important.
“Steve, does Michael have his batting glove?”
“What ?” I answered hurriedly, turning my head only partly in her direction so I wouldn’t lose track of the count. “Why do you care about his batting glove? Does he even have a batting glove? What does he need a batting glove for?”
Kathi apparently felt it was a legit question because I was in charge of Mike’s equipment and we left, with Mike in uniform, before she did. Rest assured that the only glove I was worried about was his fielding glove, which he actually did need, because he was playing third base.
Curiously, she didn’t really answer and left me to my critical first base (kidding again)coaching duties. “Kids this age don’t need batting gloves,” I muttered to myself while turning fully back toward the field.
The next day, Sunday, we had another game and this time she came early with us. I had forgotten the previous day’s conversation until I saw Mike wander over to grab a bat and a helmet in preparation for his first at bat of the game. Then, I watched him reach into his back pocket and pull out a little blue batting glove. It had to be the smallest size that they make and I noticed that it matched our hat and uniform color blue.
Then, I looked over at Kathi and saw her smiling and pointing at Mike while commiserating with another mother. At that moment I realized that it wasn’t about comfort or gripping the bat, about which Kathi knows little. It wasn’t even about preventing blisters, about which she knows a lot.
It was about cuteness. The little boy putting the little batting glove on the little hand was just too cute for words and Kathi had to get her fix.
Then I began to notice that most of these kids, some not even 100 months old, had batting gloves. And they handled them much the same way that Major League Baseball players do, sticking them in the back pocket, putting them on as part of the on-deck ritual and peeling them off after the at bat.
It was a mom-concocted conspiracy of cuteness.
Sporting goods companies were selling hundreds of thousands of these triple small size batting gloves. Millions of dollars were being spent on these thin shapes of fabric that serve no purpose whatsoever. And they were manufactured in different colors so that moms can match them up to their kids’ uniform hue.
Whether these style-conscious moms know anything about the meaningful tools their sons actually do need on the field – a broken-in fielding glove, the right size bat, cups for the catchers – doesn’t matter. Their kids will have a batting glove and it will be the right color! ###
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Happy Birthday John Daly!
2 years ago