It was summer, in the late 1950s. I was a young kid about to enter the “Sandblasters” – an intermediate baseball league, just a step below Little League.
My old hand-me-down ball glove was feeling it’s age, so I was saving my money for a new one. The fact that all my friends were sporting new gloves may have fueled my motives as well…
Finally the day arrived when I had enough cash to plunk down $8.95 at the Montgomery Wards store and buy my very own mitt. I didn’t care that it was a Hawthorne, Wards’ economy “house brand”.
It had a great new-leather smell and it was a Stan Musial signature model.
After the initial thrill began to wear off, I noticed it was rather stiff and felt awkward in my hand. It had no “pocket”, like my old glove.
A pocket is important in a baseball mitt. It is the very heart of the glove—a vague yet tangible “sweet spot” inside the webbing, where every hit or thrown ball would ideally be captured.
In the mind of a yet unspoiled and innocent lad, the pocket held a certain mystique—a magnetic attraction to any spherical horsehide object in motion.
My brother told me how I could quickly form a pocket in my new glove: oil the mitt generously with goose grease, place a ball in the web of the glove, then close the glove around the ball and tie it tightly with a rawhide shoelace.
For some yet unknown reason, it was also important to place the bundle under my pillow and sleep on it.
The next morning I anxiously unwrapped shoelace, glove and ball to behold my masterpiece.
My attempt to produce a feature which only time, repetition and everyday use could form, left me with a greasy, stinky glove—a grimy pillow case—and still no pocket.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A ready-to-eat microwave meal may be convenient, but it will never have the flavor, nutrition or satisfaction of a slowly simmered stew.
Clever marketing tells me I don’t have to break-in my new/old stone-washed, faded jeans. I am led to believe some peasant washer-woman has already scrubbed the life out of them at river’s edge.
In an effort to circumvent the natural maturing process, some of our greatest athletes have turned to “trainer’s little helper” in order to reach their career goals a little sooner.
A writer takes a questionable, yet effective shortcut to achieve a notoriety only years of wadded-up misfires can produce.
Need I expound on the virtues of a fine, aged wine as opposed to a jug of Ripple?
Most good things in life take time. The cheap imitation ultimately disappoints.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I put that greasy Stan Musial signature glove on the shelf and played ball that summer with my faithful old mitt.
Eventually the strings rotted away and the cotton stuffing began to spill out. I pulled the Hawthorne off the shelf. It was my introduction to a new journey in the lessons of “seasoning”.
People are a lot like a baseball glove.
We begin some new task feeling a little stiff and awkward. The first few balls hit our way may bounce off the heel of the glove – or escape like a spilled ice cream scoop off the top of the webbing.
We may be tempted to bypass the break-in period.
But then, after a few more stinging line drives and bad hops, we loosen up a bit and a comfortable sweet spot begins to form in the very heart of our being.
We return to an innocent child-like “knowing” that the object of our endeavor will eventually find it’s mark.
It’s called “the pocket”…and there are no shortcuts.
-written June, 2009