Beltre used the same Rawlings glove for the first 11 years of his career, and brought it back at times last season. Those were its final days.
“Last year is the last year I’m using it,” Beltre said. “I’m going to put that one in a frame.”
That’s the longest-tenured glove in Beltre’s career. He estimates a glove has lasted him two or three seasons over the last decade of his career.
Beltre, who has won five Gold Gloves in his 20-year career, has his preferences when it comes to his glove. What player doesn’t?
He’d like to think he isn’t superstitious about it. But …
“I can’t say I’m not, but I try not to be,” Beltre said. “I don’t really look at it that way. If I think the glove feels good and is ready to go, I’ll use it. If it feels comfortable the way I want it to, I’ll keep using it no matter what.”
The player-glove relationship has long been a love affair in baseball. It’s the most intimate piece of equipment, particularly for a player known for his defense.
Darwin Barney, who spent most of spring training with the Rangers before being released, may rank among the most meticulous players in the game when it comes to the glove.
Barney, who won a Gold Glove as a second baseman with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, had a backhander pop out of his glove once at Nationals Park. What happened next?
“That glove went right in the garbage,” Barney said. “It’s the next one’s turn. It’s very hard to bring a new glove into a game for the first time. It’s nerve-racking.”
Barney still uses the glove from his Gold Glove season all these years later – a Wilson A2000 Super Skin Series 1786 11.5. Now, though, that glove is strictly for game action.
“I don’t even use it to warm up for the game. I don’t even play catch right before the game with it,” Barney said. “It’s only when I’m playing in an actual game and cross the line. Once you get the pocket right, you don’t want to mess with it too much. That’s why I only use it for the game.”
Barney estimates that it takes him a full year to break in a glove that he’d be comfortable using in a game. Beltre, on the other hand, needs just two or three weeks to break in a glove.
For Barney, he has three gloves throughout the season – one is his gamer, one is his future gamer he’s breaking in and the other is for workouts and practice.
The workouts and practice glove “will never be the gamer.”
“I don’t cut corners. I don’t microwave it. I don’t do anything like that,” Barney said. “It just takes a while.”
Oh, and Barney isn’t going away from the Wilson A2000 Super Skin Series 1786 11.5” anytime soon.
“In college my coach tried to give me an Easton glove my freshman year and I’m pretty sure I handed that right back,” Barney said. “I was like, ‘I can’t use an Easton glove.’ Luckily we could use something else.”
A few players aren’t as particular about their gloves. Utility man Jurickson Profar carries multiple gloves in case he’s needed in the infield or the outfield.
But Profar is relatively carefree about his gloves. He has the clubhouse attendants break in his gloves, and gives them to children in his native Curacao after each season.
“The clubhouse guys will play catch and stuff and break them in for me,” Profar said. “I usually use one a season, give it to the kids and then get a new one the next year.”
Profar is somewhat old-school in his approach to gloves. They weren’t always held in the sort of esteem by players such as Beltre and Barney.
Back in the day, it was common for players of opposing teams to share gloves.
A shortstop, for instance, would leave his glove on the infield for the opposing shortstop and vice versa. It happened as recently as the 1990s when the Giants’ Willie McGee and the Cardinals’ Vince Coleman shared a glove in one game.
Heck, in the early days of the game gloves were optional. Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee is legendary for being the last second baseman to play without a glove during an 18-year career from 1882-1899.
No player in today’s game is going to follow in the bare-handed footsteps of McPhee. Instead, there is more attention paid to gloves than ever.
Double A Frisco catcher Jose Trevino, who has won two Gold Gloves in the minor leagues, has a particular process to break in a glove.
He uses two catcher’s mitts during a season and works on them with Rangers assistants. Former Rangers catcher Geno Petralli, who is a coach with Triple A Round Rock, tightens the inside webbing for Trevino, and catching coordinator Chris Briones helps him double-knot the outside laces.
Trevino said it only takes him a couple days to break in his All-Star catcher mitts once Petralli and Briones have done their respective duties to them.
“Double-knot the laces and tighten up the insides helps make it a deeper pocket and prevents it from falling apart and tearing,” Trevino said. “They’ll last all year, especially if you keep up with them, take care of them.
“You treat her good, she’ll treat you good.”