I believe in the power of a glove. This is not a religious conviction, though Annie Savoy and John Kinsella would probably disagree. I hold a simple belief that a glove can make a significant difference in someone’s life.
Gloves carry memories.
Shortly after my family moved from Colorado to Springfield, Missouri, Dad bought me my first real baseball glove. A Wilson, Mike Flanagan signature model with “Snap Action” and a “Grip-Tite Pocket.”
I remember wearing that glove and learning how to catch pop-flies with Dad on a baseball field that is no longer in existence. I wore the same glove when playing catch with my cousin, Craig, whose career as a catcher is filled with incredible stories — like catching a 20-plus inning game. That glove is also seen in one of my favorite pictures from my first baseball season. Even though the Mike Flanagan glove is 39 years old and too small for me, I still use it from time to time.
Gloves encourage physical play.
In recent years, the screen has become the social tool for teenagers. From video games to social media to streaming videos, studies report teens are staring at screens for around seven hours each day, or the approximate length of an MLB doubleheader. I completely understand the fascination. I loved playing Nintendo — RBI Baseball, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda. But sedentary lives aren’t good for anyone, especially growing bodies.
As one 2019 study summarized, “More than 75 percent of children under 12 are not getting enough free, active, playtime.” The older we get, the less we play.
According to The National Institute for Play (NIP), “A life or a culture deficient in play exists as a heightened major public health risk factor. The prevalence of stress-related diseases, interpersonal violence, addictions, and other health and well-being problems can be linked, like a deficiency disease, to the prolonged deprivation of play.”
Play is crucial, not only for our physical health, but our mental health.
“The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression,” declares the NIP. When we stop playing, our bodies and our brains pay for it.
Play increases creativity, cooperation, and compassion. Play wires our brains for optimism and helps us face and learn to overcome difficult challenges.
When a glove is in use, whether playing catch or on the field in a real game, screens are an unnecessary distraction. Gloves are best used underneath powder blue skies in wide-open spaces, far from windows. Gloves in use get bodies moving, which is good for muscles, bones, and brains.
Gloves create community.
In A Year of Playing Catch, I wrote:
Playing catch happens in the present tense, when life occurs. A whole-body experience involving the coordination of hands, eyes, feet, brain and heart, playing catch slows down the relentlessly steady beat of life’s drums and focuses us on what is happening right now, each throw and catch a prayerful rhythm of connecting, of establishing a relationship, of enjoying this moment with someone else.
In a time where people seem to be divided and disconnected from one another, where news seems to always be us versus them, playing catch brings people together.
Gloves encourage big dreams.
Jackie Robinson once said, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”
Good stories happen whenever we get out of the grandstands and dare to truly live, to chase whatever dreams are on our hearts.
Chasing baseball dreams is not always about being the best player in between the lines. Chasing baseball dreams means learning how to be a better teammate on and off the field.
To celebrate Opening Day of the 2021 MLB season, I will be giving away a new glove — a Wilson A2000.
In order to win this glove you must:
**Be 12 – 18 years old.
**Write an essay, 500 words or less, on what a new glove would mean to you.
**Submit the essay and a picture of your current glove to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31.
A panel of trustworthy, baseball-loving friends will read the essays and help me choose a winner.
I believe in the power of a glove to help make this world a better place, and now I want to read your stories.