One of my most cherished possessions, the most loved piece of rotten leather this world has ever seen, where hits through the left side go to die, after a long run my glove has been retired due to injury. The glove formally known as “Pro Preferred™ Pam: The Heat Seeking Ball Magnet 2.0” was forced to retire on Sunday, March 18, after some severe leather tears to the palm area.
A day that I thought would never come; I had to put Ol’ Pam on the shelf for reasons you can see above. The rips are pretty noticeable, but there were holes for laces close to blowing out, along with those grey patches that are more pieces of the palm deteriorating. Pam and I have been through it all together, having had her since the very beginning of my UConn career all the way back in September 2014. She’s been all over the country with the Huskies, to upstate New York in the Perfect Game League, to Muzzy Field where she and I were painfully close to a Futures League ring, to the Cape with all its historic high school fields despite the subpar playing surfaces, and finally to Sarasota to get her fill of minor league baseball in before she could take the beating no longer.
Pam, who is around 62 in glove years, could arguably be the cause of one of my worst injuries in my career back in 2016 (although I will always argue it was Florida’s catcher Mike Rivera), when a line drive off the Gator catcher’s bat crushed my palm with the corners drawn in and one out in Game 2 of the Gainesville NCAA Regional. With the adrenaline pumping from doubling off the runner at 3rd base in the top of the 9th as we approached our last licks against the #1 ranked college baseball team in the country, I didn’t feel a thing at the time. However, the next day after our loss to Florida, while taking grounders in the pregame batting practice before our matchup with Georgia Tech, every time I received a throw or grounder, my hand throbbed with pain.
After losing to Georgia Tech in what ended up being our final game of the season, I changed playing to Bourne, MA and the Cape Cod League to begin my summer ball season, and the pain remained. It didn’t bother me as much when I was hitting, rather it was when I caught balls in the palm or at the top of my web when my index finger would bend backwards. About 8 games into the season when I approached my trainer for the Bourne Braves, Karen, about the issue with my hand was another showing of recklessness to do anything it takes to stay on the field after she took a look at it herself.
“Well Willy there could be a bone broken in there, I’ll set up an X-ray for you within the next day or two to get it checked out,” Karen said casually.
“What are you crazy?” I replied. “Harvey [our coach] might sit me for a game, there’s not time for that.”
“Well what are we going to do about it then? You asked for my help,” said Karen.
“I was asking for, you know, under the table trainer advice, no one can know about this.” Karen was great about it, she didn’t say anything and performed some heavy tissue massages on the area to break up the swelling (probably not a great idea in hindsight) but somehow had me at ease mentally thinking I was at least doing something to make my hand better.
As the dream Cape Cod season came to an end after I played in every game, I went to the best hand doctor east of the Mississippi in the middle of August who just so happens to work half his time in Sharon, CT, Dr. Yaghoubian. I had last seen him when I broke two of my fingers playing goalie in soccer my sophomore year of high school. Sure enough, the X-rays confirmed I had played my summer season with a small bone in my hand, called the sesamoid bone, shattered into pieces. After a cortisone shot and finishing up fall ball for UConn, a quick surgery and some rehabbing of my hand left nothing but a cool scare and an example of how frail my glove was, granted that was almost 2 years ago now (that’s how flimsy it is now upon retirement).
It’s hard to remember, but way back in the dark ages there were gloves before Pro Preferred™ Pam: The Heat Seeking Ball Magnet 2.0. Which leads into the explanation of the 2.0 part in Pam’s name, she wasn’t the first of her kind that had been with me on the field of battle
I had a glove that was almost a replica of Pam with the exception of a color scheme difference. She was loved, she had some great memories from junior and senior years of high school, summer ball with Team Connecticut, my first collegiate baseball experience with the Torrington Titans in the Futures League, and who could forget the two Adult League State Championships with the Tri-Town Trojans.
Towards the end of the Futures League season at a night game in Torrington, we had just finished up a game (whether we won or lost I do not remember it was too tragic of a night) and I went back to the area in front of our dugout where we all laid down our gloves and Pam 1.0 was nowhere to be found. In a full panic I asked everyone to check their bags and look all over the place for it, but no one had it and ballplayers just don’t usually take their teammates equipment 1) because it’s broken in for their teammate and not in a way they want it specifically and 2) that’s a quick way to upset the baseball gods if you ask me and you don’t want to do that. I can’t confirm it for sure, but to this day I still believe this crazy fan girl from Torrington took it (if you’re read this or the real person who took my glove reads this, show yourself you coward!)
I would be remiss if I did not bring up the first one, arguably the greatest glove to grace any baseball field on God’s green earth, my first true love, sigh, her name was Regina. What a glove she was, I first got her when I was 8 years old in 2004. She was once so fresh, nothing but the future ahead of her, before her many rips and repairs. She was with me through many epic Little League battles both representing Sharon and the Mid-County All-Star team, along with my beginning Team Connecticut years and my first two years of high school ball at Housatonic. I used Regina all the way until the end of fall ball in 2012, right around my 17th birthday.
An old picture of Regina my sophomore year after a a few serious surgeries to the palm and the web.
Just as I had received Pam 1.0 for my birthday that year, Regina took a hard line drive right to the web and the ball and the web ventured out to left field while I stood at third wondering what would have happened if that had been hit right at my face. The end story with Regina is a sad one, as my Dad did repair her after that incident just so I could bring her to UConn and play light catch with her on an occasion. I went to my cubby in “The Barn”, our hitting facility at UConn, where Regina always was, incase I ever wanted to use her. Coach Hourigan one day had gone through the cubby areas at the end of fall ball early in my sophomore year to clean out what he thought was “garbage”. After looking everywhere for Regina in full panic mode, it had been confirmed that he threw Regina in the trash (moment of silence, Regina Rawlings April 2004-October 2015).
Yes I know, I’m psychotic, hell I just wrote three pages about baseball gloves that I’ve come to know and love over the years. That’s the type of mental state I’m in right now after recently retiring my girl Pam, but that’s how attached to our game-items us ballplayers can get. There are a few like myself, but when something is working well for me, a glove, a bat, a long sleeve undershirt, etc., I stick with it until the bitter end. I like to think that it’s part of my respect for the game, the respect for the tools I use each day that lead to success. Since I started at UConn every bat I’ve used has had a name (I just broke Bianca Birch over in Ft. Myers against the Red Sox, she was a great bat), I have taken all of these bats on the bus with me on road trips because it gets cold down underneath the bus for an aluminum or wood bat, and occasionally I will buckle the bats up in the seats to make sure they have a safe and comfortable ride. Just more weird and crazy things you’ll see out of baseball players, we’re a strange bunch.
But on that note we welcome my newest glove to the family, a pretty blonde glove with my name on the thumb (I know it’s way too nice I will get it dirty in no time don’t worry). Her name is Penny, welcome to the family Penny, but I will always love you Pam.