When I was a child—years before I decided I’d be a journalist—I wanted to be a professional baseball player. A first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, to be exact. I’d played the position for years on Little League teams and I imagined someday I’d be on the field at Fenway Park, lapping up chants of Sanchez-Sanchez-Sanchez as I made yet another amazing pick at first to save a run.
My parents—it was probably my dad—bought me my first baseman’s glove for Christmas. It was either 1987 or 1988, and it was a brown left-handed Rawlings with a Wally Joyner endorsement. The mitt was bigger than my head. It was beautiful, perfect, and it was mine. I’d been pestering my folks about getting a proper glove for my future career in the Bigs, and they’d gotten it. I remember the glove was placed next to the brick fireplace in the living room. I slept with it on my hand that night.
It took several weeks of oil and rubber bands and games of catch to break it in. I used the glove in games for years—making pick after superb pick. I wrapped myself in the identity of a baseball player.
Reality hit in high school. I had yet to reach the 6-foot height I am today, and I was a seriously scrawny 120 pounds. I was made a backup at first, then I was moved to the outfield. I stopped hitting. I wasn’t growing. My baseball career was over.
But I kept the glove. It was faded and scratched by then, but it fit me, well, like a glove. The top edge was a bit frayed; the yellow padding on the inside, near my wrist, was exposed. I no longer saw myself on the field at Fenway Park, but I could never see myself without that mitt. It was in my parents’ car when my mom drove me across the Plains so I could attend college. I played catch at the quad with my friends, then brought it home to Colorado during school breaks. The glove went with me to Cincinnati, to Little Rock, to Philadelphia, and then back home to Colorado. When my son got old enough to play baseball, I brought it to his games and helped coach his teams whenever I could. The two of us played catch in the park. When snow fell outside in the winter, we played catch in the unfinished basement.
Which brings me to this: I lost the glove on Saturday. I was helping at my 6-year-old son’s game and I left it behind, distracted after the game while talking to my wife, to my son and my daughter, and to the other parents. In my mind, I can still see where I set it down—right next to the chain fence, near the third-base dugout. After I’d searched the car and my son’s bag for it, I emailed one of my son’s coaches. It wasn’t in the team’s bag. I drove back to the park with my daughter. We looked for it in the darkness. My 9-year-old could see the pained look on my face. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she told me. I told her it was OK, but, of course, it wasn’t.
I went back to the park on Wednesday, checked the lost-and-found at the recreation center a couple dozen yards away. The woman behind the counter said there might be some gloves in the back. When she re-emerged with a right-hander’s Rawlings, I sadly shook my head and thanked the woman for her time. I re-checked my car. I went back through the house. Nothing.
So what am I saying? Really, I don’t know. But thinking about my missing glove gives me a sick feeling. I put a message on Twitter about it the other night, and one of my college buddies couldn’t believe what had happened. That made it even worse because I now knew my friends understood how much that piece of leather and lacing meant to me. And—I feel stupid for admitting this—it hurt.
I think maybe all this means a lot of things: That glove reminds me of my childhood as a baseball player. It reminds me of college and hanging out with my friends. Most importantly, it reminds me of my time with my son, just as he was getting to love the game I already love so much. That mitt was my past, my present, and my future. And now it’s gone.
It’s finally sinking in now. I will never see my glove again, and I’m so sorry for that. I will have to get another glove so I can play catch with my son. I guess I have to move on.*
*Editor’s Note: Even after writing this piece, Robert Sanchez couldn’t move on and he continued looking for his glove. He found it, yesterday, at the bottom of bag during his son’s baseball practice. We’re all relieved.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock