My Baseball Glove

In the fall of 1967 I entered the doors of Webster Junior High knowing no one. We had moved to a new town. I had no friends going in but by the spring of 1968 I had made a few friends. A small group of familiar boys that were in some of my classes invited me sit with them at lunch. They made the new school a lot easier for a shy boy, like me.Charlie, Eugene, and Vitus made lunch time fun with jokes and stories about their families and lives. Vitus would teach us a few colorful words in his native Lithuanian. And after school in the early spring we’d play baseball together. But in school, in physical education we played baseball too. Most of the other boys brought their mitts to school and used them during our games. My mitt was really a child’s mitt but I brought it too, even though other boys would make fun of it.It wasn’t really physical education. The teacher, or coach, would have us line up outside near the backstop and have us count off; 1-2. Some of the guys would arrange themselves to be on the same team and sometimes I would be shoved over in line so that one guy could be on the same team as another but not on my team. Pretty soon 30 or so guys would be lining up to bat and 30 or so guys would take the field. Those gifted in physical aptitude were in the infield and the rest of us dotted the outfield.I would stand in my place, somewhere in the far reaches of right field surrounded by guys with thick glasses and/or thick thighs in our gym shorts. I would punch my too little mitt and wait and hope the ball didn’t get hit to me. Eventually though, the ball would be hit and I could tell it was heading right for me. A few times I was lucky enough to catch it and amidst the shouts and jeers of my teammates throw it towards the second baseman. It was humiliating if it went over his head or bounced a couple of times before he could scoop it up. But not nearly as humiliating as when the ball bounced off my glove and over my head or went through my legs. At least there were no girls watching, I’d tell myself.Oh, but when I played baseball with my friends after school I seemed a different person. I could catch, I could throw and I could even hit the ball. And even though my mitt was too small nobody laughed at me. They were a great bunch of guys. Meanwhile, back at home my brothers and I would often scoop a couple spoons of Nestlé’s Quick into our milk or heat it in water on the stove to make chocolate syrup for our ice cream. One day I noticed on the back of the box a special offer. For $5 and the Nestlé’s Quick coupon you could buy a Rawlings genuine baseball glove with the patented webbed pocket! I’m not sure where I got the $5 but I sent it in for my baseball glove and waited patiently. Finally, the last week of school the glove came in the mail. It smelled so good and I think I wore it to bed. The last day of school, Charlie, Vitus, Eugene and I rode our bikes to the house where Vitus had just mowed the lawn. There we set up a baseball diamond with a few paper plates and a brick or two. I was playing 3rd base, something I’d never be allowed to do in school and the sun was shining on the freshly mowed grass on a perfect, late spring day. A line drive was hit by someone straight at me and I instinctively kneeled and put up my new Rawlings baseball glove with the patented webbed pocket and caught the ball. Everyone applauded my catch.“You looked just like a pro!” Charlie laughed, “Dropping down on your knee like that!”I didn’t see those guys all summer and in the fall I only saw Eugene in the halls a few times. Though I looked I never could find Charlie and Vitus. Still I have the memory of my new friends from Webster Junior High and our fun times. And I still have my Rawlings baseball glove with the patented webbed pocket. Although after almost 50 years it’s like me, beginning to show its age.