Carrying around a baseball mitt has become habit. Not that it is some hold over from my little league days, but rather I picked up the practice from playing catch in the alley during breaks from rehearsal with a pop-rock group The Razz, I was in during the late seventies. The garage was just off Pico Boulevard near Twenty-ninth Street on the northeast side of Santa Monica College. During the breaks we would burn fast balls at each other and have to catch them or run the risk of having to fetch a run-away ball as it bounced and spun down the center of the alley along the concrete rain gutter. The activity broke up the repetition of going over song after song and gave us a chance to bullshit.
Mitts were a cinch to fine at yard sales and goodwill stores for fifty cents or a buck. Rawlins, Diamond Masters, Winners Choice, Spaulding, or just about any brand and in relatively good condition. There is something magically enticing about the leather and stitching, the smell and feel of a mitt. I was always puzzled why there are all these phrases written on mitts, like; Professional Model, Full Flex Pad, Griptite Pocket, Flex Action, Full Grain Cowhide, Nylon Stitches, Fingertip Lacing, Snap Action, and Custom Built. I can only imagine some bored player day dreaming reading the inside of his mitt when a line drive beans him on the noggin. There should be a disclaimer or something to the effect that reads, "Keep your eye on the ball."
After the years I have become an enthusiast and keep a pair of gloves in the back seat of the car just incase I get a hankering to throw a ball. My friends think it quite a novelty when I produce the mitts and insist that we pitch a ball back and forth. After a spell we get further apart and the ball is thrown faster and wilder. Before long they’re hooked and every time we get together out come the gloves.
There are the sounds the ball makes when it hits the mitt. A smack of satisfaction. A feel of fluidity. A link to Americana sports. The easy conversation that ensues. A reason to be out under the blue sky. That undercurrent competitiveness that creeps into to the fast ball. I have to keep my index finger untucked and exposed on the outside of the mitt because it starts to throb after awhile.
You can tell allot from the way a person throws a ball and how they catch. I secretly count how many times the ball passes between us without dropping.
The relationship and harmony of keeping the ball in the mitt. I prefer a hard ball. As it zeros in on you. That sudden slap sound of leather.