CLEVELAND–You’ve seen me many times over the last three years, but we’ve never been formally introduced. This being my first appearance in the postseason, I guess we should get that out of the way, since chances are pretty good I’ll be grabbing your attention a few times this October.
It’s Rawlings Pro Preferred H-Web, though my friends know me better by the initials inscribed on the thumb: JBJ. That’s right. I belong to Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who usually shows me off as often as he can but has kept my private life, well, private.
But with the Red Sox playing the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the American League Division Series here Thursday night, Jackie gave me the go-ahead to grant my first interview.
You must admit, from the top, that I’m very good looking. I think it’s the mocha-colored leather, offset by the dark chocolate of the pocket. If you look closely, you’ll see why they call me H-Web: The pocket is criss-crossed by leather straps that form the letter H.
This is Rawlings Pro Preferred H-Web, or as he is known to his friends, JBJ, the initials inscribed on the thumb. (Photo by Gordon Edes)
I wish I could offer a better back story to why Jackie chose me, but the way I hear it, he tried a few different models before settling on me. He likes the H web better than the Trapeze web, which has a “T-shape” and a lot more intricate lacing. Jackie says he feels he has more control using me; let’s just say I haven’t let him down yet.
I learned pretty early that Jackie is not exactly sentimental when it comes to his gloves. I asked him once what he remembered about his first glove, and he told me, Absolutely nothing. He never was much of a glove connoisseur as a kid; he always figured that any fly ball hit in his direction, he could catch, no matter what kind of leather he was wearing on his left hand.
Still, I’ve enjoyed privileged status ever since Jackie began wearing me during the 2013 season. I’m his game glove; my days of having to show up for practice ended once I was broken in to his satisfaction. And I wear no hand but his. Don’t even think to ask him if you can borrow me. He let a few people try me before I was ready for game use, but after that, uh-uh. Well, maybe Mookie tried me once; I’ll never tell.
You’ll find me before tonight’s game on the second shelf of Jackie’s cubicle in the visitors’ clubhouse of Progressive Field. He tells me he really likes me–we’re comfortable together–but that’s as far as it goes. Pampered? Not a chance. No special oils or creams, no nights tucked under his pillow. Even the clubhouse guys are instructed just to leave me be.
That’s OK. There may be other gloves who receive more TLC, but the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen–I’ll put my highlight reel up against anybody. Jackie doesn’t like to talk much about his great catches, but me, I’m more than happy to remind you of what we’ve accomplished together.
It’s not bragging, right, if you can back it up. So think about the catch we made against the White Sox, Rubby De La Rosa on the hill, Tyler Flowers at the plate, the ball hit into the right-center gap, poor Flowers thinking he had a sure double until JBJ and I went all Superman on him.
That’s still a personal favorite, ranking right up there with the one where we did our best Willie Mays in Detroit. Then there’s this twisting-and-turning one we made in Dave Dombrowski’s first game as Sox president. And a bunch of other A-listers this summer that we’ve come to take for granted.
Why do I mention them here, other than the fact I get chills every time I think about ’em? Because I have a feeling, like I said when we first started this chat, that sooner or later you’re going to notice me this October.
I’m not the only one. Check out what our Game 1 pitcher, Rick Porcello, said during his pregame media session Wednesday afternoon.
“When you look at the three outfielders that we have and the ground that they can cover, the speed that they have, the arms that they have, I don’t think you’re going to find a better three,” Rick said.
Good stuff, though I felt a bit slighted he didn’t mention the gloves.
Funny, but while we can all recall all the walkoff hits that have defined October drama, the great defensive plays, not so much. Willie’s catch in the ’54 Series, Brooks Robinson at third in the ’70 Series, Dewey Evans in the right-field corner in ’75. Derek Jeter against the A’s in the ’01 AL division series. I’m sure there are others, but they don’t come as quickly to mind.
“People always remember the homers,” Jackie once told me.
My answer to that? Hey, if anyone is capable of doing it both ways, with the bat and glove, it’s JBJ. He hit 26 home runs this season, more than he’s ever hit in his life. A walkoff and a game-saving catch? Let’s just say I’m not ruling it out.
Turns out that David Ortiz isn’t the only one on the verge of retirement. H-web is nearing the end of his great run, too. (Photo by Gordon Edes)
Hey, does anybody have a Kleenex? I get a little choked up when I get to this part of the story. Jackie hasn’t made it official, but he’s hinted I’m past my prime. Don’t take this the wrong way, he told me, but you’ve gotten old. You’ve grown flimsy. The padding is wearing out. Hey, he said, the time comes for everyone, even Big Papi…and you.
He hasn’t come right out and told me this is it, but truth is, he’s already picked out my successor. Yep, that’s him, going through the same orientation I did once upon a time.
All good glove stories must come to an end…this one is awaiting his turn (Photo by Gordon Edes).
So what is to become of me? Jackie has given me his word: When I’ve made my final catch, he’ll take me home.
I just hope that it won’t be long before I’m joined by a gold-plated cousin. I deserve that much.