I was expecting something else.
Recently, I asked Nolan Arenado about baseball gloves in general, as well as his baseball gloves. I arrived to the Rockies clubhouse with a pretty good foundation of questions. Baseball gloves are interesting. They are the only pieces of baseball equipment with any permanence. As a material object, there is something about a baseball glove that elevates them above anonymous uniforms, endless batting gloves, and fragile bats. Not only that, but it’s an intimate object. It literally molds to a player’s body. Permanence makes a bond between object and actor. It’s more than a tool, I thought. I came away with something else.
Here’s the Disneyfied version of our conversation.
Nolan Arenado has never not had a baseball glove. His baseball gloves predate his memories of life. His first arrived when he "was a little baby." The baseball glove has always been there for Arenado. Upon Nolan Arenado’s passage into memorable consciousness, he had a baseball glove. It was a trusty Rawlings that saw him through tee-ball as a child.
Nolan Arenado doesn’t find baseball gloves as much as they find him—it’s a cosmic connection. Case in point: Nolan Arenado once lost a baseball glove, but it made its way back to him. The thread that brought them together was a third party: Arenado’s best friend. And what did Arenado do during high school when he needed a new glove? He found one among the school’s equipment—"in the locker room." One of those gloves served him well. The one he used during his sophomore year took him all the way to Double-A Tulsa.
Nolan Arenado cares for his baseball gloves. He has several at any given time. The one he uses during games now he has had for four years—his "gamer"—although he just started using it last season. He knows which one will be his gamer because of the feel. Baseball gloves don’t arrive like that though. It takes effort, and it takes a long time to work a glove in. Asked whether or not he performs that labor himself: "I work them in." Gamers are for games. During the offseason, Arenado takes the glove home and leaves it in his room. He doesn’t use it. It's role too specific. It’s reserved for the real thing.
Nolan Arenado is protective of his baseball gloves. Arenado regards his glove as an object to be respected by others. He indicated that some players are protective to the point where they don’t want anyone else to touch their glove. Arenado is not so defensive. But he has two rules: "don’t throw it" and "don’t put it on your hand." The former shows disrespect while the latter violates the intimate bond between player and leather.
And here’s the actual nature of our talk.
Arenado has always had a baseball glove. When he was young, they were frequently gifts. His glove was just like the gloves other boys and girls had. One of his early ones had a Randy Johnson faux-autograph. He added his own ink to one of his early baseball gloves: "Back in the day we put our [phone] numbers on our gloves." That’s how he found the one he lost.
Baseball gloves are pieces of equipment. His high school had gloves, and he found some to use. The standards were likely minimal: does it fit? Is it broken in? Can I use it to play? Arenado received a baseball glove from his father when he was a sophomore in high school. That’s the one he used until he reached Double-A. Arenado "really liked" that glove, and he "tried to take care of it" as best he could. But with wear, tear, and thousands of ground balls, "it just got ripped up." Then he moved on.
While Arenado works his gloves in himself and takes it home with him during the offseason, he’s not attached to his gloves—even his gamer. If it needs re-lacing, the trainers do it. He's not aware of that many players who re-lace gloves themselves. During the season, he leaves his glove in the clubhouse with the rest of his equipment.
Nolan Arenado is protective of his baseball glove in the same way that I am of the floors in my apartment. They’re my floors, and I take care of them, so please kindly remove your shoes before entering. It’s the stuff of everyday possessiveness. Likewise, Arenado expects other players to respect his baseball glove, just as he respects theirs. His "don’t throw it" and "don’t put it on your hand" rules, I am guessing, are standard and implicit.
It’s not about the glove. Baseball gloves don’t have mystical properties that make a player better. Arenado has no "wonder glove" made from the hide of an ancient cow that he tanned and cut himself. His gloves are pieces of leather laced together with other places of leather. They are tools. And while baseball gloves are the only pieces of equipment that have a degree of permanence and intimacy, they remain tools. Nolan Arenado has won two Gold Glove awards, and he’s well on his way to his third. He’s won his two using different baseball gloves, and he very well might win more in the future with different bits of leather altogether. Nolan Arenado’s talent and future aren’t tied to objects. It's about him.
I don’t know why I expected to find anything other than that.