Glove Day Road Journal: Spring 2020
Wilson's annual Glove Day is underway and you've got a front-row seat. Wilson Baseball writer (and Glove Day road warrior) Jake Misener gives you the play-by-play
Day VI (2/27/20): Mesa, AZ
Growing up watching the Cubs play on WGN while laying on my grandparents’ living room floor, I’ve loved that team my entire life. So walking into the team’s complex in Mesa this week was surreal, to say the least.
I was there when the Cubs were rebuilding and I stood in the second row off the parade route when millions of people flooded the streets of Chicago after the World Series title four years ago.
This year, I experienced a new kind of excitement, working at the team’s Glove Day. Top prospect Nico Hoerner and fellow infielder Zack Short were the first two to check out what Aso and the team had to offer. Hoerner has a pair of custom blonde A2000 1786 models that, hopefully, will be a part of many a double play this summer.
Catcher Willson Contreras’ mitt is the epitome of the collaborative relationship between Aso and the best players in the world. Through countless iterations and re-designs, the two came up with a custom mitt that fits his need behind the dish. Contreras’ feedback, paired with Aso’s decades of experience, helped the two come up with the perfect design.
Late last summer, Kyle Schwarber came in and worked with Ryan and Aso, designing his new custom A2000 1799. Featuring Saddle Tan SnakeSkin Pro Stock Leather and Red and Blue Bold logos, this gamer has a special nod to his ‘Schwarber’s Neighborhood Heroes’ foundation, which honors first responders. Check out our Instagram Stories for more.
Left-hander Kyle Ryan joined #TeamWilson this offseason, sticking with a clean, classic look with his gamer. You couldn’t ask for a nicer guy – and after a breakout season in 2019, we’re happy to have him aboard.
Jon Lester grabbed one of his customs, as well – which stays true to his A2000 JL34GM – traditional Black Pro Stock Leather with straightforward gray logos. He’s a no-nonsense, put your nose to the grindstone kind of guy, so that’s hardly a surprise. Still, you love what he brings to the table as a competitor each time he takes the ball.
That does it for this year’s Road Journal. Stay tuned as we wind down Spring Training this week by following @wilsonballglove on Instagram and thanks for riding shotgun with us this spring!
Day V (2/25/20): Goodyear, AZ
After 10 hours of flight/airport time on Sunday after finishing up at Braves camp in Florida, I finally arrived in Phoenix to kick off the second leg of my Glove Day adventure. On Monday, I took a much-needed day off (yes, I actually do quite a bit every day besides just deliver custom A2K and A2000s to players) and did an 11 mile walk/hike to Camelback Mountain outside Scottsdale. It was a nice workout and a good way to unplug and recharge heading into another busy week.
On Tuesday, we hit the road and headed across town to Goodyear, where the Cleveland Indians make their Cactus League home. The Tribe is hoping to get back on top in the American League Central after missing out on the division crown for the first time since 2015 last season – and if they hope to do so, they’ll need their starting rotation to help lead the way. That staff is headline by a trio of Wilson Advisory Staff members in Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac.
Clevinger lives his life his own way – which is the same we he approaches his work on the mound. There are few guys who push the limits with custom gloves in a way even remotely close to Clevinger, who stopped in to Wilson HQ late last summer to personally design his 2020 gamer. The end result? A blazing hot custom A2000 B2 with Red SnakeSkin Pro Stock Leather. You think that’s loud enough? Not even close. We brought back the sunflower thumb stitching Clevinger showcased on his glove last season and took it a step further, adding it as a palm stamp, as well. Why the B2 pattern? Clevinger grew up as an infielder, so even though more pitchers are shifting to larger models, the 12” B2 still feels plenty large enough for the hard-throwing right-hander.
Meanwhile, Carrasco’s glove is something sure to tug at the heart strings of players and fans everywhere. As most people know, to this day, Carrasco continues to battle leukemia, which he was diagnosed with last season. He – and the baseball world – rallied around the #CookieStrong mantra in 2019 and his 2020 gamer is dedicated to that rallying cry with an exclusive palm stamp depicting ‘Cookie’ triumphantly screaming as he walked off the mound late last season after inducing a huge double play. Given his size, he prefers the B125 model – a full half-inch larger than the B2 – but regardless of which of his two designs he takes the mound with, you’re sure to take note.
At the All-Star Game each summer, there’s a Stand Up to Cancer moment between innings. Last year, with the game hosted by Cleveland, Carrasco came out to the field shortly after his diagnosis to roaring cheers and raucous applause from tens of thousands of fans. Seeing that energy poured into a custom glove was something I, personally, won’t ever forget.
The customs didn’t stop there, either. Slugging All-Star first baseman Carlos Santana picked up a new first base mitt, featuring Navy SnakeSkin Pro Stock Leather, Cesar Hernandez picked up a couple new gloves as he competes with fellow Wilson Ad Staff member Christian Arroyo for reps at second. Arroyo paid homage to his mother with his custom A2000 PP05, commenting as he held it for the first time: “My mom’s name is on it, so it had to be pretty.”
And pretty it was.
Day IV (2/20/20): Lakeland, FL
For the first time since arriving in Florida, the morning dawned and we had cloudy, overcast weather. Well, that’s what eventually happened – but hitting the road shortly after five in the morning means the sun isn’t quite up yet regardless.
We hit the road with some much-needed coffee and cruised down to Tigertown in Lakeland, Florida to visit Ron Gardenhire and his Detroit Tigers.
As has been the case for a few years now, left-hander Daniel Norris was the first man out of the clubhouse to come get his gloves. He’s worked very closely with Ryan on his gamers in recent years – and he uses a semi-untraditional model when he’s on the mound – an A2K DW5.
This year, he went with an all-yellow colorway with ‘Just Keep Livin’ embroidered on the thumb. Why that expression? Take a look at his Instagram and it’ll make sense. Norris is one of the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet – and you can tell as soon as you meet him.
Shortly thereafter, his rotation mate and fellow southpaw Matt Boyd came out, carrying two of his previous gamers – a pair of custom A2000 B2s – one an orange and navy model and the other an all-blonde look. He asked Ryan to tighten up the webs on both so he can keep rocking them along with his new gamer, a vintage tan B2 with gray lacing and logos.
Jorge Bonifacio wasted no time cooking up a new custom for his new team – an orange, navy and grey A2000 YP66SS. Alex Wilson has come full circle this season, as well, returning to Detroit with a Texas A&M-themed model with black SnakeSkin Pro Stock Leather and an unforgettable motto on the ring finger – ‘Let Er Rip Tater Chip!’
Seriously, tell me you’ll forget that anytime soon.
Christin Stewart took full advantage of the personalization available to him, as well, with F.O.E on the thumb – ‘Family Over Everything’. Willi Castro went with a pair of gloves from the bags and Ryan is working on re-lacing them with orange lace this weekend to give them even more pop.
The last man to make his way out on his way to Photo Day? Future Hall of Famer and former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera picked up a pair of A2000 MC24 GM first base mitts. Often viewed as a designated hitter at this point in his career, Miggy showed up to camp leaner than ever – ready to show Detroit he’s ready to hold down first base in 2020.
We’ll be visiting the Tigers’ American League Central rival, the Minnesota Twins, in Fort Myers on Friday. Take my word for it – you’re going to want to see the gloves these guys designed.
Day III (2/19/20): Sarasota & Bradenton, Fl
A pair of local camps means you get to sleep in till 5:30. What. A. Treat. It also means you get to enjoy some coffee and breakfast at your hotel before hitting the road for the first camp of the day. It’s the little things, guys. It really is. (Like three coffees before hopping in the van in the morning).
On a humid morning in Sarasota, we opened the third day of camps visiting the O’s. Every year, the guys in Baltimore create some of the hottest customs in the league. I mean, how can you not with black and orange?
Mychal Givens came over and we chatted about his custom A2000 D33 – an all-orange design he’s used for years. The right-hander is ready for another year as a key piece in the pen, but it wasn’t baseball that took up most of our time. Instead, we talked a bit about his charity, the Givens Back Foundation. It’s based in his hometown, nearby Tampa, and focuses on enabling inner-city youth through sports.
Another Orioles hurler, Alex Cobb, spoke with Ryan about one of the most popular gloves we’ve ever designed – the 2016 Old Glory glove. Nearly five years later, people still talk about this model – which Ryan made specifically for Cobb, whose brother served in the armed forces. He also showed us a new addition to his wardrobe, his grandfather’s WWII dog tags. Cobb said it best when he said that something like that makes it real.
As a longtime Cubs fan, it was really cool working with new Baltimore pitcher Rob Zastryzny, who won a World Series title with the team back in 2016. He went with a pair of B2 models – a blonde A2000 and a black A2K. He’s got plenty of familiarity with his new team, though. Brandon Hyde, the team’s manager, served on the coaching staff in 2016.
Soon enough, we were loading up the van and hitting the road – shooting over to Bradenton to pay the Bucs a visit at Pirate City.
Pirate City will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first camp I ever worked with Ryan – complete with appearances from Jameson Taillon and Josh Bell. This year, Taillon continued to work his way back from Tommy John surgery and Bell swung by just for a moment – but the rest of the guys made this one unforgettable yet again.
Bryan Reynolds, who finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, picked up a pair of new outfield gloves. His first choice was a new addition to the Glove Day offerings, an A2000 1800, designed with Black SuperSkin and Pro Stock Leather with Blonde accents. The other, an A2K 1799, featuring Black Leather and Saddle Tan SnakeSkin Pro Stock Select.
Geoff Hartlieb was all smiles when he picked up his custom A2K D33. It wasn’t anything that was overdone or too loud – but it was beautiful, a perfect combination of Black and Saddle Tan. KeBryan Hayes came by and when he saw his custom 1799 – covered with Black SnakeSkin Leather, it was love at first sight.
Will Craig figures to factor in all over the diamond this year. Not only did he get his custom first base mitt, but he grabbed an outfield glove in preparation of seeing time out there, as well.
We’ll be back tomorrow from Lakeland as we visit the Tigers. Remember to follow @wilsonballglove on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes action.
You stay classy #TeamWilson.
Day II (2/18/20): Clearwater & Dunedin, FL
First two-a-day of the year. No, not like in high school when your coach is trying to get you shake off the offseason rust and get you back in shape. Instead, we paid a visit to a pair of camps in the Grapefruit League to deliver new gloves.
We started the day bright and early at Philadelphia camp in Clearwater. There’s a new skipper in town in longtime Wilson Advisory Staff member and former World Series champion Joe Girardi. Ready to lead the club back to the postseason, Girardi and the Phillies were already hard at work in the first days of full camp.
The day got started when David Robertson, who played for Girardi in New York, came over to pick up his two custom gloves, two A2000 B125 models modified with a basket web. He’s focused on working his way back from last summer’s Tommy John surgery – and actually picked up a left-hand throw glove, as well, since he can actually throw ambidextrously.
Outfielder Roman Quinn picked up a new gamer for roaming the outfield and Aaron Nola swung by just to chat. We’d sent him his new custom glove earlier this year so he could make sure it was ready to go when camp broke in February. Veteran Logan Forsythe went with the Game Model specs of another longtime Wilson Advisory Staff member, Evan Longoria, with the A2000 EL3 – a classic.
After talking shop with Josh Harrison, we packed up the van and, before heading over to Dunedin to hit Jays camp, stopped at a local staple for breakfast – Lenny’s. A living, breathing ode to Philly and its iconic place in sports, add this to a list of places you have to try next time you’re in the area.
Big things are happening this year for Toronto. The organization is in the midst of building a massive new Spring Training facility and even the stadium where they play their spring games has gotten plenty of face lifts since we were there just a year ago.
One of the first guys to come out? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He chatted with Ryan about some new designs and features (more on that to come in the coming months) – and plans to hit the diamond with the same model released last fall as a GOTM.
Billy McKinney was in love with his two blonde designs – a 1799, the model he’s used for years – and a new first base mitt. We see a lot of bold, loud custom gloves, but he wasn’t about that. He kept it clean and simple this time around.
Then, trouble showed up. (I kid, I kid). Teoscar Hernandez and La Piña himself, Lourdes Gurriel. Hernandez had a pair of custom outfield models, including one that fit perfectly with the team’s red and royal color scheme, while Gurriel got down in the weeds on customs with Ryan. Let’s put it this way. It’s safe to say you’re going to want to take a look at what he’s got on his glove hand come Opening Day.
Two-a-days are long. But they get you ready for baseball season unlike anything else. Players locked in on their drills, the crack of the bat and my personal favorite, the ‘pop’ of leather. Spring is in the air.
Day I (2/17/20): Tampa, FL – George M. Steinbrenner Field
There’s nothing quite like it. Loading the bags, full of brand-new A2K and A2000 gloves into the back of the van and heading down the road to camp. We kicked off the 2020 Glove Day journey today by visiting the reigning American League East champion Yankees in Tampa.
Similar to last year, we’ve got plenty of big names in the New York bullpen. Flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman picked up a pair of customs before practice, including an A2000 CJW, a 12” pitcher’s model featuring black leather and new Bold logos. He was joined by the likes of Zack Britton, who gets a new B2 annually, despite the fact that he uses his near-decade old model that he cherishes.
Adam Ottavino is another key piece in this relief corps and he, like Britton, has a go-to model he’s carried for years. Add in the likes of Jonathan Holder and camp invitee Dan Otero and it’s a loaded group heading to the mound with a Wilson on their hand.
Last year’s rookie sensation Mike Tauchman picked up a pair of customs, including a gorgeous A2000 1799. Infielder Miguel Andujar is ready to move past the injury that ended his 2019 season with two new gamers – including an eye-popping gold and navy A2000 1787.
The designs that turned heads around the room belonged to outfielder Clint Frazier, who went all-in and thought way outside the box, even commenting that he ‘couldn’t believe’ that we made them exactly how he asked. Frazier has a pair of cats – and he not only put their nicknames on the thumb but added ‘ur dad loves u’ on the ring finger of his multi-colored A2000.
Our first Glove Day ended on that note – fitting given the lineup we’re going to have for you the rest of the week. Check back tomorrow for a breakdown from not one, but two more camps.
MEET THE WRITER
Jake Meisner has worked with Wilson since 2018 - and this is his second year working Glove Day. But his experience in baseball and writing goes way beyond that. He's worked in Minor League Baseball, covered various big league teams for the last decade, and he ran a pair of newspapers straight out of college. For Jake, there are two seasons: baseball and “is it spring yet?”