A glove affair: Tigers' Mercer just can't quit his 10-year-old Rawlings mitt
Lakeland, Fla. – It stinks. Literally, it smells horrible. And it looks worse. Discolored, battered, worn through and stitched up. If you found it laying on the street, you probably wouldn’t even want to touch it. It’s that nasty.
And yet, Jordy Mercer has been in love with it going on 10 years now.
“I still remember getting it,” he said. “The first day and I was like, this could be the glove.”
Yes, we are talking about Mercer’s Rawlings Gold Glove model infield mitt. He’s used the same one since he was in High-A ball in 2009. Even though he gets two brand new ones every year, even though it’s virtually disintegrating on his hand, he remains faithful to it.
“It’s just a comfort thing,” he said. “Just whatever you put on your hand, you know, you want it to be, you know…”
Like an extension of his hand, was what he was probably going to say. Except he stopped himself.
“I don’t like talking about it,” he said. “I don’t want to jinx it.”
This glove love, of course, is not uncommon. Former Tiger Chet Lemon used the same glove for his entire 16-year career. Tigers catcher Cameron Rupp last season played with shortstop Cliff Pennington, who was wearing a glove that was nearly a decade old and falling off his hand. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki wore a glove every bit as old, torn and tattered as Mercer’s.
In Pittsburgh, Mercer and his teammate Sean Rodriguez could've had a contest to see who had the rattiest mitt.
Maybe it’s a shortstop thing. Chet Lemon was drafted as a shortstop.
“I don’t know what it is,” Mercer said. “Some people do that and some people don’t.”
His buddy Josh Harrison does not. The other day he received a shipment of brand-new infielders mitts, stiff as boards. But he packed a few into his game bag with a Hot Glove Mallet kit. His intention was to break them in use a couple of those this season.
“Oh yeah, I use them right away,” he said. “I’m not like Jordy.”
If Mercer’s glove could only talk, the stories it could tell. There are what appear to be surgical scars in the pocket. There are band-aids on the inside of the heel pad. The webbing has been re-stitched a number of times.
“I’ve had surgery on it a couple of times,” he said.
He does have a backup. He’s had it for four years and it only has a couple of innings of big-league service time. That glove may never even get to its arbitration years.
“I don’t use this glove in BP or drills or anywhere else,” he said of his main glove. “Just the games, because it’ll break.”
It’s broke on him twice. One time the wrist pad ripped away and he couldn’t keep the glove on his hand. He had to play three innings with his backup.
Then there was opening day in 2017.
“It was a throw from Starling Marte, we were trying to get a force out,” Mercer recalled. “It was like 30 degrees that day and the ball went right through the webbing.”
You'd think that would be the end, no coming back from that. But no. Turns out the Pirates’ bullpen catcher, Heberto Andrade, was a bit of a glove whisperer.
“He was like a surgeon,” Mercer said. “He was really good with gloves. I just yelled for him to fix her up.”
One consequence of his unfettered faithfulness to this beat-up piece of leather, Mercer has quite the collection of spanking new Rawlings gloves.
“They send me two new ones a year,” he said. “I kind of go crazy with them, since I never get to use them. Last year I got them to make me two cammo (camouflage) ones. My son’s school colors are red, white and blue, so I got one made up like that for him.
“I just go crazy with it.”
You know who’s not crazy? Mercer’s wife Kasey. She’s married to a man who’s had just two full-time double-play partners his entire big-league career (Neil Walker and Harrison) and he’s used one glove his entire professional career.
Loyalty and commitment are not a problem for the Mercers. For better or for worse, indeed.