Game ready

I remember the first time I ever saw a microwave oven. It was about 1978, and my dad’s college roommate who lived in Tennessee had one. He showed my dad how to make an egg in it, which maybe took 30 seconds, and my dad was sold on the concept. As soon as we got back home from our visit to Tennessee, we acquired one of our own. Food preparation was a whole lot quicker after that.

My kids, who have never lived in a world without microwave ovens, might be excused for believing that anything more than three-and-a-half minutes is an eternity to wait for food. All of the prep work for food is done somewhere else, and all that’s left to be done is to take the carton from the box, set the timer, and wait a couple of minutes. Anything more than that is beyond comprehension to them.

That sort of mindset seems to have spilled over into sporting goods, as well. The sporting goods store itself is a thing of the past, with places like Wal-Mart and Target being the place to go for sporting goods today. This evening I was in a Target store with my teenager, wandering the aisles looking for a few things, when I came upon a by-product of the microwave mentality. I knew that I had to say a few words about it here. That’s why I do this, after all.

I was walking past a sporting goods aisle (there are two or three in the store) when I noticed their baseball gloves. I picked out a Rawlings model (left-handed, of course) and tried it on my hand. It was indicated as being for 7-9 year olds, which is about how old I was when I got my first glove. And this glove was black, too, just the way mine used to be when I was a kid. But there was a big difference between the glove on my hand in the picture above (I’m on the left, in the catching position) and the glove that was on my hand this evening in Target.

The difference was that the glove on my hand was described as being “game ready,” which is a term for a glove that’s already broken in. My glove, and the glove of my friend Scott in the picture, and the glove of every young kid in the 1970s, didn’t come in “game ready” condition. It came stiff and uncomfortable. There was one way to have a game ready glove, and that’s what we were doing in the picture.

We played catch in the back yard. We also played on baseball teams (but different ones, because I’m a year older than he is), and we played “hotbox” a lot, too. You basically had two players with their goves on, guarding two bases, and a runner trying to reach one base or the other safely. It was hours of fun for baseball-playing youth who didn’t have video games to distract them. Or sometimes, when it was dark outside and playing baseball wasn’t an option, I worked my glove by essentially pounding the ball with my left hand into the glove on my right hand. It was like playing catch with myself, really.

The payoff, after about a year or so of playing baseball all the time, was a glove that was properly broken in. That’s a lot better than “game ready,” in my mind, because an attachment to something was formed along the way. And a kid today, assuming he wants to play baseball in the first place, doesn’t have to break his glove in anymore. He can just skip the trouble and get a “game ready” model, instead. But he’s missing out on something by doing it this way, even if he doesn’t know what that something is.

This sounds like me being a humbug. And, truth be told, I love my microwave just as much as the next person does. But breaking in my baseball glove was a corner that I didn’t cut, and all these years later, I’m happy that it turned out that way.

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