A shapeless piece of leather. That’s all I claimed to be. Each day, the Weathered Man would enter the factory, turn on the lights and shuffle his feet over to his station. Each day, I watched in amazement as he crafted each piece of leather into a beautiful masterpiece. When each masterpiece was done, he’d fit it over his hand, punch his other fist into it a few times, place it in a box, and move to the next piece.
Today, I hadn’t heard the Weathered Man enter the factory. But I did feel him tug at me to lift me off the pile. Groggy, yet coming to light…was this the day? Was this my day? Was this the day I would be turned into a beautiful masterpiece?
Cut, cut, sew, sew, string, string, bend, flex, shape, back and forth the Weathered Man’s hands went. The process, I had seen so many times before, now being applied to me. What was I to become? What happened after I entered the box? What purpose would I serve?
Once I was placed inside the box, I felt myself being moved to and fro at a rapid pace. Other boxes all around. The sounds of a truck engine starting. It was all quite frightening, but I was tired. I slept, dreaming of what was next.
The next morning, the box was opened by what appeared to be a Friendly Old Man. Still adjusting to the light, the Man hoisted me to a shelf, where he hooked my tag so I could hang in full view of all the customers. I was on my best behavior. I didn’t know what was next, but I determined I needed to look my finest if I wanted to find what my purpose was.
The door opened to the Hardware Store, ringing the tiny bell that was hung above to alert the Friendly Old Man of a customer’s arrival.
“Morning Sir, how’s the morning so far…and who’s this strong young man you have at your side today?” said the Friendly Old Man.
“Doing well this fine day, beautiful out ain’t it? Oh, this ornery Boy? He’s a ball of energy today! Taking him with me so he’ll stay out of his mom’s hair!” came the Father’s reply.
“What brings you in this morning, what can I help you find?”… their voices trailing off…out of the corner of my sight, I noticed the Boy who caught a glimpse of me. His bright blue eyes peering at what I was. I saw excitement and joy in his eyes. Could he help me? Would he be the one that would reveal my purpose?
“How much for the glove?” said the Boy.
“Huh?” Came the reply of the Friendly Old Man. “What are you talking about, what glove?”
“This baseball glove hanging here.”
“Oh, yes, that glove. Hmmm. Let me see, just got that in this morning on the truck. She’s a beauty isn’t she, bet she can catch a pop-up fly with ease! Ok, got it here. That glove is 6 dollars.”
“6 dollars!” exclaimed the Boy. “I don’t have that kind of money, I’m only 9 years old!”
Father stepped into the conversation. “Well, then you’d better get some chores done and earn some money! I’ve got a couple things in mind around the farm, and I heard Neighbor Thurman has some leaves that need raked. Why, he’s so old, it’d take him until next fall to rake them up! You could do it in an afternoon with all your energy!”
The Boy responded, “Consider it done.” Changing his gaze to the Friendly Old Man, “You keep that glove right where its at. I’m gonna go earn enough money to buy that someday. You’ll see.”
Father and the Friendly Old Man shared a laugh as the Man responded, “I will Boy…I will.”
Each time the tiny bell rang, I looked toward the door with anticipation. Hoping the Boy and his Father would return. Day after day. No Boy. I began to lose hope that I’d ever come down from that shelf. I began to lose hope that I’d ever find my purpose.
Early one Saturday morning, the tiny bell rung once more. I wearily looked toward the door with fleeting hope that the Boy would ever return. But return he did! There he was with money in his hand! He and his Father had entered the store and I could tell by the gleam in the Boy’s eye…this would be the last day on that shelf.
“Want me to put it in a bag for you?” asked the Friendly Old Man.
“No way!” exclaimed the Boy. “I gotta start breaking it in!”
And with that, the Boy fit me over his hand, and took his other hand, made a fist, and punched his hands together. Just like the Weathered Man had done with so many gloves he had made before.
“Dad, I think this is gonna be a good glove. Can’t wait to get home and try it out!”
The Father replied, “Me neither Son, me neither.”
Years later, the High School Championship Pennant was on the line. It was the bottom of the 9th, 2 boys on base, 2 outs. Our team was up by 1 score. One more out, and the Pennant was ours! The Boy, now a Senior and Captain of the Team, looked sternly at the opposing batter as he manned the outfield. He knew this batter well. They had met before a couple times during the regular season. A lefty. A hard swinger. Prone to either strike out, or smack a home run…there was no in-between.
The whole community had gathered for the Championship game. The evening had long since turned to dusk and the lights pierced the impending darkness. The evening, still and humid. Yet, as the sun began to set, a sticky chill encompassed the field. The fans knew the gravity of what was on the line. Strike him out, the Pennant was ours. But if he got the hit, 2 runners would run home and the game would be lost.
The Pitcher, the Boy’s classmate and best friend, looked across the field, as was his regular routine, checking the 2 boys on base to keep them honest. Spitting a shell of a sunflower seed out of his mouth, he stared down his opponent. As he wound up for what was to be the biggest pitch in his career, a hush fell over the crowd. Time stood still. The Pitcher released his signature fast ball, desiring the massive swinger to strike out. Hurdling through the air at 75 mph, yet so slow, you could almost see the ball rotating. With a collective gasp of the crowd, the unexpected CRACK of the bat pierced the silence. The swinger had made connection with the ball! Each fan’s neck craned upward to view the trajectory of the ball, fearing the home run scenario, crossing their fingers that it wouldn’t happen.
Out of the corner of each fan’s eye, came a red jersey sprinting at full speed across the outfield. Quick math revealed that the placement of the landing ball and the outfielder could intersect, but seemed unlikely. The eventual landing spot of the ball and the sprinting Boy quickly narrowed. But he’d have to run faster. He’d have to pull off a miracle. His trusty glove would have to reel it in at the last Moment.
The Boy was ready for this Moment. Every boy’s dream is to make the final shot, score the last touchdown, make the catch. This Moment, now hung in the balance between what was…and what could be.
The glove recalled it’s history. The thousands of times it’d been entrusted to catch the baseball. It all started with that 9-year-old Boy playing pitch and catch with Father, then progressed to Little League, Jr Hi, now High School. It’d caught wind of a college scholarship pending, but time would tell. For now, the glove was beaming with joy. Knowing full well it owed its existence, and its purpose, to that Boy. The Boy had fit him over his hand so many times that it was to the point where they were almost one. It was rare that the Boy had missed a catch. He was reliable. His glove was reliable. He hadn’t become Captain of the team by chance, he worked for it. He practiced. He got the reps. And now…the Moment had arrived…
Sprinting across the field, the Boy’s eyes locked squarely on the descending ball. The Father grabbed the fence, his eyes wide, his voice bold and unwavering, piercing the silence that had fallen over the crowd…
“You can do it Son! Run!!! Run!!! You got this! You were made for this Moment, Son! Make the catch!!!”
It had been years since that night. I went on to college with the Boy as he lettered all 4 years in his collegiate career. After college, the Boy became a Man, marrying his high school sweetheart and settling down on a farm outside his high school hometown. I began to collect dust at the bottom of a toy bin. Wondering if the Boy, now a Man would ever play ball again.
One sunny afternoon, I felt a jiggling of the toy bin. A Blue-Eyed Boy, not more than 7…maybe 8 years old, reached down to pick me up. He fitted me over his hand. His hand a bit smaller than I was used to, but it could work, I thought.
“Hey Dad, look at this! How’d this get in there? Holy cow this glove is old! Smells like leather still. Who’s was this?”
The Man, seeing the glove, had a flood of memories enter his mind. He responded, “Son, this used to be my glove. I bought this with my own money when I was about your age from the old hardware store uptown. It served me well over the years. I used this glove all through grade school and even at college. Wow, it does look worn doesn’t it! Broken in for sure. Want to go play catch?”
“Absolutely!” exclaimed the Blue-Eyed Boy.
“Sure thing, let’s go! But wait, I want to show you this before we head out to the backyard” the Dad said.
“Sure Dad” walking over to the cabinet in the garage where Dad was heading.
The Dad pulled down a large box from the top shelf in the cabinet. He opened the box.
Peering inside, The Blue-Eyed Boy questioned, “Wow! Look at all these trophies! Whoa, that’s cool! What’s this one here, Dad? Hmmmm. Oh, I see, it says right on it.”
HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP PENNANT, 1970