Glove at first sight: Major leaguers recall getting their first mitts

— -- Former United States poet laureate Donald Hall wrote that baseball is "fathers and sons playing catch." Of course, to play catch with fathers (and mothers), the sons (and daughters) must first have baseball gloves. And those first gloves can last a long time, if not always on the players' hands, then certainly in their memories.

Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen coach Garvin Alston is 44 years old but still vividly remembers the first baseball glove his father gave to him at age 7. It was a used, brown Rawlings glove with Dave Winfield's signature on the leather that his father found while working as a janitor for the White Plains Housing Authority in New York.

"My dad brought it home, cleaned it up, took the strings out and showed me how to restring it," Alston says. "He put the oil in it, two baseballs in it, tied it up and told me, 'Don't touch it for a few days.' I asked why, and he said we had to form it again. ... And I kept that glove forever. I used it until I went to college. I played shortstop and center field with it, pitched with it. That was my glove.

"At the time my dad couldn't afford a new glove, so I used it."

As parents will tell you, first gloves can definitely be expensive.

"Mine came with a special price tag, so my dad wanted to make sure I understood the value of it and how to take care of it," Kansas City Royals pitcher Chris Young says. "That lasted me through high school. I just know that my dad was apprehensive about buying it for me, but he was willing to do so as long as I was willing to take care of it. ... He wanted us to appreciate the value of the dollar. There are no freebies in life. You've got to work for it.

"That was my first real, special glove and I cherished it."

Regardless of the price, first gloves are valuable. That's how  Seattle Mariners second baseman  Robinson Cano considers the one he received from his father, Jose, who pitched briefly in the majors.

"You always want to follow your dad's footsteps, so I was so happy to have one of my dad's gloves," Cano says. "It was pretty amazing. You can go around and maybe be the only kid with a good glove and be able to play."

Not that a first glove a father gives is always perfect -- or worth keeping. Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brad Miller says the first one he received from his dad was a Kirby Puckett model. That was great except for one thing: The glove was for left-handers and Miller is right-handed.

"He thought I was going to throw lefty. And then I would put it on my left hand and throw right-handed," Miller says. "And then he had to get me a new glove."

San Francisco Giants left-handed reliever Javier Lopez hopes that won't be a problem with his son. Lopez still has his first glove and takes good care of it, occasionally changing the laces to keep it in good shape.

Says Lopez: "It's holding up nicely and hopefully my son [can use it]. Right now he is left-handed and that might change because he's only 3 -- but if he gets to that point, I'll get him to use my glove."

Or perhaps he should take the approach Chris Lincecum took with his son. Tim Lincecum had left- and right-handed gloves as a child, he says, "because my dad didn't know what I was going to be when I was growing up. I don't know when I decided I was going to be a righty. I kind of made a mistake there."

Yeah, big mistake. After all, Lincecum won only two Cy Youngs and tossed just two no-hitters throwing right-handed.

Now, while we may be near Father's Day, not every player receives that first glove from a dad. Many receive it from a mom.

Buster Posey's first glove was the one his mother used playing softball. It was an old Bobby Bonds model but you could still see his signature on the leather. Posey says he was around 5 years old and used it while playing T-ball and peewee ball. He still has it.

"It's a cool piece to have in the family," the Giants catcher says, "and I still think it would be neat if my kids used it when they start playing."

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria says his mother got several gloves for him, but he also wound up losing them. Or they were stolen.

"I used to get reamed for that," he says. "We didn't have a whole lot of money and growing up, she would buy me nice gloves and put name and phone number on it, but nobody would ever call if they stole it."

No matter who they come from, gloves are always special.

Los Angeles Angels reliever Huston Street says he has used five gloves in his life, the first of which was a blue Mizuno he keeps on his top shelf. He has used just two gloves during his big league career. He warms up with one of them, and pitches in games with the other.

Asked how he has maintained using that one glove his entire big league career, Street says that he won the American League Rookie of the Year award with it in 2005, "so why would I ever change?"

Those gloves are so important to Street that he always makes certain they are safe. Or nearly always.

"I got nervous [one] night because I left my glove in the front seat of my car when I valeted it. And I was like, 'Someone might take that glove!' It would be like a piece of me being gone," he says. "My gloves are special. When I go home and I fly commercial rather than the team plane, the gloves fly with me -- they fly on my person."

As special as gloves are, Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross says the first one should be an old one.

"To give a young kid a new glove is actually kind of counterproductive," Ross says. "To give them an older, used mitt helps because the key is to let the ball stick in the glove and they build confidence off that, rather than a new glove where the ball always pops out."

Ross says his first baseball glove was a used Rawlings catcher's mitt that his father found in a park. And now that Ross is a father, the gloves he gives to his children evoke sweet memories.

"Now I have kids, and am buying them their first gloves, I want to make it memorable," Ross said. "I've done all kinds of things for my son, as far as putting his name on his glove. I bought him a catcher's glove at Play It Again Sports, a Mizuno glove that was already broken in really nice.

"Now that I've done that, it makes me reflect on the glove that my dad found and ended up being my glove for a long time. It takes me back to Little League is what it does. It takes me back to the memories of learning how to catch and just the purity of the game.

"Back then you didn't care what kind of leather it was, you were just happy to have a glove."