“Ah, OK, what is your name?”
“Nope, there are no gloves for you.”
“But, I was told …” The Rawlings’ rep interrupted me mid-sentence. “I don’t care what you were told, there are no gloves in here for you.”
I was in the second grade when I got my first baseball glove. Not the plastic kind, the actual leather kind. It was a tan Easton glove from Canadian Tire. This glove was special, because my dad gave it to me. It was weird, because the glove gave me a sense of security and it felt so good on my hand. You know how it works when you get something new. You need to show it off to people. I wanted to take my glove to school so badly.
“Corey, you can’t bring the glove to school. You are going to leave it somewhere,” my mom told me.
“No way! There is no way I will lose this glove,” I said. I begged and begged. After weeks of relentless nagging, my mom finally gave in. I was able to show off my pride and joy.
The day I took my glove to school I was so excited. I showed everybody. I was especially excited for lunch, because recess would follow and we could play baseball. The lunch bell rang, and I ran to my locker to grab my food. I DEVOURED it, so I could get outside to start the baseball game. It was a heated, back and forth battle. Because it was so close, we kept pushing the boundaries of time. “One more out,” we would said. Finally, the second bell rang, and we were late. I ran to class. After about five minutes into class, I got that feeling. You know that feeling, when you forgot something really important.
“WHERE IS MY GLOVE?” I panicked.
Mrs. Lake, my second-grade teacher, must have noticed the look in my eyes.
“Corey, is everything all right?” she asked.
“I think I left my new baseball glove outside,” I exclaimed.
She told me to go try to find it, so I raced outside, sobbing.
I ran to the baseball fields. Nothing.
I ran around the playground. Nothing.
I started to cry. The glove was gone.
As I walked back to school, I thought, “Maybe it is in the ditch, next to the ball field.”
Guess what? IT WAS THERE! Somebody must have thrown it in the ditch. I was so excited.
For the next 13 years, my Canadian Tire glove was the only glove I used. In 1994, the glove met its match in professional baseball in Elizabethton, TN. The leather was so thin, I would get a bruised hand playing catch. Imagine using a piece of paper as a glove. In professional baseball, we played every day, so my hand never got a chance to heal. I was excited when the season finished and my hand got a break.
The next year was my first professional minor league spring training. It was overwhelming. Over 200 professional baseball players in camp, all with the goal to be on a Major League 25-man roster.
It was 1995, and this was the year of the Major League strike, so the big league coaching staff was in the minor league camp. This was the first time I interacted TK (Tom Kelly). He was quite intimidating for a farm boy from Anola, Manitoba. He was loud, confident and a baseball savant. The most impressive thing about TK was his ability to process baseball information. TK could stand in the tower in the middle of a four-plex and know what was happening on all four fields simultaneously. I couldn’t even process what was happening at third base.
My 14 year-old Canadian Tire glove must have made an impression on TK the first two weeks of camp. That, or he heard the trainers talking about a player coming in to ice his catching hand every day.
I was taking ground balls, and TK walked over to me.
“Son, can I see your glove?” TK asked.
I handed him my glove. He took it and looked at it in astonishment.
“Son, is this your only glove?” he questioned me.
“Yes, it is,” I replied.
“Son, you need to go over to that Rawlings truck and get yourself a glove,” TK said sternly.
“Um, right now?” I asked.
“YES, RIGHT NOW!” TK started to get annoyed.
You see, there are certain times during camp when there is an aura of excitement. Those days are when the equipment guys roll in, and the top prospects get “free” stuff. Rawlings, Louisville, Oakley and Wilson were some of the names that would roll through camp. Rawlings gloves were the last company to come to camp, so I knew the drill. Guys go into the trailer and come out with new gear. I would watch enviously from afar,.“That is so cool. I wish I could get some gear,” I would think to myself.
I could only imagine what I looked like jogging over to the truck, then waiting in line to say, “I am here for my glove.”
When I got up to the front of line, it felt like I was someplace I wasn’t supposed to be. The trailer was full of guys picking out gloves, and I felt like everybody stopped and looked at me.
“Hi, sir. I am here to get a glove,” I said trying to hold in my excitement.
“OK, what is your name?” responded the Rawling’s rep.
“Koskie…..Koskie……Koskie,” he was checking his list, “Nope, I don’t have a glove for you.”
“But, I was told…” The Rawlings’ rep interrupted me mid-sentence.
“I don’t care what you were told, there are no gloves here for you,” the rep said to get me to leave.
Okay, this was embarrassing. All the players in the truck saw this, and I felt like a complete fool. I walked out of the trailer and jogged back to the field with my tail between my legs.
About 30 minutes later, TK came up to me.
“Son, where is your new glove?” TK sounded annoyed, again.
“I didn’t get one,” I responded.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T GET ONE?” TK was ticked.
“They wouldn’t give me one,” I said sheepishly.
TK looked taken back, and got loud. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY WOULDN’T GIVE YOU A GLOVE?” he asked.
“They told me that I can’t have a glove from the trailer,” I responded.
TK walked away. I was confused. “Did I do something wrong?” I thought.
Spring Training is a lot like school or work. You get to the park at 8 a.m., and it is over around 4 p.m. In the morning, we take ground balls, hit in the cage, hit on the field and run through defensive drills. In the afternoon, we play games. Halfway through the day, we get a boxed lunch.
I was eating lunch when Larry Corrigan (Twins Minor League coordinator) came over to me.
“Corey, go get a glove,” he instructed.
“I already tried, and they told me I couldn’t have a glove,” I responded.
Now the head of the minor leagues is annoyed with me. “COREY, THE BIG-LEAGUE MANAGER TOLD ME THAT YOU NEED TO GO GET YOUR GLOVE!” he said.
I took two huge bites to finish my sandwich and ran over to the glove truck before they changed their minds.
“Ah, hi. I was….” I announced.
The Rawling rep was a lot different this time around. He was acting like a nervous, agitated child. “Just go pick out a glove,” he said.
I went and picked out a glove.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
“How much do you have?” replied the rep.
“I think I have $82.”
“That will do, just pay me that,” he said.
I wondered what changed. Why would the rep all of a sudden be nice to me and change his mind about the glove? I found out at the end of the day, when I heard a couple of coaches talking, what transpired that day. I guess TK tore the rep a new one for not taking care of the players that needed a glove. Thanks TK!
I used this glove for the next 962 games, until I got my own invitation to the truck by Rawlings.
What I learned as an athlete:
You have to make the best of the cards you are dealt. There are always people who are going to have better “stuff” than you. If you don’t have their “stuff,” make do with what you have.
How I try to apply what I learned to business, coaching, and life:
It is so easy to look and want things. And then, if you can’t get it, pout. I have learned that doesn’t help me in the end. Instead of fretting over what you don’t have, focus on how to make what you have, work better.