PEORIA, Ariz. -- Starting pitcher Rob Whalen was all smiles as he watched Shigeaki Aso pound his brand new, custom fielder's glove at the Mariners' Spring Training camp Thursday.Aso is the "glove guru" for Wilson baseball gloves. He works with players like Whalen, infielders Robinson Cano and Mike Freeman, outfielder
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Starting pitcher Rob Whalen was all smiles as he watched Shigeaki Aso pound his brand new, custom fielder's glove at the Mariners' Spring Training camp Thursday.
Aso is the "glove guru" for Wilson baseball gloves. He works with players like Whalen, infielders Robinson Cano and Mike Freeman, outfielder Nelson Cruz, former first-round Draft pick D.J. Peterson, catcher Carlos Ruiz, utility man Shawn O'Malley, and pitchers Dan Altavilla and Yovani Gallardo to custom design gloves for them.
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In a typical case like Whalen's, Aso starts working with them some six months ahead of time in order to have a custom glove ready for Spring Training. Whalen picked out some bold Braves colors -- his 2016 team -- and picked up a pair of new gloves after his Thursday workout.
"I wish I could have replaced the red stitching with teal," Whalen said, but he couldn't hide his delight at Aso's work.
It typically takes Aso six months to have a glove ready, and for all the custom gloves Wilson makes for Major League Baseball players, there is only one Aso -- every custom glove made by Wilson is made by Aso.
"It usually takes me months to work it in to the point that I'm comfortable with it in the field," Whalen said as he watched Aso take a mallet to it to soften the leather. "Nobody knows how to break in a glove better than Aso. This is a big head start."
Whalen is retiring the glove he broke into the Majors with last year, and though he got a big bounty of non-customized gloves from Wilson, he'll share many of them with charities and old teammates.
Peterson, in the Mariners camp with both an infielder's glove for his duties at third and a first baseman's mitt, uses a tried and true method of breaking his glove in.
"Just throw a little glove oil in there, throw a softball in there, wrap it up, that's about it," he explained. "Use it as much as I can to break it in. Play catch with it, get as many reps as you can. Try to break in that web and get it ready for the season."
Aso and the rest of the team of representatives from Wilson are spreading the joy through "Wilson Glove Day," a rollout of their newest equipment slated to hit every big league camp over the course of Spring Training.
With about a dozen duffel bags of gloves to sample, the Mariners gave Aso and his team an unbridled warm reception -- equal parts seriousness and euphoria -- and the satisfied smile on Aso's face as he delivered each custom-crafted fielding glove spoke volumes of a man who loves his work and whose work is well-loved.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.