LAKELAND, Fla. -- The glove that sits in Jordy Mercer’s locker at Joker Marchant Stadium should probably be sitting in a museum somewhere, or in a box in his basement.
It has cracks on the outside that resemble a Michigan road after a rough winter. It has a pocket that has been stitched back together after a couple of emergencies. It has a Band-Aid holding together the bottom around the wrist, which also ruptured at one point.
It has nine seasons of wear and tear, including all 821 games of Mercer’s Major League career. And as it approaches its 10th birthday this year, it has more games to go.
“My first full year in the minor leagues, that's when I got it,” said Mercer, a 2008 Draft pick. “I remember playing catch with it, getting it broken in and stuff. And then, 2010, I started in Double-A, and that's when I started using it.”
Two years later, Mercer reached the Majors and built his reputation over seven seasons with the Pirates as a glove-first shortstop on the same glove he still uses today.
“I don't use it in [batting practice],” said Mercer, who signed with the Tigers in December. “I don't use it anywhere else but in a game, because it'll break.”
Mercer is not the first shortstop to show an extreme loyalty to his glove. Former Tigers shortstop Adam Everett used the same glove for at least six years and took particular pains to keep it going. Others around baseball have done the same. Mercer’s old Pirates teammate, Sean Rodriguez, has an aging glove.
For some, there’s a comfort level with just the right glove that’s so hard to find that they can’t bear to part with it. Mercer says when he first picked up this model, he thought it was the one. He couldn’t have imagined he’d keep it this long, but now that he has, he’s so superstitious that he’s nervous talking about it for fear of jinxing it.
He picked up the same Rawlings Gold Glove model four years ago, but so far, it has been a career backup, the Chase Daniel of gloves.
“Same model, same everything, perfectly same thing,” Mercer said.
He has needed the backup twice in games. Once, the bottom of his original completely shattered, leaving the wrist of the glove flapping, so Mercer had to swap gloves for the final few innings of a game. Then came the Pirates’ home opener two years ago, a chilly Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh with a 37-degree temperature at first pitch.
“Starling Marte threw one to second base on a force play,” Mercer said, “It was like 30 degrees, and the ball just went right through the webbing, just completely ripped it.”
Mercer credits longtime Pirates bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade with being “like a surgeon, really good at gloves.” Andrade stitched it back together in time for Mercer to use it at shortstop the next day.
It’s not that Mercer is frugal. Despite his loyalty to his glove, he still has a deal with Rawlings, which still supplies him with new gloves. But both he and his company rep have fun with it.
“Every year, I get two gloves,” he said, “but I go crazy with them, because I'm never going to use them. So last year I made two camo ones. And then this year, I made my son's elementary school colors. I just go crazy with it.”