Leather man: Romine brings 8 gloves to camp

February 18th, 2017
"The hard part is breaking them in," Andrew Romine said of the newer gloves he brought with him to Spring Training. (AP)

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' new Spring Training clubhouse at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium was designed after consultation with the clubhouse crew on what players typically need. Nobody consulted with about locker storage.

Most players keep a glove or two on the shelf atop the locker that was designed for it. Romine crammed four into that space, and that's just half the total he brought to camp.

Those are the ones he uses for games. Buried in the bottom of the locker, under a bunch of other gear, are a pair of backup gloves he'll break in during camp. He has two more gloves at his Spring Training apartment, where he's trying to work them into playing shape.

"I already have eight, and then I'm going to get some more to break in," Romine said.

Don Kelly, whose infield/outfield/emergency catcher/emergency pitcher role took him to folk-hero status in Detroit, had 11 gloves stuffed into his locker one spring. That was back in the old clubhouse, where the lockers were smaller and the gloves were stacked atop each other.

Romine picked up the super-utility role two years ago after Kelly left for the Marlins. Like Kelly, Romine came up through the Minors as a shortstop before adding positions -- and gloves. Last year, he played every position but catcher, but he was the emergency option behind the plate. He even pitched in a game for the second time in three years.

Romine's glove collection reflects his history. He has a middle-infielder's glove that barely has a shape anymore, which is just how he likes it. It's so comfortable that he could wear it all over the field. His corner-infield glove has some wear but nothing major. His outfield glove looks relatively new by comparison.

His backup middle-infield glove looks relatively new, and it's slightly smaller than his older one.

"The hard part is breaking them in," Romine said, "because I like my gloves really broken in. Regardless of what position it is, I like it flimsy, broken in. To be able to break a glove in in time would be difficult enough, but to be able to break three or four different positions in, in time, that's hard."

He has seen or heard of more tricks for breaking in a glove than he cares to try. When the old story of players microwaving a glove comes up, he recognizes it.

"I would never microwave a glove," he said. "I've cooked a glove in the oven before. I've run gloves over with cars, trying to loosen up the leather. I try to avoid that stuff if I can, try and use oils, stuff like that.

"It's just using it. That's the only thing that can really break it in. Because you can make it loose and flimsy as much as you want, but if it doesn't keep the form you want, then it's just a loose and flimsy glove that doesn't have the right form. There's a fine line between breaking it in and breaking it in the wrong way."

With several Tigers infielders headed to the World Baseball Classic in March, Romine will have plenty of chances to get his infield gloves some work.