LAKELAND, Fla. -- The parade of glove manufacturers began to roll through Tigertown on Thursday, providing an annual reminder that it's not just Spring Training for players. It's training time for their gloves.
Spring Training is often the time when players start to break in new gloves, whether they plan on using them in the coming season or not. For some, it's an insurance policy for when -- or if -- their current glove finally breaks down. For others, it's more urgent.
"I got this one in Spring Training in 2012," utility man Don Kelly said, pulling a somewhat-worn infielder's glove out of his locker. "And I still haven't used it in a game yet."
Kelly has two six-year-old gloves that haven't worn down yet, though both are starting to tear despite his best efforts to preserve them. Every year, he looks at gloves in hopes of finding one with the same fit as those he currently uses. The same model glove, the same size, often feels completely different. In an emergency, he said, he can get a glove ready in two weeks.
It's a little less complicated for some younger players, especially outfielders.
"I'll play catch with it for about a week," Austin Jackson said.
But he tries to stick with the same model each time.
"If you try to change, it can mess with you," Jackson said. "It's all about feel."
Kelly's switch-hitting super-utility counterpart, Steve Lombardozzi, tries to keep things simple. He keeps two game gloves -- one for the infield, the other for outfield-- and two backup gloves.
"I've been fortunate," he said. "I've used the same model since I was in junior college."