Reyna Carranco repeatedly opened the app on her phone to check the status of the package. Carranco had spent the extra money for overnight shipping, but the box was still in transit nearly two days later.
The University of Arizona redshirt senior second baseman began to panic a bit because of the precious cargo inside.
Carranco had mailed her new glove from Tucson, Ariz. to her hometown of Oxnard, Calif.
In a treasured tradition dating back to when she first started playing at age 5, Reyna’s father has broken in every glove she has owned. Rene Carranco spends hours making sure it feels just right before giving it back to his daughter to use in practices and games.
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Reyna has always received her gloves at Arizona before Christmas, allowing her to bring them home during the holiday break. But this year’s shipment was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Wildcats didn’t receive their new Easton gloves until mid-January.
Reyna thought about breaking in the glove on her own, but something didn’t feel right. She wanted her dad involved in the process.
“I feel like he has the technique down and knows what he is doing. I might not do it right,” she said. “He is a master with it and I trust him to work his magic on my gloves.”
Although Reyna was nervous about mailing her glove home, fearing it may get lost or damaged along the way, she decided to take a chance.
She shipped the package from the local United States Postal Service office, but began to second guess her decision once it didn’t arrive on time.
“I was freaking out,” she said. “I kept having my mom check the mail. My dad called my uncle since he works for the Postal Service and he said everything was backed up right now. It finally got there, but I was definitely sweating it for a few days.”
Gloves hold a special place in the hearts of nearly every ballplayer. Some value their glove like it’s a family heirloom worth millions. They build comfort and trust through hours of repetition, fielding grounders and chasing down fly balls.
Parting with an old glove can cause heartache, especially if they’ve been successful with it or tend to be superstitious.
Carranco doesn’t mind getting a new glove each season at Arizona because she knows her dad will ensure it feels just like the old one.
The now-annual break-in ritual has become a bonding experience for them.
“He has always loved baseball and softball, so getting my gloves has always been like a fun thing we would do together,” Reyna said. “I am really happy that’s been something I get to share with him all these years.”
Rene becomes giddy with anticipation about getting his hands on the new piece of leather and molding it to his daughter’s liking.
“It is fun. It is my time. I tell my wife, I feel like a kid when I get the glove,” he said. “I love smelling the leather and breaking it in and tightening up the laces. I get excited just talking about it right now.”
The love affair dates back to his own childhood. Rene played baseball through high school, and still has all of his old gloves. His older brother taught him how to treat a glove, and Rene valued every one.
“I never threw my glove on the ground in frustration. I always took care of it,” he said. “I like to see the ball players that line up their gloves face up and don’t just throw them to the ground. I appreciate coaches that teach that. It shows them that the glove is an extension of who they are.”
Rene has the break-in routine for Reyna’s gloves down to a science.
He starts by putting a nice coat of oil on the glove and then places the glove over a pot of hot water to soften the leather through steaming.
Once that’s done, he puts a softball inside the pocket and wraps it up tight with a bungee cord. The glove usually spends a night or two under Reyna’s mattress for compression.
“I have never read anything about it. I have just always done it that way for whatever reason,” Rene said. “I am sure people have other ideas on how to do it, but this is the way I am comfortable doing it and what she has grown up with. It’s really about showing the glove some love.”
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The instant Reyna puts the glove on her hand, she can feel the difference. The stiffness is gone and the grounders aren’t dropped as often.
“Once my dad does his stuff, it truly fits me like a glove,” Reyna said. “It’s not just like a piece of leather on my hand. It really feels like an extension of my hand. He knows what I like.”
Before he gives the glove back to his daughter, Rene usually writes a note on the heel in marker. Among the motivational messages over the years:
“Be the best that you can be.”
“I am already proud of you.”
“Be yourself. Have a great year.”
Rene knows his glove love runs a bit deeper and more philosophical than many other people, and he’s fine with that.
“If a glove could talk at the end of the year, there would be so many stories to tell,” he said. “Why are you blaming me for making an error when you missed it? All the conversations players have with their gloves. Reyna doesn’t really get it as much as me, but that is OK.”
But Reyna does appreciate all the care her dad takes with her gloves, and she tries to reciprocate. After every practice or game, she puts a ball in the glove and wraps it tight with a band to ensure it remains “nice and curved” while in her bag.
“It’s kind of funny to see how others break their gloves in. I don’t really see anyone else put as much extra oomph into it if you know what I’m saying,” she said. “My dad is really hard on me about oiling it and taking care of it. It’s embedded in me.”
Rene thought the 2020 season would be his last chance to break in one of Reyna’s gloves. He grew sentimental, and took a small piece of the leather to make into a keychain.
But after Covid-19 cut short the season and Reyna decided to return for an extra year of eligibility, he got another opportunity.
“This year is like an extra slice of cake. It’s like I got an extra bonus year,” he said. “I really enjoy doing it. It’s just my connection to my daughter. That is what it’s really all about. Hopefully one day she can pass it on to her kids. I would love to see the tradition continue in our family.”
Reyna isn’t sure how long she will play softball after college. She wants to pursue a career in healthcare management. This may be the last glove her dad breaks in for her, which makes this season even more special.
Every time she places the glove on her hand and trots out to second base, she feels like she’s carrying a piece of her family with her. Her name and number are stitched on the front and her dad’s tender loving care is prominent throughout.
“I am just grateful for all the years we have done it together because it’s really created great memories between him and I,” Reyna said. “It’s been pretty special to get to do this with him for my entire career. It’s something we will both always remember.”