Glove Day at Cubs camp rekindles fond memories

Glove Day at Cubs camp rekindles fond memories

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. will never forget his first glove.

"Me and my dad went to this little sports shop -- it was my first year playing baseball," Underwood said. "The glove was a Wilson glove, and it was one of those strap-on gloves. This was right after football season. I turned my first double play with a Wilson glove. That's when I fell in love with baseball."

Underwood and his father had gone to a Braves game, and Rafael Furcal was the starting shortstop. Furcal turned a smooth double play, and Underwood said, "I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen." It also was one of Julio Franco's final games and he homered, which also left an impression on Underwood.

"I was like, 'Wow, Rafael Furcal did it -- maybe I can do it?' I was 8 years old," Underwood said. "I fielded the ball -- I was on both knees, and it hit me in the chest. I picked it up and threw to second. It was so cool."

Underwood still uses a Wilson glove, and he and teammates Miguel Montero, Rob Zastryzny, Tommy La Stella, Eloy Jimenez, Willson Contreras and Mike Montgomery received their 2017 edition gear on Saturday -- Glove Day -- prior to the Cubs' first Cactus League games.

Wilson made a special-edition red, white and blue glove to commemorate the Cubs' World Series championship as well.

"I'm going to put this in my man cave," Montero said of his gift.

La Stella signed with Wilson in 2012, the year after he was drafted by the Braves. The infielder still has the first glove he got when he was 5 years old.

"It's at my parents' house in New Jersey," La Stella said. "It's basically just a pancake at this point. I like to look at it -- nostalgia. Your first glove is a special thing. It's something you always hold on to. You remember all the times you had."

This spring, La Stella is breaking in a glove to be his next "gamer." The one he receives on Saturday will be eased into action.

Underwood also is careful about how he uses his gloves, and said he didn't even bring his "gamer" to Spring Training.

"I like my glove to look extra crispy when I'm on the mound," the right-handed pitcher said. "When I get the new glove this year, I'll put it in the car, take it home, and that'll be my gamer -- unless I don't give up any runs this spring, and then I'll use that one."

Zastryzny grew up in Edmonton, Canada, and told his parents, who were both hockey players, that baseball was the only sport he wanted to play. They gave him a glove that worked for both hands.

"My parents said, 'You pick how you want to throw, how you want to hit, whatever. We don't know anything [about baseball],'" Zastryzny said. "I went to my first tee-ball game throwing right-handed and batting left-handed. My brother threw right-handed. I hated that I was doing the same thing he was. I said, 'You know what, I'm going to be left-handed,' so I switched.

"I was a left-handed hitter, and I kept grounding out to first base," he said. "I was really fast, but I was real little. I said, 'I'm going to bat right-handed, so I can hit it to third base so I can beat it out.' Now I bat right-handed and throw left-handed."

Zastryzny remembers when he got his first Wilson glove.

"I got my first glove from Wilson and it had my name on it, and that was the first time I ever had that and I used it every day and I thought that was the greatest thing in the world," he said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.