gLove Story

Kung Fu Panda

SI sent me to Pittsburgh to photograph Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval for a story about his free-swinging offense. I had not photographed the Giants since Sandoval was called up, so I knew of him only from TV references to his physique and his distaste for taking pitches. During two games in mid-July I saw a passionate player having fun playing the game. His nickname, Kung Fu Panda, fit him perfectly.

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  • Kung Fu Panda

    Kung Fu Panda

    SI sent me to Pittsburgh to photograph Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval for a story about his free-swinging offense. I had not photographed the Giants since Sandoval was called up, so I knew of him only from TV references to his physique and his distaste for taking pitches. During two games in mid-July I saw a passionate player having fun playing the game. His nickname, Kung Fu Panda, fit him perfectly.

  • Nimble Panda

    Nimble Panda

    I was surprised to find this burly guy playing solid defense and seemingly obsessed with his glove. He tweaked and massaged it all game long, constantly pulling on the laces that hung loose from the mitt. My curiosity prompted me to revive a story idea about players and their gloves.

  • The gLove

    The gLove

    I've always treasured my baseball gloves, and being around professionals with access to the best gear, I often chat with players about their gloves; why they choose a certain model, and how they break in and maintain them. On a road trip to Philly, I got Sandoval to discuss his glove.

  • New & Unbroken

    New & Unbroken

    Sandoval uses a Louisville Slugger TPX PROCF1200 with post web. Going through about four gloves a year, he sometimes rejects a new glove if it is too stiff and he can't close it easily. It takes about two weeks of extra sessions of playing catch to break in a glove for game use, though he can cut the time in half by microwaving the glove! He wets the cloth labels on the outside of the glove and nukes it for one minute.

  • Back hand

    Back hand

    During the game Sandoval continuously tugs on loosened straps. The straps he’s pulling in the photo above lead to a leather loop that offers stability to the pinky finger, and are tied in a knot when the glove arrives. Sandoval unties the straps and uses them to dry his hands on hot days.

  • Tack hand

    Tack hand

    Sandoval leaves both the straps on the thumb and pinky sides of his glove untied for the same reason; drying his hands. San Francisco weather is not as warm as Sandoval's native Venezuela, so on cold days he puts pine tar on the back of his glove to give the fingers of his throwing hand a better grip on the ball.

  • gLove Story...the end

    gLove Story...the end

    Sandoval claims an emotional attachment to each of his gloves, but passes the old ones on to his brother who plays in an independent league. He packs his own gear for road trips, as all the players do, so he is responsible for the glove at all times. During the off-season the gloves go back to Venezuela with him to use while practicing. His only superstition is that no other player uses the glove.