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Richmonder restores baseball gloves to stay connected to the game

Posted at 11:40 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 16:25:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Every Thursday evening at a baseball field in Richmond, adults with a knack for hardball dip their toes in the fountain of youth.

“It is like a Bad News Bears meet-up,” says Will Gowdy. “Absolutely. Yeah. All kids at heart. It is a beautiful thing absolutely.”

RVA Sandlot is a coed league that attracts players of all abilities and ages. On this night pre-game butterflies set Will Gowdy aflutter.

The 44-year-old hasn’t taken the mound in too many innings to count.

“Oh, it’s been over a year. Well over a year,” says Will. “Once I get the first 12 pops out of the way I’m like ok.”

The former hurler for St. Christophers had visions of making the bigs. He soon realized his dream was just that. Will discovered yet another way to stay connected to the game.

“No glove is ever to gone beyond repair,” says Will as he inspects another teammate's glove. “It can be resurrected absolutely.”

Will’s passion goes well beyond the base paths.

“Oh absolutely. I love it. I love it,” says Will.

His Fan apartment is a shrine to America’s pastime and his favorite team the Red Sox.

“Oh Fenway. Without a doubt. All-day,” Will.

Baseball doesn’t fall far from the family tree. His relative Hank Gowdy played in the World Series more than a century ago.

“He was also part of the 1914 Miracle Braves of Boston,” says Will.

Another uncle with a hall of fame pipes called major league games for decades.

“This would be my great-uncle would be Curt Gowdy the long-time voice of the Red Sox,” says Will.

The younger Gsowdy is gripping the game in his own unique way. A professional graphic designer by trade, Will flashes the leather in his living room.

“It is as important as any string on a violin or any violin getting tuned. It is that important,” says Will. “Once all of this lace is out I’ll move on to the cleaning process.”

Will resurrect well-worn baseball gloves that need lots of TLC.

“The way the glove is broken I can tell what position they most likely played I can tell how serious they were,” says Will. 

His obsession was born during the pandemic. He learned his trade online from aging members of a small fraternity of glove gurus.

“I just kept hounding them and hounding them and they took me under their wing and they started calling me the kid in my 40s,” says Will.

The hobby has turned into a side arm side hustle.

“Once I see the sheen that is when I know it is sealed,” says Will.

He snips and clips and cleans everyone with surgeon-like precision.

“With the older the leather the easier it is to just make the wrong move and top grain comes right off and then you’ve ruined it,” says Will.

Will can spend hours, days and weeks on a single thrift store find.

“Yeah, that is where the results come out. It is definitely not something for the impulsive type,” says Will. 

Will says hands down modern gloves can’t compete with vintage.

“I'll find a glove from the 60s that was probably sold at Sears and Roebuck for next to nothing back then comparatively it will be five times better than any other glove you could possibly buy today,” says Will.

Will often donates his gloves to less fortunate children. In this disposable society repairing gloves is becoming a lost art.

“It is rare. It is rare. It is increasingly rare which is kind of sad,” says Will.

Will says baseball gloves remain that lace that binds us to the past.

“Still as an adult, the raw child at heart is still there and always there,” says Will.

Will also photographs and pens a story based on conversations with customers.

“It means a lot to people,” says Will. “They’ll open up and you can see the little kid in their eyes and it is not a canned response by any means. It is genuine.”

Will’s rehabbed gloves look worthy of Cooperstown.

“I get pretty intense in the photo-taking and making sure there is color matching going on,” says Will. 

While he admits he still has much to learn, Will is determined to go extra innings.

“I take extraordinarily meticulous notes,” says Will. “It is a wonderful thing. And I hope only to progress. Maybe that is the way I’ll get to the show.”

Will would like to expand his blossoming business Gowdy Gloves nationwide.

At RVA Sandlot Will already has a built-in customer base.

“Will is obsessed with detail and you combine that with love and passion and you can’t do better than that," Mike Lucero, the founder of RVA Sandlot, said.

He is a pitcher who found his strike zone far from the mound.

Long after most players mothball their mitts Will Gowdy is taking his love of the glove all the way home.

“That was a lot of fun. Been a while. Long time.”

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