The “glove trick”
Throughout this season (and beyond), you’re gonna hear me talking a lot about the “glove trick.” Some of you already know about this, but for those who don’t, here’s the story…
When I was eight, I saw a fan on TV using a fishing pole to lower an empty soup can over a ball that was sitting beyond his reach on the field below. The can descended…slowly…slowly…until it dropped over the ball, and when the guy lifted it, the ball was gone. Poof! Just like that. I couldn’t believe it, and the memory stuck.
Six years later, I started attending games regularly and began to drool over all the balls that rolled into the left field corner during batting practice at Yankee Stadium. I tried to make my own can, but it was clunky and rarely worked when I practiced with it at home. I brought it to one game in 1992, but BP was wiped out by a last-minute thunderstorm, and I gave up on the idea.
The following season, inspiration struck. Instead of a can with sharp edges and three-pound dumbbells tied to the top, all I needed was my glove, a rubber band, a Sharpie, and some string. I practiced in my room, and the thing worked. It was easy to set up and didn’t require materials that might be confiscated. I started getting more baseballs than ever. Fans always asked how I did it. Players often came over for a look. This is what they all wanted to know:
1) The materials. Tie the string to the handle of your glove and keep it tucked away in the palm when you’re not using it. It’s a bit uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it.
2) Hook the band under the flap on the outside of your glove’s pocket. (If there’s no flap, you have two choices: improvise or get a new glove.)
3) Stretch the band over the tip of your glove and prop the glove open with the Sharpie. (Without the Sharpie, the glove won’t stay open. Normal pens don’t work as well because they’re thin and sometimes slip through the spaces between the fingers. When you have everything set up, the space between the band and the tip of the glove needs to be slightly smaller than the ball.)
4) Lower your glove over the ball. (At this point, you’ll be dangling the glove by the string. I’m just holding the glove itself so I could take a decent pic. Anyway, the glove’s weight forces the band to stretch around the ball. But first make sure that the band is not too tight or the ball won’t go in, or too loose or the ball won’t stay in. This takes practice.
Alliance’s Size 117B rubber bands work best for me.)
5) It’s a delicate operation. Lift the glove slowly so the ball doesn’t fall out. (This is the view from below, complete with the ceiling light in the hallway outside my apartment. Notice how the band has stretched back to hold the ball in place.)
A few years ago, Rick Reilly named this trick the “ZackTrap” in a story for Sports Illustrated, and Rosie O’Donnell had me perform it live on her show. Good times, yes, but I’ve also gotten a few lectures along the way from stadium security. Some ballparks don’t allow these kinds of contraptions, others have no problem with them, and a few have policies that fall somewhere in the middle. (For example, when I visited Oakland in 1999, security allowed the fans to fish for balls behind the outfield walls, but wouldn’t let us pluck them off the field.) It’s hard to keep track of the rules, especially when they vary from one usher to the next, so be careful and respectful and ask for permission first. Oh, and don’t tell anyone how the trick works. It’s a secret.