There is this assumption that professional baseball players get all the free stuff they want. This is most certainly not the case for the majority of players. There are the lucky few who get endorsement deals and agents that get them all the gear they want, and then there are the other guys using discount codes online and shopping at Ross for cleats. I have been both of these players during my career, but it took me awhile to start getting free stuff.
Before I talk about my own personal gear, I’ll quickly mention what things I received for free from each organisation I joined. When I signed with the Phillies and attended my first Spring Training I was given a pair of cleats, a glove, and a gear bag. Apart from practise and playing uniform, those three things were the only free things I received. That gear bag was the only one you were given. Even if you were there for a long period of time, you only got one bag… until you got to the big leagues. When I got to the Twins for the first time in 2011 I received a pair of cleats and another gear bag. Would have looked weird if I turned up to camp everyday with a Phillies bag right? When I came back to the Twins in 2014, I didn’t get a gear bag, or cleats. I had to use the bag given to me the few years earlier and when I arrived in spring training with the Padres in 2019, I received a bag. No cleats. Just a bag. By the end of my time with the Twins in 2017 and 2018 they gave us a hoodie in spring training. Before then we had to buy our own. You should have seen my face when they asked me what hoodie size I was and that we were getting a free hoodie! A look of pure joy and shock that we were gifted such a luxury. And I could finally upgrade from the hoodie I bought in 2014.
Now, onto my personal gear. Let’s talk about my gloves first. My parents bought me the gloves I used in the minor leagues for the first few years. But in 2011 I started to use a glove that was given to me for free by a former teammate at the Phillies. I used that glove up until about 2016 then one of my long time best friends decided it was time for an upgrade, and she bought me a custom Rawlings Pro Preferred. Once I got that I treated it like gold. It was one of the nicest piece of equipment I had ever owned. Then in 2017 44Pro Gloves approached me and offered me a glove deal. I was like… you want to give me, a 26 year old nobody a couple of free gloves? Of course I jumped on the deal! For the last three seasons I’ve received three fully custom gloves from 44Pro and I love them. One of my favourite things about the company is that apart from having high quality leather and it being a well manufactured glove, the design is uniquely mine. I’m a pretty out there person, and a little different so to be able to express my style with my gloves is something most other glove companies don’t allow you to do. It took me eight years since my first professional contract to get my first product endorsement deal.
Time to talk about my cleats. Yes, my mum did buy a lot of my cleats that I used early on in my career. Then I started to shop at Ross to find the discounted $12 cleats. It’s almost impossible to make it through a full season with one pair of cleats. The wear and tear on them takes a toll and you really need at least 2-3 pairs. So, I was one of those guys that would always be at Ross while on road trips searching for a pair of cleats to make it through the next few months, and also find cleats to take home to wear in the Australian Baseball League. Affordable cleats are hard to find in Australia since baseball isn’t a major sport. I spent lots of money on cleats and then one year one of my old teammates got a really good job with Adidas and he sent me a text saying I should stop wearing Nike, and start wearing Adidas. He didn’t use those exact words, but that was the gist of the message. I wasn’t pitching too well at the time so I was like sure, I’ll mix it up and wear a different brand of cleat after being a loyal Nike guy for almost my entire career. The only condition of getting cleats was that I would have to post them all over my social media and tell my teammates about them. Fairly simple. He sent me a pair and I loved them. So since 2015 I’ve been wearing Adidas and thanks to him I haven’t had to spend too much on cleats over the years.
I got even luckier with my friend and our little Adidas agreement. As I posted my cleats and Adidas gear on Instagram and Twitter I tagged a large baseball account in my posts. What Pros Wear (@whatproswear) is exactly what it sounds like. A baseball account that highlights gear worn by professional baseball players. It turns out that one of my old Australian teammates was a creative director for the account and he would repost nearly everything I posted. This was during a time that Adidas were re-entering the baseball market and any exposure they got they loved. So my mate at Adidas would send me cleats, I’d post it, my mate at What Pros Wear would re-post it, Adidas would love the free exposure and I’d get more cleats! It was a great cycle!
Like I stated up top, everyone loves free stuff, but I went through a time where family took care of me and made sure I had all the gear and equipment I needed. Then came a time where I bought it all for myself and now I’m lucky enough to have people and companies send me cleats and gloves to use. With all my good fortune over the years I’ve been able to be one of those guys now that can give a glove away, give a pair of cleats to someone who needs it more than I do. Another small lesson I learnt from my mum was, if you’re in a position to help someone, always help.