- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Does your glove need some love?

Are the laces broken? The fingers floppy? The leather cracked from leaving it outside in the rain?

You need to call the Lonettis.

Jim and Dom Lonetti are mitt mechanics, the father-and-son proprietors of D&J; Glove Repair, a little two-man shop devoted to getting injured baseball and softball gloves off the disabled list and back in the game.

Jim Lonetti, 52, has a day job as a U.S. Postal Service carrier, and Dom Lonetti, 16, is a former Little Leaguer who now pitches for Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

But about five years ago, they started a business together run out of the basement of Jim Lonetti’s home in south Minneapolis.

According to the Lonettis, old gloves are good gloves. With a little care and skill, many can be brought back to life, better than new.

“Gloves aren’t disposable,” said Jim Lonetti. He said he still has every glove he owned as a kid.

“Baseball gloves, for me, they have a strong connection to the past,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1nNbfw4 ).

According to Lonetti, a Vida Blue or Catfish Hunter or Reggie Jackson model mitt from decades ago was more likely to have been made in the United States and more likely to be better quality than a new kid’s glove on the market.

“It’s just good leather that makes a good glove,” he said. “Back in the day, leather used to be better.”

Before growth hormones and other improved farming methods, cattle used to take longer to go to market, so the hides had more time to develop, Lonetti said.

“The leather today isn’t as good because it hasn’t been on the cow long enough,” he said.

An appreciation of good leather and how to treat it well is part of Lonetti’s family history. His grandfather ran a shoe-repair shop on East Seventh Street in St. Paul. Jim Lonetti still uses some of his grandfather’s leatherworking tools in his basement shop.

There’s also a stock of leather lacing made by the same company that makes the lacing for Rawlings. And there’s a laundry basket of old gloves that Jim Lonetti buys at thrift stores, typically for $5 apiece.

He uses those for spare parts. But some of the better old gloves are restored for resale for $15 to $20 for a kid’s glove, or $30 to $40 for an adult model.

That’s a bargain, considering that a quality adult glove can cost well over $100 new. As long as you don’t mind some faded personalization from the prior owner.

“You can almost tell a person’s personality by how they decorate a glove or sign their name,” Jim Lonetti said.

Some of the gloves Lonetti finds and restores are collectibles.

“I’ve seen gloves worth $80 or $100 for a good Harmon Killebrew,” he said.

For one customer, Lonetti was able to find the same Reggie Jackson model of a lost glove the customer had as a kid.

“He was pleased as punch to have that glove again,” Lonetti said. “Baseball gloves are highly sentimental to a lot of people.”

Lonetti has a few unusual gloves: a four-finger model, a three-finger model.

He has a dark chocolate-brown glove his grandfather used in the 1930s and 1940s.

“He used to joke he used it in the war to catch grenades,” Lonetti said.

The Lonettis at first found customers at Dom’s Little League fields and among Jim’s Catholic church softball league. Now they’re repairing gloves for Dom’s high school teammates. Major League clubs typically have a person on staff who acts as a glove doctor. But thanks to word of mouth and Internet searches, the Lonettis have gotten orders from as far as away as California, Georgia and New York.

Jim Lonetti said they are also the unofficial glove-repair shop for the Macalester baseball team.

“It’s kind of satisfying,” he said. “You can take an old glove and bring it back to life.”

Both Lonettis have kits to make emergency repairs in the field. Jim Lonetti said they’ve repaired 100 to 200 gloves a season. One year, they made enough money to take a trip to Cooperstown.

They specialize in a quick turnaround. They might charge $15 just to fix the webbing. If the glove needs all its lacing replaced, it would cost $80.

They’ve also come up with a new product: a cellphone cover made from the leather of a vintage baseball glove.

In their business, the Lonettis said they’ve encountered a lot of bad things that have happened to good gloves. Like players who’ve tried to speed up the breaking-in process by dunking a glove in a bucket of water or putting a glove in a microwave.

“The best way we say to do it is to play catch with it,” Dom Lonetti said.

As an alternative, the two have also made something they call “the mallet,” a baseball screwed onto a wooden handle that can be used to repeatedly smack into the palm of a glove.

Another form of glove abuse: failing to condition the inside of glove at the end of a season.

“People don’t realize that the sweat in your hand is the worst thing for the glove because of the salt,” Jim Lonetti said.

Also bad: clogging the pores of the leather with a waxy substance.

“You don’t want to put anything on a baseball glove that you wouldn’t put on your own skin,” Jim Lonetti said.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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