"I LIKE the glove to be a little loose," says Ichiro, who oils his game glove each day and stores it in a specially made cotton bag. "If I have it too close to my skin, I'm not able to get good movement on it." The rightfielder says he "started caring for my gloves when I was in elementary school," and since 1992 he has had them custom-made by 72-year-old Nobuyoshi Tsubota, who works for Mizuno and was honored with Japan's Emperor's Award for craftsmanship. They're buttery soft and lightweight, and Ichiro guards them closely. "I've never loaned one of my gloves," he says. "I don't let [my teammates] put their hands inside. If someone does, that bothers me. Or if the glove is on the bench and someone sits on it, that really bothers me."
"I'M NOT like Ichiro. I don't polish my glove every day," says second baseman Bret Boone. "He's always telling me I don't respect my glove.I throw it into my locker after the game, and I expect it to do its job." Still, Boone, a four-time Gold Glover, was unnerved a few years ago when he lost his glove while signing autographs after batting practice. "Somebody threw me a glove, I signed it, and I threw it back," says Boone. "It turned out I threw both the kid's glove and my own glove back. Then that night the kid asked David Bell to sign it. And he did. I had our radio people put out the word that I wanted it back, and I ended up getting it returned for an autographed bat. I was even able to get Bell's signature off it. But then he signed it again."