Baseball’s annual return is as much a part of American culture as the red, white and blue of our flag. It’s a time when anyone who ever cared about the game looks ahead with hope and back at the past with fondness. And sometimes the tools of baseball help us along our way.
It’s a back road bypass to the heart of America’s pastime. A tiny room in Cotati is filled with the musty smell of seasoned leather. Stay there long enough and you’ll get a feeling that every baseball glove in the world either has or will pass through.
“They are very personal items,” said Fran Fleet. “Very personal.”
In what has become a throw-away society, here’s the antithesis — Fleet, AKA the Sandal Lady.
She opened a shop to repair Birkenstocks and then found a self-taught, true calling in the 1970s. Or maybe it found her.
“The glove is secondary to what is happening,” she said.
She showed us a fielder’s glove that Ron Shively of Hercules used back in Little League.
“This is going to be new finger laces, new web laces, cleaned, conditioned, and shaped,” she said.
And all for $55 after a one month wait. As with every other glove there, touch the leather and tap the memories.
“I think what’s really happening is it’s a way of regaining some of their youth for these guys,” said Fleet. “And it’s not all guys. It’s women, too.”
The place is a total of 100 square feet. Not a lot for Fleet, the gloves, or visitors. And then you look around and notice the signatures on the walls.
“I didn’t start doing the signatures until 2011,” she said.
The testimony to her success that hardly a square inch of wall space remains.
No major leaguers yet. But Fleet is working hard on that, based on what she jokingly tells the kids.
“I want you to quit school and I want you to concentrate on baseball and get famous. Then I will cut the wall, sell it, and retire!” she said with a laugh.
Don’t believe it. To lose these strong hands, the fountain of youth for baseball gloves, would be such a loss.
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