Cigar Aficionado

Rawlings Primo Glove

Remember your first baseball mitt? Mine was a thick slab of leather with about as much flexibility as Idi Amin. I oiled it, pounded it with my fist, stuck a baseball in, secured it with a rubber band and even slept on it. But it still took about four years for the glove to be pliable. The Rawlings Primo is the next-tier mitt that my ordinary glove may have dreamt of becoming while I was dreaming of starting for the Yankees.

Cut from tight-grain Tuscan leather, the eye-grabbing oxblood-red mitt is like an extension of your hand, built for plucking a 400-footer from just over the outfield wall.

This is a serious piece of baseball equipment, made to repel water and take a beating. It's sewn by hand in the Philippines from three layers of leather, the third an interior calf lining that brings comfort to your hand. While no mitt is completely pliable on purchase, this one shows some flex right off the rack (you'll still need to break it in to make it truly perform). However, the true value of the Primo's hidden leather skeleton shows itself when struck by a cowhide ball. The inner and outer layers of Tuscan leather and the calfskin lining take on the shape of the ball to absorb the impact. Break points, each cut specific to the type of mitt (middle infield, pitcher, or outfield, the type shown in the photo), help the glove close just the right way for the type of hits the particular player will likely have to field. There's even wool padding to keep a frozen rope from making your palm sting in agony.

"I would have used them even if they weren't paying me," said one former major leaguer who played Rawlings equipment for his entire career. "I used 'em since I was a kid."

Tuck your left hand into a Primo, push down on the fingertips and clench your right hand into a fist. Punching the center of the impeccably crafted mitt brings a resounding smack as well as a whiff of leather to your nostrils. It's so gorgeous, you might cringe the first time it hits the dirt.