MILWAUKEE -- What's glove got to do with it? Actually, everything. A Milwaukee man's love of leather has made him the man to see for any fielding-related baseball emergencies.
Mike Brower is a 54-year-old Milwaukee man who grew up in the Detroit area and has an abiding love of baseball.
"Been playing, managing, coaching, teaching, doing gloves -- been a fan forever," Brower said.
You'll find plenty of players and coaches and fans, but guys who do gloves?
"I enjoy the challenge of putting it together. I think it's an art form, sure. You want to make your knots perfect. You want your laces to lay a certain way," Brower said.
Brower will pick up a glove at Goodwill, or get one from a friend, recondition it and sell it on the internet.
"Anything I do is ready to play with. It's not just something to put on a mantle piece. If I fix one up and sell it on eBay or someplace, I say it's ready for play or display," Brower said.
Brower is really in his element, though, when he's in rescue mode. When a kid's laces break on a Saturday and he has a tournament on Sunday, that qualifies as a diamond emergency. Brower is the man to see. When a high schooler's web blows out on a Tuesday, he can't play on Wednesday without a repair.
"I have a passion for it. I like to do it. I want to get people taken care of. I know how it is to be without a glove, or your glove breaks during a game and you have a shoelace through it until you can get through the 9th inning and you've got to find someplace to fix it," Brower said.
So how does one get better at something like this?
"Just do it. How many thousands of gloves have I done, and some of them I'd have to write down. Some of them I'd have to draw little pictures to myself. Some of the older ones, especially, with some of the webs, in writing that only I could understand -- tops out, front and up back through, tunnel the fifth hole down, knot out -- I know what that means," Brower said.
A perfect night for Brower is sitting at his table repairing a glove, while his wife knits and they listen to the Brewers.
"Diane and I always say, 'you can tell how the Brewers are doing as soon as you turn the radio on and see what Uecker sounds like.' 'He just walked the lead-off man...' 'Alright, Bob, so we're down, eh?'" Brower said.
Uecker spreads the news of the Brewers nightly. Customers of Brower talk too, and they rave about his glove work.
"Word of mouth, really. You start doing a couple and a teammate does one and tells a buddy and somebody else in the league knows and somebody plays on a different team and they need something and by the time you know it, it's like 'hey, Brower can fix that for you,' and I like that. I like to be the man, you know? And I think I'm kind of getting that way, getting that reputation," Brower said.
The fielders know who's the best in his field.
One of the many reasons Brower loves working on gloves is he still does have a regular Monday-Friday job, so this is still an avocation, vs. his vocation. If you need help with your glove, CLICK HERE to reach out to Brower.