By STEVE KRAH
A baseball or softball glove is like a person.
Both need TLC.
A person who provides tender loving care to those fly catchers and grounder grabbers is Joey Miranda.
He taught himself how to repair his own glove as a ballplayer and he’s been doing it for others as owner of Big Head Sports. His repeat customers include the South Bend Cubs, Notre Dame, Bethel University, Indiana University South Bend and several travel organizations.
“I really enjoy doing glove work. I really do,” says Miranda, an Osceola, Ind., resident. “It keeps me around baseball.”
Miranda, 51, grew up in Woodland, Calif., near Sacramento and went to Oakland A’s game with father Joe Sr., and San Diego Padres with his grandfather (Luis and grandmother Eva lived in Tijuana and had Joey visit each August after his baseball season) and uncle and played lots of ball while tending to his glove and those of his ball-playing buddies.
“I got really good at it,” says Miranda, who moved to northern Indiana in 2008.
Over the years, he did research and learned how to break in gloves — what to do and not to do.
Miranda says a glove should not be put in the oven, microwave or steamer.
“It causes cracking,” says Miranda. It will also void the warranty at some sporting goods retailers. “Conditioner soothes the outside of the glove and puts moisture back into glove.”
Proper care will also extend the life of the glove.
“It won’t last as long if you don’t clean it with conditioner,” says Miranda. “I used to to use mink or Neatsfoot oil, but I’ve gotten away from that.
“If you use too much it will make the glove heavy. (Oil) doesn’t dissipate.”
Miranda, who sells new and used gloves, gives maintenance information.
“I recommend conditioning twice a year — the middle of the season and the end to protect the glove over the winter,” says Miranda. “I really like it when parents bring their athlete with them. I can inform the player on how to take care of their glove.
“At $200-$400, that’s a little bit of an investment for the parents.”
High-end gloves can have map or steer or some other kind of leather while low end ones are made of average hyde.
Miranda invites customers to shoot him a text and he will walk them through any questions they might have.
“It’s about my customers,” says Miranda. “It’s like an honor for me working on their glove.
“I have some really loyal customers that only come to me.”
Joey and Rebecca Miranda had four children. The oldest — Casey — died a few years ago. Then there’s sons Andrew and Anthony and daughter Jordan. The boys all played baseball.
When Anthony was at what is now Harris Baseball/Softball in Granger, Ind., and his glove broke his father informed him that he could fix it. The laces were swept out for white ones and it was a real attention-getter.
The next thing you know other players and parents are coming to Miranda for his glove TLC.
He started buying lace from a local man and word of his work began spreading like wildfire.
Then came Big Head Sports. The name comes from the inflated egos Miranda saw while he was a player.
“I grew up with guys who were supposed to get drafted and didn’t,” says Miranda.
Best friend Jeff Moore is a graphic designer in California and crafted Miranda’s logo. The business motto is “Don’t let your head get bigger than the game.”
“That’s what keeps me humble in what I’m doing. I have yet to advertise other than on Facebook (or Twitter). I get new people every year by word of mouth. That feels good.
“I treat each glove as if it was my own. That’s my work that I’m putting out there.”
Joey and Rebecca have talked about one day opening a store and have been collecting old gloves and baseball memorabilia for decor.
Miranda backs up his work. He will replace materials up to four months and offers free glove-tightening.
A relationship with former South Bend Silver Hawks manager and current general manager of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and head of the South Bend Cubs Foundation travel baseball organization Mark Haley got Miranda in with the South Bend Cubs.
Miranda’s turnaround time is often a few days depending on his schedule. Miranda is a material handler at RC Industries in Elkhart and coaches a Hitters Edge 14U travel team.
Sometimes a glove emergency arises. Like this spring when there was a blowout of Notre Dame senior and Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft prospect Niko Kavadas’ first baseman’s mitt during pregame of a game at Frank Eck stadium.
Miranda, who often took glove-related calls from Irish assistant coach Rich Wallace, got a call from the ND staff and he was off to the ballpark — about 10 miles away.
“Niko is pretty superstitious,” says Miranda.
When Joey saw the mitt this time it had zip ties holding it together. Miranda feverishly did his thing and got it to Kavadas in the nick of time.
“I got the glove done as lineups being announced,” says Miranda.
Many folks will use bunny cords or rubber bands when breaking in a glove. Miranda discourages this because it can cause the glove to flex where the cord or band is placed.
With his wife’s permission, he uses old dish towels and puts a ball in the glove pocket where his has been pounding it with a 5-pound weight or glove mallet.
“There’s no flex point and you’re covering a wide area,” says Miranda. “You want to make the pocket round.
“The ball is round — not flat or taco-shaped.”
Miranda recommends catching balls off a pitching machine as part of the break-in process.
“You need to get use to the glove,” says Miranda. “A lot of it is feel.
“Also— old or new — you should be squeezing all the time.”
Many players look for the glove to do all the work.
It’s just part of fundamentals — the kind that Miranda teaches as a coach with his travel team or as an assistant to Lawrence “Buster” Hammond at South Bend Washington High School (the Panthers did not field a team this spring because of low participation numbers).
Miranda has been coaching baseball for more than two decades.
“I love coaching because it’s about the kids,” says Miranda. “You make a difference in a young man’s life.
“I’ve been clean and sober for 24 years. That’s my way of giving back.”
To contact Miranda, call 574-855-6332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.