Inside The Clubhouse: Former Dodger Shawn Green Reveals The Genesis Of His Quirky Batting Glove Tradition

Featured photo credit: Jon SooHoo, 2004

The best baseball traditions are the ones that begin organically, often by mistake. As a fan, they can leave an impression on you that lasts a lifetime. 

I know from experience, but we’ll dive into that a little later. The first thing I want to do is tell you about a regular season game in 2000; Shawn Green’s first year as a Dodger.

The details of which game it was are a little foggy, but Green remembers it being at home in April. He was on-deck and noticed his batting gloves were ripped. Too late to return to the clubhouse to get a new pair, he stepped to the plate and promptly hit a home run. After he rounded the bases, he decided to discard the damaged gloves.

“I just threw the gloves to a kid in the stands and didn’t think much of it. Kid was stoked, which was cool,” Green told me over the phone.

Someone though, did think something of it. That someone happened to be Hall of Fame broadcaster and baseball legend Vin Scully, who seized the moment, like he did on so many occasions throughout his 67-year career behind the mic.

“Vin Scully said on-air, ‘it must be something that the new guy does after home runs,’” Green recalled.

Except it wasn’t something Green had always done. In fact, he had never done it before. Prior to being traded to the Dodgers for fellow outfielder Raul Mondesi and pitcher Pedro Borbón, Green spent seven years with the Toronto Blue Jays. He hit a total of 119 home runs for the Jays and threw zero pairs of batting gloves into the stands.

“It happened naturally, and whatever Vin says is gospel in L.A. and in sports,” Green said.

I think we can all agree with that sentiment. Thus, the new home run batting glove tradition was born, but Green needed a little help in the beginning to remember to keep doing it. He recalled a few times when he’d hit a home run and go straight into the dugout with his batting gloves still in his hands. Mitch Poole, the Dodgers longtime clubhouse manager, would then remind Green of his unfulfilled duty. 

“I’d go in, put my helmet in, shake hands and then (Mitch was) like, ‘don’t forget,’ and then I’d go back out there and give it to a kid,” Green said. “After doing that a few times I finally remembered,” Green said.

I asked Dodgers’ historian Mark Langill about Green’s unique tradition. He told me it was very indicative of how Green was as a player, and more importantly, who he was as a person.

“It’s the anti-bat flip,” Langill said. “Instead of him doing a gesture and saying, ‘it’s my moment,’ he hands the gloves to somebody.”

The Day I Met Shawn Green

I remember becoming a diehard Dodgers fan right around the time Shawn Green joined the club. I was instantly drawn to him, not only as this tall, slender, power-hitting outfielder with one of the sweetest lefty swings I’d ever seen, but because I too was a young Jewish boy who grew up in California. He is still my favorite player of all time.

In 2000, for my ninth birthday, my parents took me and a number of my friends to a Dodgers game at the end of April. They also arranged for us to watch batting practice on the field and meet some of the players in the clubhouse: a dream come true. 

At Dodger Stadium during batting practice. My friend Jacob Moss is second from the left in the first row. I am to his left. April 30, 2000.

Jacob Moss, one of my childhood best friends and fellow diehard Dodgers fanatic, was in art class with me in the days leading up to my birthday. We created a colorful clay sculpture you could easily hold in your hands, that could only be described in this way:

“It’s a lump. It’s a lump shape. It’s a painted lump,” Moss reminisced with me recently.

The lump originally had no purpose and was quite possibly the ugliest thing ever made. We decided we were going to give it to Shawn Green as a gift if we got the chance to meet him.

On April 30, 2000, three days before my actual birthday, the Dodgers were hosting the then-Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium. We did get to meet Shawn Green who, at 6’4”, stood larger-than-life outside the clubhouse. Not only did we have the lump with us, but Jacob and I both had lumps in our throats as we nervously presented the masterpiece to our hero. 

“I remember us handing it to him, don’t remember what he said, but I remember him being confused,” Moss said. 

Shawn Green opens his gift and is in awe of its artistic beauty. April 30, 2000.

I think everyone was a little confused at that moment, but Green eventually told us if he hit a home run that day he’d keep the sculpture in his locker. The baseball Gods must have been watching the game, because Green hit two home runs as the Dodgers defeated the Marlins, 7-1. 

“It was a couple of kids giving me something they made, it’s heartfelt,” Green remembered. “I just grabbed it and probably stuck it in my locker and played the game. I hit a couple of home runs and was like, ‘okay, wait a second. What happened today that was different than yesterday?’ And that was it – so I’ll keep in there for good luck.”

The Tradition Gets Tossed To Me

If this story had ended there, I would have been thrilled…but it gets better. Years later, after Green was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, my father and I were in the midst of a quest to see a baseball game in every major league stadium (which we eventually completed). In 2005, we were in Arizona, sitting behind the Diamondbacks dugout. Green came out on-deck and recognized my Dad. We said hello and asked him if he had kept the lump in his locker like he promised. He told us he did.

“I think I had it in there for a couple of years, for sure,” Green said. “If it worked, it worked right?” 

My mind was blown, but before I had time to fathom how cool that was, Green hit two home runs again. He tried to throw me one of his batting gloves after the first bomb, but some other kid got in the way and caught it. Good thing Greenie had another one in him; I made sure to secure the second glove.

To this day, I have that white Rawlings batting glove with a little bit of pine tar on it. What that moment meant to me, given the context of everything that happened leading up to it, is the same reason why Green carried on this tradition.

“I liked to do things that connected with kids because I was a huge fan of the game as a kid, so I understood exactly what those kids felt to have a connection with a major leaguer,” Green said. “They’re not only fans of the game, but they’re obviously fans of us as players on their team.”

When I think about the first time I met Shawn Green 20 years ago,  I am reminded of the magic of baseball. The way I look at it is: if the lump sculpture was lucky enough to produce a two-homer game in 2000, and Green kept it in his locker for a least a couple more seasons, then it was obviously good enough to help him smack a Dodgers-record 49 home runs in 2001 and a four-home run game in 2002. There’s really no other way to explain it.

“Whether or not the lump had anything to do with the home runs, we definitely felt like we contributed,” Moss agreed.

Setting aside baseball superstitions for now, Shawn Green made countless memories for young fans throughout his career. Whether it was tossing them a batting glove or playing catch with kids in the bleachers during batting practice, Green said he’d like to see more major leaguers follow his lead as Major League Baseball continues to struggle to engage its younger fan base.

“For me, I’m really happy that it worked out where it sort of came together and turned into a tradition because it’s something that I really enjoyed doing,” Green said. “It was so gratifying hitting a home run and seeing a bunch of kids scramble to the front to try to get the gloves. I was pretty proud of that tradition for sure.” 

Jake Reiner covers the Dodgers for Dodgers-LowDown and is a reporter for KCBS/KCAL. Follow him on twitter @Reiner_Jake