Leather Goods Part One: The Successful Salesman

When my kids would come home from their first days in elementary school, they’d hand over the glossy brochure, and I would have PTSD flashbacks. It wasn’t bad memories of elementary school that distressed me, although there was that one cafeteria burping incident in 2nd grade that resulted in a trip to the principal’s office.

Rather, it was the brochure – the dreaded Sally Foster Wrapping Paper fundraiser sales brochure. My wife loved it, but I hated it. The schools expected the young kids to sell the paper to raise additional funds for the school, which, of course, meant the parents or grandparents ended up buying the paper. At least it was quality paper.

Sally Foster Brochure

Sally Foster Brochure

So while I hated to see this brochure and may have had a rant about it every year, my flashbacks didn’t come from a repressed wrapping paper trauma but rather from the expected selling process. I was taken back to my Northwood Little League days when we were expected to sell coupon books for fundraising.  I absolutely dreaded the door-to-door selling process.

If I remember correctly, outside of my parents, I think I only had one regular customer for my coupon books. Mr. Parrot probably dreaded that knock on the door each spring, but he always supported me. I don’t remember if they gave an award for the player who sold the most books. Probably because I was never that kid. I’m not sure I even sold my allotted number of books.

A few years later, I had moved on from Little League and found myself as an 18-year-old centerfielder on the Greer American Legion baseball team where our coach introduced a fundraising plan. My heart sank as he explained: we were to sell season tickets.

Ugh, I thought. Bad memories of Northwood Little League coupon books came flooding back. Then he added. “The top sales guy will win a gift certificate from Sam Wyche Sports World.”

Hold on a minute. Now, he had my interest. I looked down at the baseball glove on my left hand – my trusty Rawlings RBG4. It had been my sidekick for several years, but it was falling apart. I felt it was time for an upgrade. After this final summer of Legion games, I planned to need a glove for a few more years as I pursued college baseball. The RBG4 wasn’t going to make it.

For this sales contest, thanks to a group of close friends who attended a bunch of games the summer before and planned to do so that year (and of course, parents and grandparents), I sold the most season tickets and claimed the top sales prize. Soon, my coach and I were off to Sam Wyche Sports World to find my new glove. Unfortunately, the RBG4 model was either out of stock or discontinued, so I selected a new, but similar, Rawlings model, the PRO-B.  I decide PRO-B had had a nice ring to it.

There was a problem, though. Before I could put the PRO-B into service, I had to break it in. Unlike today’s gloves, which are soft and pliable and seem to be usable right off the rack, back in my day, a glove’s leather was super stiff. Before you could easily close the glove to make a catch, you had to spend time oiling the leather in the glove’s palm, following by repeated opening and closing the glove. It was a time-consuming process.

The RBG4 and PRO-B

The RBG4 and PRO-B

The Legion regular season was 20 games. We played four nights a week for five weeks. By the time I broke in my new glove and felt comfortable enough to use it in a game, the season was half over.  So, for the 1986 Legion season, the PRO-B saw action for 10 games, since we struggled that season to a 10-10 record, (going off memory here, don’t hold me to it) and didn’t make the playoffs. No problem, it was on to college tryouts.

That fall, PRO-B and I attempted to walk on the University of Georgia baseball team. Unfortunately, good fielders weren’t needed as much as good hitters. Maybe I should have bought a new bat that summer or at least stayed away from the golf course. My hitting performance during tryouts was abysmal, to say the least, and PRO-B and I were sent home after the second cut.

PRO-B and I unexpectedly retired from baseball that fall. We played in a few unsatisfying softball games along the way, not exactly the vision I had for us. Eventually, PRO-B and RBG4 found their way into a box, where I occasionally stumble upon them and recall a few baseball victories and one small sales victory. I come away disappointed I didn’t pursue alternative baseball paths and glad I didn’t pursue a career in sales.

Gloves In a Box

Gloves In a Box

Thanks for reading,





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