Major League Baseball
These 11 major leaguers don't wear batting gloves, preferring to grin and 'bare' it
Major League Baseball

These 11 major leaguers don't wear batting gloves, preferring to grin and 'bare' it

Updated May. 21, 2021 5:38 p.m. ET

By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Everyone’s doing it. Well, almost everyone. 

Of the 695 players who have had at least one major-league plate appearance this season, all but 11 of them consistently wear batting gloves. Batting gloves, or "BGs" as players often call them, have become so commonplace in today’s game that most of those 684 gloved hitters probably don’t think twice about putting them on. It’s just what they do. 

Batting gloves haven’t always been the ubiquitous piece of equipment they are now. Their origin story comes from a much worse sport: golf. The legend is that at some point in the mid-1960s, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson (whom you know as the former White Sox broadcaster who screamed a lot in short spurts) spent a whole morning before a game golfing his butt off.


When Harrelson arrived at the field for batting practice, he realized that his hands were absolutely blistered from his time on the links. So he went into his bag, pulled out his golf glove, wore it during the game and homered off Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. There are stories of many other players from previous decades using golf gloves during batting practice but not during games. But after Harrelson, the rest was history. 

By the 1990s, batting gloves were standard issue across the majors. 

Why did nearly everyone else eventually follow Harrelson's lead? Well, the things probably make hitting way more darn comfortable. Pro hitters take hundreds of swings per week, swings that suddenly became more bearable when guys stopped going barehanded. 

Blisters went down, calluses got better, hitters felt more confident in their grips. And after a while, the whole story flipped: You were no longer a weirdo if you wore batting gloves; you were a weirdo if you didn’t.

There have always been a handful of players who refused to conform, but nowadays, the brave gloveless dissenters are almost down to single digits. 

The Naked Eleven, as they shall henceforth be known, are: Tim Locastro and Stephen Vogt on the Diamondbacks, Joe Musgrove (a pitcher!), Wil Myers and Trent Grisham on the Padres, Kyle Tucker (Astros), Joey Wendle (Rays), Brad Miller (Phillies), Austin Hays (Orioles), Luis Guillorme (Mets) and Matt Carpenter (Cardinals).

There are a few other notable players who eschew batting gloves from time to time – Bryce Harper and Vlad Jr., for instance – but those 11 thick-skinned men have separated themselves as the barehanded regulars.

But what motivates these guys to zig while 99 percent of the league stays the course? Why are they actively opting in to pain and discomfort on a daily basis? Or are their hands just built differently, from years of swinging barehanded, and they don’t feel any pain at all? 

The bottom line is that batting gloves have become so ever-present in the bigs today that not wearing them is an active choice — a choice that needs an explanation. So I made some phone calls.

Six-time All-Star Moises Alou was renowned for his batting-glove-less hitting prowess. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

"You have to be in love with the bat," Moises Alou, the modern godfather of the gloveless, explained to FOX Sports over the phone last week. "I loved my bat. Seriously. You cannot develop a relationship between your skin and the wood if you use batting gloves."

Alou had an incredible, 17-year MLB career. He made the All-Star team six times, finished third in the MVP voting twice and ripped 332 career home runs. He’s a member of the Dominican Republic’s most revered baseball family. He lost out to Steve Bartman on the most famous foul ball in baseball history in the 2003 NLCS. Despite all that, Alou is remembered by many as the guy who didn’t wear batting gloves.

"I had a sponsorship deal with a batting glove company at the beginning of my career, but I never wore batting gloves. So instead I wore that brand’s wristbands. One month, I won, like, $2,000 from them for leading the league in RBI. Then they kind of fired me. I guess they figured it out — wait, this guy doesn’t wear batting gloves."

When asked why he spent almost two decades in the bigs without ever using a pair of gloves, Alou was more emotional.

"I don’t know. Maybe I’m different. Maybe I’m weird. But to me, it was love between my bat and myself. I just love feeling my bat. You have to love what you do. That was my weapon. That was what got me to and through the big leagues."

For Alou, batting gloves were an impenetrable barrier to establishing a deep, almost metaphysical connection with his bat. 

For some current gloveless big-leaguers such as Locastro, the speedy D-Backs outfielder, the reasoning is much simpler. His choice has nothing to do with any magical connection between skin and grain. His origin story is all about happenstance and good, old-fashioned peer pressure. 

"Growing up, I wore batting gloves, like, on and off," Locastro explained. "But when I got to college, I remember wearing them early my freshman season. There were a few older guys, juniors and seniors, that weren't wearing them. And as a young freshman, I just wanted to be like them, so I started not wearing ‘em. Then you get a few hits, you get hot, and you can’t go back. The following year, I had some friends where none of us were wearing batting gloves, and that turned into, ‘Hey, we’re the no-BG guys,' and I haven’t looked back since."

Hays, the young Baltimore outfielder enjoying a great start to 2021, also stopped wearing gloves as an amateur not because it was more comfortable to him but because he’s a good son.

Baltimore's Austin Hays is part of a small group of major leaguers who hit without batting gloves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

"I used to be really fast when I was younger, so every time I got on base, I would just steal. And I would always wear my batting gloves when I would slide because those fields were so hard, you’d just tear your hands up," Hays said. "It was like every single weekend, I’d have to get a new pair of batting gloves. I felt bad that my mom would keep buying me more, so I just stopped wearing 'em. And it just stuck. Now it’s a part of my game."

The origin story for Houston's Tucker is just like Hays’ but somehow even more mundane. 

"The last time I remember using batting gloves consistently was my freshman year of high school," Tucker said. "And then honestly, the gloves ripped, and I never went to buy some more. Then I stopped using them, didn’t have a problem without them and probably swung it pretty good for a bit, so that was it."

It cannot be emphasized enough: This is not rocket science for these guys. For all the attention pitchers such as Trevor Bauer have gotten for their alleged foreign substance chemistry, this is the opposite of that. The explanations for going gloveless are way more childhood stubbornness than high-level strategy.

"One time Nike came out with a cool pair of gloves," Myers, the Padres outfielder (and former Rays' super prospect), remembered. "I was in middle school, I think. I wore them for one game, hated them, and that was it."

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Every single player I talked to had a lighthearted no-batting-gloves origin story, but when I pushed a bit deeper and asked why they continued the practice, most postulated that because they’ve gone gloveless for so long, switching to gloves now would feel alien to them. 

Hays probably explained this best: "They became normal to me, so now if I put a pair of batting gloves on and try to hold the bat, it feels like there’s something blocking between my hands and the bat."

Tampa Bay's Wendle, like many of the other players, kept falling back on the word "feel."

"The short answer is feel. I just prefer the feel of it. I just grab the bat, and I like how it feels without gloves, so I don’t see any reason to wear them," Wendle said. "Honestly, I think the way that I see it, why wear batting gloves? That would be my question. Not necessarily why don’t I, but why do you?"

A player absent from The Naked Eleven, who’s still relevant to this conversation, is Orioles catcher Pedro Severino. Severino wears batting gloves about 90 percent of the time but regularly takes at-bats without them. While the rest of these hitters are just "doing what they’ve always done," Severino’s approach seems to have more reasoning behind it.

"When I'm angry, when I’m struggling, I don't like to wear batting gloves because I want to feel the pain in my hands," Severino said. "No tape, no pine tar, just my hands on the bat."

This is more in line with Alou’s thought process, that the raw connection between skin and wood has transformative powers. For Severino, going gloveless is about mixing things up, breaking out of his routine and jumpstarting his body into a place of locked-in-ness at the plate. 

This is all fine and dandy, but what about the blisters? All that swinging has to have some impact on bare hands, right?

Yes, as Wendle explained. "Yeah my hands get pretty gnarly and beat up," he said. "I always have some blisters healing, new calluses forming. My wife complains when I rub her back or something like that, and my kids always say I have spiky hands."

But for most players, blisters and the calluses aren’t an issue, which makes sense when you think about it. If at any point during their long journeys up the chain, lesions on their hands hampered their ability to thwack a baseball, they either would have (a) started wearing gloves or (b) failed at professional baseball. 

Besides Alou, who can look back upon his batting-gloveless career with rose-colored hindsight, these players are motivated by inertia more than anything else. Eleven players out of almost 700 is a staggeringly small number, but there’s no secret sauce behind it. They just like the way it feels.

"I honestly think it’s just that some people tried it with no gloves and got hot at the plate and never looked back," Locastro said. "That’s how baseball works sometimes. It’s a hard game. You do whatever works to get hits."

Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball analyst for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.


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