ORLANDO – When I visited the Kansas City Royals’ camp last month, right-hander James Shields surprised me by pulling a glove out of his locker that had the inscription, “Bossman Jr.”
Bossman Jr.? That’s B.J. Upton’s nickname (Upton’s father, Manny, is Bossman). What the heck was Shields’ doing with Upton’s glove?
“I break in all his gloves for him,” Shields said, smiling. “I texted him the other day: ‘What are you going to do without me?’”
The glove story dates back to when Shields and Upton were minor leaguers with the Tampa Bay Rays. Shields, 31, and Upton, 28, both were drafted by the Rays, and played together at Double A and Triple A.
Now, for the first time, they are in different organizations.
Upton signed a five-year, $75.25 million free-agent contract with the Atlanta Braves on Nov. 29, and the Rays traded Shields to the Royals 10 days later.
“Every year when I came in, I would take my gloves out of my lockers and give them straight to him,” Upton recalled. “He would give them back to me a week before the season started. I kind of miss him right now.”
Shields joked that he had an ulterior motive for taking such good care of Upton’s gloves, saying, “That way, I knew he was going to catch it.”
As for the glove in his locker, Shields said he had kept one of Upton’s discards to use as his “shagging glove” with the Royals.
“We went golfing this off-season,” Shields said. “He was like, ‘What am I going to do without you? I’m going to have send gloves to your clubhouse so you can break ‘em in.’ I said, ‘I’ll break ‘em in after the second road trip of the year when I face you.’”
It’s true: The Braves host the Royals on April 16-17.