Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 6/29/12
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Coming off a Gold Glove season, Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra detailed in spring training part of the process that has made him one of baseball's best defensive outfielders: A little red glove not much different from one a small child might use. Parra explained the practice glove, which he started using last year, forces better focus on the ball, which carries over to game situations with a larger glove. Parra picked up the idea after seeing fellow Venezuela native and 11-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel using a small glove in practice. Now, the little glove has spread through the D-backs clubhouse, with some players using the glove daily during batting practice. Accounts vary on how the little red gloves came to sit in nearly every player's locker, but what's certain is Parra is the connection. Parra gets the gloves from a manufacturer in Mexico, and after buying one for fellow outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young last year, he's since procured one for Jason Kubel, who essentially took Parra's starting job in left field after signing as a free agent. "He ordered mine in spring, and I've been using it since," Kubel said. Reserve first baseman Lyle Overbay recalled that Kubel began talking up the little glove and how much it was helping him improve. Overbay and others were intrigued and asked Parra to place orders. Parra went ahead and got gloves for just about everybody, even pitchers. While some players have yet to use theirs, others have made it part of their regular routine. Overbay figures he uses it a handful of times each week for about 10 minutes, taking grounders and playing catch. Upton, who didn't use the glove much if at all last year, uses it every day. "I've always thought it was a kind of cool concept to go out and work with a smaller glove," Upton said. "Whether it has an effect on you or not, it definitely makes you watch the ball into your glove. It's just a cool concept." Whether it is having an effect on the team's overall defense, Upton is not sure. Recent numbers -- a club record 12 consecutive errorless games from May 27-June 9 and just five errors in the last 28 games -- suggest the defense has improved significantly, for whatever cause. What the glove does do, players say, is keep fielders honest. "It's such a small glove, so you don't have a lot of margin for error," Overbay said. "It kind of gets you to really look (the ball) in. You don't get lazy. With a big glove you can kind of get used to that big glove and get lazy." Added Upton: "I know that the more you have to watch the ball into your glove, the better off you'll be. I can notice myself watching the ball, but that's something you should try to do on every play." Kubel currently leads the majors with 10 outfield assists. And if you think a glove has little to do with throwing prowess, think again. He says he's fielding balls differently -- perhaps leading to a quicker transfer from glove to throwing hand. "It (the little glove) really helps with groundballs," Kubel said. "With this you have to really get down and get it, so come game time, you don't even have to think about it." While there's no way to prove how much credit the gloves deserve for the D-backs' defensive proficiency, they have at the very least become a unique clubhouse trend. Some players have ordered the little red gloves -- which also come in pink -- for their kids.
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