MINNEAPOLIS — Baseball fans rejoice. After a long winter, Major League Baseball is back and the Twins are opening the season in Kansas City. But here at home, a Minneapolis man makes sure players of all ages are ready.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen visited one of the few baseball glove repair shops in the country.
“They picked up some pitchers. They’ve got good fielders. They’ve got great hitters,” said Twins fan Bob Hoffman.
Minnesota may be one of the few states across the country looking forward to baseball while there’s still snow on the ground.
“It was 34 [degrees] I think on an opening day, and yes, I had everything I owned,” Hoffman said.
No matter what the temperature, every day feels like an opening day for Jimmy Lonetti, owner of D&J Glove Repair, and you won’t find many people doing what he does.
“One of the first things they say is, ‘Oh, I have a glove in my garage that I should bring you,'” Lonetti said.
It all started when Lonetti started relacing teeball gloves and realized he had a knack for it. Just as a carpenter takes an interest in wood, he turned to leather, working on gloves in his garage and basement.
As word got around, Lonetti decided he needed more space. Last fall, he moved his business to south Minneapolis, where his shop also doubles as a mini-museum.
“I’m really a fan of the Twins’ Met Stadium era,” he said.
Back then you could watch a Twins game and then next door you could watch people picking potatoes. Lonetti is now working on restoring gloves from this period. Basically, if you can catch with it, he’ll fix it, and that includes 40’s and 50’s gloves.
Lonetti will work with leather of all kinds, with straps of all kinds – Rawlings, Wilson and others. When it comes to relacing, it takes him between 45 and 75 minutes to bring a vintage glove back to life.
Leather repair is in his blood. Lonetti’s grandfather Jimmy came here from Italy and was a shoemaker. Lonetti even uses the same glue as his grandfather.
“He was a huge inspiration for me to do this,” he said.
His gloves span generations. And just like the thrill of opening day, there’s excitement in giving an old glove another season.
“I get a text from a woman who said, ‘Yes, my dad opened his glove and didn’t take it off all day,'” Lonetti said. “It’s the most satisfying part of the job.”
The “D” in D&J Repair stands for “Dom”, Lonetti’s son, who also helps with glove repairs.
You might see Lonetti at Target Field this year. He enjoys working on gloves while watching a Twins game.