The first two at-bats on the night of March 3 hadn’t gone well for the Hunter Alexander. The University of Alabama junior popped out and struck out, and the Crimson Tide was trailing Louisiana-Monroe 3-0. That was reason enough for Alexander to ditch the batting gloves he had worn to start the game.
Alexander is the rare hitter in baseball who prefers to not wear gloves. He’d only worn them to start that game because the temperatures in Tuscaloosa dipped into the 30s that evening.
“I was like ‘We’re not wearing these anymore,’” Alexander said. “I took them off and ended up hitting the walk off.”
He was 0-2 with the gloves, and 2-2 without them. He doubled in the seventh inning for two RBIs, then singled up the middle in the bottom of the ninth for the game-winning hit in a 4-3 win.
“I really don’t like wearing them,” he said. “I hate wearing them. But if it’s that cold, I’ll probably wear them. Hopefully it won’t be cold anymore.”
The Florida native was forced to use the gloves one more time, when a cold snap in mid-March sent temperatures back down during a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But whenever he can, he’ll bat barehanded.
He normally takes a handful of dirt in both hands as he steps into the batter’s box to help his grip. That, and an ample amount of pine tar, are all he needs. He’s batting .286 for Alabama so far this season as a middle-of-the-order bat. He’s second on the team with 17 RBIs.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I just didn’t like the feel of them on my hands,” Alexander said. “I feel like I had no control over the bat. So I’d always grab some dirt and just go. You all make it more of a big deal than I do, because I think it’s very uncomfortable to wear batting gloves.”
Head coach Greg Goff has seen plenty of players through more than 20 years in college baseball. But few choose to go barehanded. Alexander guessed that only five percent of college players bat without gloves.
“You don’t see it very often,” Goff said. “Kids, as soon as they’re six years old, they put batting gloves on. All the way up, they use batting gloves. I respect it. I like it. I like tough guys.”
Alexander saw Yankees’ catcher Jorge Posada bat without gloves when he was growing up. He liked the look, as well as the mentality that comes with it. Alexander also eschews wrist tape, elbow guards, and almost all other extra protective equipment.
That’s not his style. He might wear a guard to protect a nagging injury, but only if necessary. If he doesn’t need it, he doesn’t use it.
“When I play, I just try to go as plain Jane as possible,” he said. “I think all that wrist tape and stuff is for show.”
No. 20 Arkansas at Alabama
Schedule: Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 12-13 (1-5 SEC), Arkansas 20-5 (5-1 SEC)
TV: SEC Network (Saturday and Sunday only)
Radio: 102.9 FM