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Standing on first base in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Texas Rangers rookie Evan Carter strapped a protective sliding mitt onto his left hand and readied to run. As if the Houston Astros needed another element of Carter’s game to fear, his left hand had just transformed into Dracula. The vampiric sliding mitt featured a white background, black hair, two bloody fangs, a (winged) bat and a black strap designed to look like Dracula’s cape. Halloween had come early.
“Won’t be home for it this year. Shoot,” Carter said later, ahead of his first World Series. “I’d rather be here, though, than home for Halloween.”
The Dracula sliding mitt had arrived in the home clubhouse at Globe Life Field in Arlington that morning in a box shipped from the Nashville studio of a company called Absolutely Ridiculous innovation for Athletes (ARiA). That same day, in Phoenix, Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Ketel Marte received his own Absolutely Ridiculous sliding mitt. When he walked off Game 3 of the National League Championship Series that night, sparking a mob scene and Arizona’s series comeback, he carried in his back pocket the teal sliding mitt adorned with purple ice cream drips and sprinkles.
The founder and creative director of Absolutely Ridiculous is a 30-something former college center fielder who goes by X. He prefers to keep his identity private because he hopes people will focus on the art, not the artist, and also because, admittedly, anonymity fosters intrigue, which ain’t bad for business.
X launched the company two years ago, realizing a dream he’d had two decades ago to bring functional art to baseball. Now he’s behind some of the most colorful flair this postseason, from Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s “Prince Jazz” glove to Bryce Harper’s furry Phillie Phanatic gear to the sliding mitts Carter, the Rangers’ breakout star, and Marte, the NLCS MVP, are wearing in the World Series.
“It doesn’t make sense. It’s surreal,” X said. “If you just share your idea, just talk about it, that’s the first step to getting it to come into existence. I truly, truly believe that anything somebody imagines can exist. You just have to pursue it.”
In Little League, X made a snow cone catch, with the baseball poking out over the tip of his glove’s webbing, and learned his dad had a different name for it. “An ice cream catch,” X said, “because the ball is white, not colorful like a snow cone.”
X was an imaginative kid: curious, creative, taking anything that caught his eye and turning it on its head, taking it apart to play with it, break it, fix it, change it. X heard “ice cream catch” and visualized a baseball glove with a waffle cone pattern and a scoop of ice cream melting over the tips of the fingers.
The thought returned to him years later, as an adult: Nobody has made a glove to look like something before. Before the pandemic, X floated his ice-cream glove idea to an executive from a baseball equipment company — “what I’d say is the biggest glove brand in baseball,” X said, but declined to specify further — and along with a polite rejection got a name for his future company. “They liked the idea,” X said, “but they came back and said it was absolutely ridiculous to think somebody would pay what it would cost to make something like this.”
X was not dissuaded. Now it was the spring of 2020. X had been working with pro athletes for eight years, directing their personal branding and marketing projects, but business dried up during the pandemic. X was back home with his parents, with no income but loads of free time, so he found a factory willing to make small batches of custom gloves and he greenlit the project.
The first run of ice cream gloves was released July 19, 2020 — National Ice Cream Day. The goal was to sell 250, at a $300 price point, in a month. X said he shut down sales after 90 minutes because they already had surpassed 250.
X hadn’t yet founded Absolutely Ridiculous, but an email list he had created soon swelled to 10,000 sign-ups. X poured every penny he had (and more) into this idea, and focused on how to turn an ice-cream glove into a company. “I put myself into a ton of debt at the worst possible time to do that,” X said, adding, “It definitely wasn’t a sexy Silicon Valley launch.”
The second run of gloves came a year later, complete with the ‘X’ logo and a $350 price point because of higher-quality leather. X said it sold out in 32 seconds.
— Absolutely Ridiculous® | Baseball & Softball (@ariagloves) October 5, 2021
Timing, X said, was everything. Back when he played college ball, he wore a white arm sleeve and felt like that was flair. Since then, self-expression in baseball has exploded: more creativity, more customization, more personality in on-field dress and decorum. X’s twist is turning all of that color into actual art. Five years earlier, he said, Absolutely Ridiculous might not have survived. But the game had changed, and so had the gear. X relocated to Nashville. He started going by X. And he reached out to one of the most vibrant players in baseball.
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Jazz Chisholm Jr. was in.
“I wanted to start something new,” Chisholm recalled. “I was already painting my cleats, wearing all the chains. I wanted my gloves to be special too. I was an infielder at the time. My gloves were everything to me. For me, that was a big deal. I wanted to make my gloves to tell a little bit more of a story about me.”
Chisholm went to Marlins spring training in 2022 with two ice cream gloves, the original strawberry and a cookies-and-cream version. “(Teammates) were like, bro, we can’t wait to see what you do with this on the field,” Chisholm said, laughing. “You can’t have a glove this pretty and make errors.”
Chisholm signed with Absolutely Ridiculous and is now listed as the company’s director of culture. He offers input on designs and names, but, first and foremost, he serves as the big-league face of their brand. One day early this season, after a conversation with Chisholm about his gear, the Phillies’ Harper messaged Absolutely Ridiculous on Instagram.
“He said, ‘Hey, just want to tell you I love what you guys are doing for the game,’” X recalled. “He said something along the lines of: Would it be cool if I wore some of your stuff one day? I was like, that’s wild. I’ve never had a player ask permission to wear something before.”
Rather than pull a sliding mitt from inventory, X offered to make Harper a custom art piece. They threw ideas back and forth. X made four sliding mitt designs for Harper: Vegas gold, ice cream drips in Phillies colors, Philly cheesesteak (with the strap stamped like a cheesesteak wrapper) and the Phanatic.
“I wanted to do something outrageous that I felt like would never be on an MLB field,” X said, “like having faux fur on a sliding mitt.”
Early in the playoffs, X made Harper a Phanatic leg guard — green, red and blue with googly eyes. Harper homered on his first pitch wearing it.
Just before the All-Star break, Reds outfielder T.J. Friedl came across Absolutely Ridiculous while trying to track down the source of the jazzy sliding mitts he kept seeing. “I was like, man, where are these coming from?” Friedl said. “They’re pretty sick.” He tried buying one but discovered the company sold the mitts in weekly drops; when an item was gone, it was gone.
Friedl was lamenting that fact in the Cincinnati clubhouse when then-Reds pitcher Luke Weaver overheard him. “Let me see if I can hook you up,” Weaver said. He had been the first major leaguer to wear Absolutely Ridiculous gear. When X created his second glove design in 2021, this one a Bible theme, he’d asked Weaver, whom he’d known previously, for feedback on the glove quality. Weaver liked the quality, loved the design and wore it in his next start.
Within 10 minutes, Weaver had a photo from X of the sliding mitts in stock. Friedl picked a Resurrection-themed sliding mitt. Matt McClain chose stars and stripes. Elly De La Cruz went with a pink-and-blue ice cream design. That, for X, was like hitting the jackpot. The electric De La Cruz wore the sliding mitt on both offense and defense, tucking it into his back pocket while playing the infield, and X said that exposure has led to drops selling out faster than ever.
Which in itself is a problem X is eager to address.
Each week, the sliding mitts sell out in seconds.
“We have parents reaching out accusing us of fake sellouts because they’re gone within seconds, and they think that’s impossible,” X said. “They think we must be staging it to build hype. It would make no sense as a business for us to do that, especially in our second year.”
There are two central issues. The first is the financial. X said the company doesn’t have the cash on hand to build out inventory months in advance for all of their designs. (He recently brought in outside investment, however, to scale the company and build out inventory.) The second is creative intent. X said he wants to create as many designs as possible, so everyone finds one they connect with, instead of mass-producing the most popular designs.
“Our goal isn’t to make it exclusive, as in impossible to get,” X said. “Our goal is to make it exclusive so everybody can have a different one, not so nobody can have one.”
But others have taken advantage of that aim. Resellers are pulling in $200 to $300 for Absolutely Ridiculous sliding mitts they bought for $85. The company’s social media accounts are overrun with would-be customers complaining about sellouts and resellers. X said the company has implemented three systems to stamp out bots skipping the line for drops. X is planning a compromise: Keeping the original design, strawberry ice cream, in stock at all times.
“I know how important it is for a parent if a kid asks for something to be the thing they want for Christmas,” X said. “That’s what’s crushing me right now. There are parents telling us, ‘This is the main thing my kid asked for this Christmas. I’ve been trying for weeks, and I can’t land it.’ That’s tough. I get how much that hurts for parents.”
The Absolutely Ridiculous staff has grown to eight people, with five more part-timers fulfilling orders. When the company moved into a 10,000-square-foot space in February, X was sure they couldn’t afford it. Now they’ve outgrown it, and X is warehouse shopping again.
De La Cruz, Chisholm and Weaver are the three major leaguers signed with Absolutely Ridiculous. The others, like Friedl, are wearing it just because they like it. Friedl said he also gets a kick out of seeing baseball and softball players wearing mitts designed like an ice-cream cone, a snow cone, a taco, a banana, a s’more or a cheeseburger in their youth games.
“I think it’s great for the game,” Friedl said, “bringing excitement and fun back to baseball.”
If Friedl were to design his own sliding mitt, he’d put the Cincinnati skyline on the back of his hand, in black and red like the Reds’ City Connect uniforms. On the front he’d have what he had this year: a cross. Whenever Friedl had the Resurrection mitt in his back pocket, he had the gold cross facing out. “Faith is a big part of my life,” he said. “Being able to express that was incredible.” And, not for nothing, Friedl liked that he was the only one wearing that sliding mitt — which hasn’t yet been released. Well, the only one until Carter arrived.
In that box Carter opened before Game 4 of the ALCS, there were three sliding mitts: Resurrection, Bible and … Dracula. He texted X: I’m gonna wear the Dracula tonight. But by now he’s worn all three. He wore the Bible mitt in the next game and the Resurrection mitt ever since. X knows this because people message him every time Carter is on base.
Like in Game 5 of the ALCS. Carter walked leading off the eighth inning. He reached first base, did his prayer-hands celebration toward the Rangers dugout, and strapped on his sliding mitt. On the next pitch, Astros reliever Bryan Abreu drilled Adolis García with a 99 mph fastball. García saw red. Benches cleared. Rivals beefed. Carter ran back along the first-base line toward home plate, a rookie wading into the fray to make peace, his left hand still covered by a brown sliding mitt designed to look like the Bible.
The whole scene was absolutely ridiculous.
(Top photo of Ketel Marte on the bases for Game 1 of the World Series while wearing his custom purple and teal ice cream-themed sliding mitt: Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)