At his workbench, Jimmy Lonetti cuts open a worn baseball glove while keeping an eye on an old highlight reel. Snip. Snip. Snip. Bits of frayed lacing pile up on the table like a tangle of worms.

In the background, the 1982 MLB season marches toward the Cardinals' World Series win. In an hour or so, Lonetti will put the Twins/A's game on the radio while he replaces and reconditions more leather. The scent of earthy hides and their waxy balms evokes a bygone era.

A woman enters Lonetti's south Minneapolis shop, toting a softball glove. Her daughter had broken a lace and needed the glove for a tournament this weekend. Could the equipment world's clutch hitter take an emergency job?

"I can do that real quick for you," Lonetti says, and threads a new leather strand through his thick lacing needle.

Lonetti is the "J" in D&J Glove Repair, which he started with his son, Dom, nearly 15 years ago. Back then, the self-taught duo worked mostly on gloves for Dom's Little League teammates. (An eighth-grader made their website, for a school project.)

As Dom progressed through high school, college and adult town-ball teams, D&J expanded into those markets. (These days Dom pitches for the Eagan Bandits and helps out in the shop occasionally.) By 2022, D&J was drawing mail-in clients from around the U.S. and Canada and could justify moving operations from chez Lonetti to a Minnehaha Avenue storefront, even as it remained a part-time gig.

In the rare business of glove repair, D&J is one of the rarer still to have a retail shop for walk-ins (roughly half the business is local). Nationally, there's really nothing else like it. The space, which is just wider than a hallway and lined with vintage Twins memorabilia, has become a baseball-geek hub.

Lonetti hosted a watch party for the Twins season opener and a meetup for local fans of Uni Watch, a popular blog dedicated to the aesthetics of sports-team uniforms, of all things. For the upcoming All-Star Game, he had plans to set up his TV and hot-dog roller.

For Lonetti, being Minnesota's go-to glove-repair guy is a win-win: He can help amateurs get their gear back in game shape, while keeping tabs on the pros.

But his work is also part of something larger.

At a time when a new plastic glove can be summoned via an Amazon click, Lonetti, the grandson of a St. Paul shoe repairman, feels like a throwback, reviving old cowhide by hand.

He understands that baseball is not just a sport. And a glove is not mere equipment. A vintage Rawlings poster on the shop's wall describes its product as "the dusty badge of belonging" and "the tanned and oiled mortar of team and camaraderie."

'America's pastime'

Lonetti has been a baseball fan since he was a kid playing catch with his grandpa. (Grandpa's glove, which he'd joked about using in the war to catch grenades, was among the first Lonetti repaired.)

His high school, Oakdale's Tartan, had a tradition where students would skip school to go to the Twins home opener. His senior year, Lonetti also cut class to see their last game at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Fortunately, his social studies teacher was Clyde Doepner, the Twins' curator of history and memorabilia. "He didn't rat us out," Lonetti recalled.

After that final game, Lonetti and his friends made several trips down to the stadium after school, to rifle through the dumpsters. "Calvin Griffith was throwing away, like, letters signed by presidents, thanking the [Twins precursor, the Washington] Senators for letting them throw out the first pitch at a game," he said.

There's plenty of history and lore infused in the sport known as "America's pastime," which launched the country's first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869. Fans love baseball's thrilling moments — its out-of-the-ballpark smashes and gravity-defying grabs. But even a simple game of catch is generation-spanning and nostalgic, its rhythmic back-and-forth forging connections, toss by toss.

As sports equipment goes, a glove is perhaps the most personal. Hockey players may have their favorite sticks, or golfers their lucky club, but a glove is physically attached to the body. "I've had guys say that their glove is like an extension of their arm," Lonetti said. "There is a strong sentimental attachment."


Back when baseball cards were packaged with a stick of gum, and entire weekends elapsed in the neighborhood sandlot, every boy seemed to own a glove, Lonetti observed. Through the 1960s and '70s, you used to be able to buy leather ones at hardware stores and even gas stations. Meaning: There's a deep bench, so to speak, of perfectly good gloves in need of D&J's TLC.

A typical job includes relacing a glove and massaging it with Pecard Antique Leather Dressing. But Lonetti can replace padding, sew on patches and soften "stingers" by gluing an extra layer of leather inside the pocket.

In the thousands of gloves they've repaired, the Lonettis have seen it all. One customer asked them to revive a waterlogged, smoke-damaged Wilson, his only possession saved in a house fire. They've encountered many a "janky" repair, Lonetti said, made with cable ties, wire or shoelaces. But pets are gloves' ultimate nemesis. "Dogs create a lot of business," he noted.

Lonetti has revived a glove belonging to a woman's late husband, intended for their son; a grandfather's glove being passed to his grandson. One day, Twins Hall of Famer Paul Molitor walked into D&J, looking to have his son's glove repaired.

Lonetti rarely works on pros' equipment since teams employ their own clubhouse staff. Though the Tampa Bay Rays recently sent Lonetti a pricey glove melted by a steamer to see if he might resuscitate it. (Lonetti deemed it toast.)

For the record, Lonetti does not recommend steaming gloves or microwaving them, for that matter. "Anything you do to speed up the break-in process of a glove is going to shorten its lifespan in the long run," he said. Just bring it to the batting cage, he advised, and catch, and catch, and catch.

At the shop, which is open a few days a week (call 651-399-5155 or check @DJGloveRepair on X for hours), Lonetti surrounds himself with old baseball pendants, posters, photos, patches, pins and a full set of catcher's pads. He has a ticket from the 1965 World Series, when the Twins played the Dodgers at the Met (2nd Deck Grandstand, $8). A Rod Carew baseball card. A vintage vending machine he stocks with mini plastic baseball caps for kids.

All of it predates the '87 and '91 Homer Hankies and Wheaties boxes molding away in so many Minnesota basements.

When Lonetti's customer backlog abates in the off season, he'll fix up more secondhand gloves for resale. But until he retires from his career as a letter carrier in August and increases his time at the shop, there'll be more old leather than Lonetti has hours.