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Texas Rangers starter Evan Carter, pitching in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, is ready to run with a left-handed defensive mitt. As the Houston Astros needed another body to fear Carter’s game, the left-hander just turned into Dracula. The vampiric sliding mitt featured a white background, black fur, two bloody threads, a (winged) bat, and a black strap designed to resemble Dracula’s cape. Halloween had come early.
“You won’t be home this year. The shot,” Carter said later, before his first World Series. “But I’d rather be here than home for Halloween.”
Dracula’s sliding mitt arrived that morning in the home clubhouse at Arlington’s Globe Life Field in a box from a Nashville studio from a company called Absolute Funny Innovation for Athletes (ARIA). That same day, in Phoenix, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Kate Marte received his own absolutely ridiculous sliding mitt. That night, as he exited Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, rousing the crowd and clinching Arizona’s series comeback, he carried a teal slide mitt decorated with purple ice cream and sprinkles in his back pocket.
The founder and creative director of Absolute Comics, a 30-year-old former college quarterback, goes by X. He prefers to keep his identity a secret because he hopes people will focus on the art and not the artist, as well as anonymity. It encourages conspiracy that is not good for business.
X started the company two years ago, realizing a dream he had two decades ago to bring applied art to baseball. Now he wears everything from Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s “Prince Jazz” gloves to Bryce Harper’s Fury Philly Fanatic gear to the slugger Mitts Carter, the Rangers’ breakout star, and Marte, the NLCS MVP in the World Series.
“It makes no sense. It’s true,” X said. “If you just share your idea, just talk about it, that’s the first step to bringing it to life. I truly believe that there is something that one can think of. You just have to follow it.
In Little League, X catches a snow cone, the baseball bounces off the double end of his glove, and he learns his father has a different name. “It holds ice cream,” said X, “because the ball is white and not colored like a snow cone.
X was an imaginative child: curious, creative, taking anything that caught his eye and turning it on its head, taking it apart to play with it, breaking it, fixing it, changing it. X hears “Catching Ice Cream” and visualizes a baseball glove with a waffle cone pattern and ice cream slipping and melting on his fingertips.
The idea came back to him years later, as an adult: no one had made a glove to look like something before. Before the outbreak, X broached the idea of an ice cream glove with an executive at a baseball equipment company — “I mean, it’s the greatest glove in baseball,” X said, but declined to elaborate — and the gentlemanly refusal got the name for the future company. “They liked the idea,” X said, “but they came back and said it’s ridiculous to think what it would cost someone to do something like that.
X is not deleted. It was now the spring of 2020. X had been working with professional athletes for eight years, leading their personal branding and marketing projects, but business dried up during the pandemic. X was back home with his parents, with no income but plenty of free time, so he found a factory willing to make small custom gloves and greenlit the project.
The first ice cream gloves were released on July 19, 2020 – National Ice Cream Day. The goal was to sell 250 to 300 dollars in one month. X said he closed the sale after 90 minutes because they were already over 250.
X had not yet established Absolute Humor, but the email list he created soon swelled to 10,000 subscribers. X poured every penny he had (and more) into this idea and focused on how to turn Ice Cream Gloves into a company. “I put myself in a lot of debt when it was possible to do that,” X said.
The second set of gloves came a year later, complete with an ‘X’ logo and priced at $350 due to the high-quality leather. X said it sold out in 32 seconds.
Welcome to the ARIA Collective. Where imagination becomes reality. #baseballreimagined #absolutelyfunny – pic.twitter.com/j9Ezfc5gci
– Absolutely Ridiculous® | Baseball & Softball (@ariagloves) October 5, 2021
Time, X said, was everything. Back when he played college ball, he wore white armbands and felt this was smart. Since then, self-expression in baseball has exploded: more creativity, more customization, more personality in on-field attire and decor. The X curve is turning all that color into true art. Five years ago, he said, the perfect comic might not be alive. But the game has changed, and so has the gear. X moved to Nashville. He started going at X. and ended up being one of the most active players in baseball.
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Jazz Chisholm was in junior.
“I wanted to start something new,” Chisholm said. “Before, I was wearing all the chains and painting my cleats. I also wanted my gloves to be unique. I was a linebacker at the time. My gloves were everything to me. For me, this was a big deal. I wanted to make my gloves to tell a little about my story.
Chisholm went to Marlins spring training in 2022 with two ice cream gloves, the original strawberry and the cookies-and-cream version. “(Teammates) were like, ‘Brother, we can’t wait to see what you do on this field,'” Chisholm said with a laugh. “You can’t go wrong with this beautiful glove.”
Chisholm signed with Absolute Comedy and is now listed as the company’s director of culture. He provides input on designs and names, but above all, he serves as the big-league face of the brand. After talking to Chisholm about the equipment one day earlier this season, Phillis’ Harper posted an absolutely hilarious message on Instagram.
“He said, ‘Hey, I’m just going to tell you that I love what you’re 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 me for permission to wear something before.’
Instead of pulling a sliding mitt from inventory, X offered Harper a custom piece of artwork. They tossed ideas back and forth. X created four slip-on mitt designs for Harper: Vegas Gold, Ice Cream in Phillies colors, Philly Cheesesteak (with the strap printed like a cheesesteak wrap), and Fanatic.
“I wanted to do something outrageous that I thought would never happen on an MLB field,” X said, “like wear faux fur over a mitt.”
After Harper took a fastball out of his surgically repaired right elbow in July, X Ice Cream sent him a prototype elbow guard. Harper left the first game dressed.
At the start of the game, X makes Harper a fanatical footguard – green, red and blue with googly eyes. Harper went to wear it for the first time.
Before the All-Star break, Reds outfielder TJ Friedl had an absolutely hilarious encounter while trying to find the source of the Jazzy slider mitts he was seeing. “Man, where did these come from?” Friedl said. “They are very sick.” He tried to buy one but found that the company sells mitts in weekly drops; When an item is gone, it’s gone.
Friedl was lamenting that fact in the Cincinnati clubhouse when then-Reds pitcher Luke Weaver heard it. “Let me see if I can hook you up,” Weaver said. He was the first major league player to wear absolutely ridiculous gear. When X created his second glove design in 2021, this biblical theme, he asked a weaver he already knew for feedback on the glove’s quality. Weaver loved the quality, loved the design and wore it to his next launch.
Within 10 minutes, Weaver had a photo of X’s skate mitts in stock. Friedl chose an Easter themed slipper mitt. Matt McClain chose the 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, both offensively and defensively, wears a sliding mitt tucked into his back pocket while playing the infield, and X says his vulnerability has sold him faster than ever.
Which is a problem in itself that X is eager to solve.
Every week the slides sell out in seconds.
“We’ve had parents accuse us of false sales because they went through seconds and thought it was impossible,” X said. “They think we must be setting up to create incentives. It just doesn’t make business sense for us to do that, especially in our second year.
There are two central issues. The first is financial. X says the company doesn’t have the funds on hand to build inventory for all their designs months in advance. (Recently brought foreign investments, but to scale the company and build goods.) The second is the need for innovation. X said he wanted to create as many designs as possible, so everyone would find something to connect with instead of mass-producing the most popular designs.
“Our goal is not to do it alone when it’s impossible to find,” X said. “Our goal is to make everyone different, not anyone.”
But others have used that purpose. Sellers are raking in $200 to $300 for an absolutely ridiculous sliding mitt that you bought for $85. The company’s social media accounts are flooded with potential customers complaining about sales and marketing. X says the company has implemented three systems to eliminate bots that litter the line. X is planning a deal: keeping the original design, strawberry ice cream, in stock at all times.
“I know how important it is to a parent if a child asks for what they want for Christmas,” X said. “That’s what’s crushing now. Parents say, ‘This is the main thing my son asked for for Christmas. I’ve been trying for weeks, and I can’t get it to rest.’ It’s hard. I get how much it hurts parents. “
The Absolute Funny staff has grown to eight people, with five more part-time employees fulfilling orders. When the company moved to 10,000 square meters in February, it was certain that they could not afford X. Now they’ve outgrown it, and X is warehouse shopping again.
De La Cruz, Chisholm, and Weaver are the three major league signings that are absolutely ridiculous. Others, like Fridle, wear it just because they like it. When he was younger, Friedl said he was amazed to see baseball and softball players wearing mitts designed like ice cream cones, snow cones, tacos, bananas, s’mores or cheeseburgers.
“I think bringing excitement and fun to baseball is good for the game,” Friedl said.
If Friedl were to design his own sliding mitt, he would put the Cincinnati skyline on the back of his hand, black and red like the red City Connections uniform. He had to hang what he had this year on his forehead. When Friedl put the Easter mitt in his back pocket, he had the gold cross on the outside. “Faith is a big part of my life,” he said. “It was unbelievable that I could express that.” And, not for nothing, Friedl loved that he was the only one wearing the yet-to-be-released sliding mitt. Well, the only one until Carter came along.
Inside that box, which Carter opened before Game 4 of the ALCS, were three sliding mitts: Resurrection, the Bible and … Dracula. He wrote a message to X saying, “I’m going to dress up as Dracula tonight.” But now he wears all three. He has since worn the Bible mitt and the Easter mitt in the next game. X knows this because every time Carter stops, people text him.
Just in Game 5 of the ALCS. Carter took the lead in the eighth inning. He reached first base, performed the prayer hand gesture to the Ranger dugout, and strapped on the sliding mat. In the next inning, Astros reliever Bryan Abreu drilled Adolis Garcia with a 99 mph fastball. Garcia saw red. The benches were cleared. Rivals clashed. Carter ran back to home plate on the first down, a rookie entering the fray to make peace, his left hand still covered in a brown slipcover made to look like a Bible.
The whole scene was hilarious.
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(Top photo of Ketel Marte wearing a custom purple and teal ice cream-themed sliding mitt on the bases for Game 1 of the World Series: Daniel Shire / MLB Photos via Getty Images)