If you have New Balance Minimus cleats for sale somewhere online, there’s a good chance Washington Nationals’ reliever Ryan Madson will buy them, if they’re the right size.
The color of the cleats (they come, or did come, in grey, black, and white it seems) is not an issue for the 37-year-old reliever, who was using a Sharpie to alter the look of his white ones as he sat in the clubhouse before the start of the Nationals’ two-game set with the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
He’s taken it so far that he’s actually reached the end of a Sharpie, as in used it up, which, is apparently possible.
“These cleats are very ugly,” Madson said, holding up the greys. “But I love them.”
“The all-grey is just too ugly.”
How did he get started on his latest pregame, uh, ritual of sorts?
“So I started doing that and it also serves as my crossword time,” he explained. “Because I don’t like crosswords, but every good pitcher does something. So this is my something.”
It’s out of necessity as much as anything, since they’ve apparently discontinued this model of cleat.
“New Balance doesn’t make these [anymore] so I have to find them on the internet,” Madson said.
“A lot of times they don’t have black, and they come in waves. Sometimes there’s five pairs of black, sometimes there’s none, so I just swoop them up when I can.”
He had all three colors in his locker, at least it looked like it, the white ones were already a work in progress.
“You can tell, they’re road cleats,” he said pointing to the greys, “... cause they’ve got a little grey in them.
“The whites are my home, and I put black on those, and I’ve actually done some red and multi-color on some greys.”
With the scarcity of available New Balance Minimus cleats at this point, how hard is it to find the right size?
“If I looked right now, there would probably be less than five pairs to purchase right now,” he said, “and these don’t last very long, that’s why they stopped making them.
“These will last me, maybe, tying them up every day, and maybe warming up ... 10 games, warming up 15 times, and just tying them up 30 times a month, then they’re done.”
Is it just a feel thing? A superstition at this point?
“They’re ‘Minimus’,” he said, “... so they have a 4-millimeter drop in the back, whereas other cleats now, when I put on other cleats it feels like I’m on big blue pads.
“You know the big blue pads in the weight room? It feels like the heel is real high, it feels like I’m on my toes.”
Is this the beginning of a second career for the 13-year veteran?
“I’m in the works of making my own cleat,” he joked.
“As soon as these run out I’ll go find regular ones, but I’ll have to start it in Spring Training or something, because I threw a couple bullpens with a new model of this and I liked them, it just felt so different. I just didn’t want to even mess with it in the game.”
He said he actually did end up wearing a different pair of cleats a few years back.
“I did pitch, I think it was two years ago, Mother’s Day, the pink cleats, and they didn’t have these in pink,” he said, “... so I wore them, and I gave up a couple runs, and I was like, ‘Ahh, that’s the reason!’ So I never wore another pair in a game.”
“I feel the ground better with them, I feel connected to the ground,” he said by way of an explanation for his dedication.
Even with the cleats, they dig in enough he can feel it?
“Oh, for sure,” he said.
“Last year when I got traded, I wore white. I had white cause we were in Oakland, and I pitched the first game because I didn’t have time, I didn’t think about it, and I went out there with white ones, and everybody was like, ‘Oh, those are awesome.’”
He was on the road in Anaheim at the time, [see the picture above], so he was wearing the road grays with white cleats, and thought he stuck out and looked like a clown.
“The fashionable guys were like, ‘I love those. We should all wear whites.’” White cleats with a grey uniform? Madson said it’s just not a good look.