MURRIETA ---- The gloves are tattered, worn and grubby. They're not fit for weeding, welding or weightlifting.
And they're beyond washing.
But despite their gaping holes and other flaws, when those batting gloves are attached to the skilled hands of Vista Murrieta softball slugger Sierra Romero, something magical happens.
"I am a very superstitious person," said Romero. "If something I do or wear makes me feel lucky, I keep it going until it doesn't work."
Romero, the 2012 All-Valley softball player of the year, finished second in the nation with 21 home runs this season. So the filthy rags will remain on her hands indefinitely.
"It started when I hit three home runs (April 17) against (Murrieta) Mesa," said Romero, a 5-foot-5 senior shortstop. "I knew that everything I wore for that game would be part of my accessories for the entire season.
"It may sound silly but, hey, whatever works, right?"
Her superstitions not withstanding, it's not abracadabra that aided Romero in her incredible power surge.
And it certainly wasn't what's left of those batting gloves.
"What makes Sierra unique is her ability to remain patient and hit the ball where it is pitched," said her father and longtime coach Mike Romero, "as opposed to always attempting to pull the ball to left field.
"She has learned to control her hand speed and contact points by preventing her left hip from swinging open violently with no purpose."
Romero's primary purpose this season was punishing the softball. She was third in the state with a 1.469 slugging percentage. She hit .556, with a .639 on base percentage and 54 RBIs.
She did all this despite being walked 23 times, many of them intentional. And she only struck out seven times.
If the ball was anywhere near the plate, Romero was attacking.
"I have had opposing pitchers and catchers approach me and ask how did I hit a ball nowhere near the strike zone out of the park," said Romero.
Her disciplined approach at the plate, which Mike Romero credits due to years of work with her longtime hitting coach, Rick Hopkins, left opposing pitchers with limited options on how and where to pitch Romero.
"I am very lucky to have been blessed with such quick hands, which help a lot with my bat speed and how hard I make contact with the ball," said the right-handed hitting Romero, who blasted 18 of her home runs to either center or right field. "My quick hands are just something I was blessed with, and something that helps me get away with a lot of things most hitters don't get away with."
Her coach said Romero is a special player in many ways.
"She has such quick hands, and her bat stays in the ball path for such a long time," said Broncos coach Dan Torres, whose team finished the season 23-5-1, including a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division I softball semifinals. "I'm going to miss her so much, not because of her bat, but because of who she is.
"Sierra gives back to her teammates so readily and without hesitation."
Torres said it is not uncommon to see Romero talking to and working with other teammates on hitting well after the end of practice.
Of course, the practice of hitting is Romero's passion.
"I'm not the biggest girl out there. Therefore, I work twice as hard to compete at the top level," said Romero, who will play softball at the University of Michigan next season. "I work out my legs and core all the time to assure I get the maximum strength.
"I have always focused on getting stronger and always going back to the basics and focusing on my mechanics. Hitting is all about the little things and having the basics down."
Are those old gloves considered part of the basics?
"I am going to take them with me into the travel ball season," Romero said. "I won't stop using them until there is nothing left of those batting gloves."