Can a custom made glove for MLB stars revolutionise baseball?

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Boston Red Sox great Cy Young, the only pitcher who won more than 500 games in his baseball career, has a glove in Cooperstown.

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith, who won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves at that position, has one too. Pitcher Greg Maddux, winner of the most Gold Gloves ever with 18, also has a glove in the Hall of Fame.

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, who won 16 straight Gold Gloves at third base, has two gloves in the Hall. And now Scott Carpenter also has two. Wait a minute… Who is Scott Carpenter and what has he done?

Carpenter’s gloves are showcased in Cooperstown not because of the famous baseball feats he performed while wearing the gloves but rather because of how he made them. Carpenter’s gloves are included in a display on the “Evolution of the Baseball Glove” throughout history.

The 43-year-old pioneer in glove-making uses microfiber to make custom gloves for players that are up to 40% lighter and far more durable than your average leather glove. He makes one glove at a time, about one a week using moulds, measurements and sketches of players’ hands.

His gloves are sold via direct order (they used to be sold on eBay) and go for about $500 to $600 per glove. He expects production to increase as he has recently taken on a partner, Michael Schwimer, a free agent pitcher. His business Carpenter Trade LLC, which he started in 2001, is located in upstate New York right near the Hall.

Despite his use of 21st Century technology, Carpenter has not had an easy time competing with the big boys like Wilson, Rawlings, Nike, Nokona and Mizuno. Most players are creatures of habit; often using the same glove they wore from their youth until they reach the pros. Once players reach the pros they often have an agreement in place to only wear a certain brand. Most players get a glove that is essentially right off the shelf. A player might have fancy stitching or name stamped on, but they aren’t molded and custom fitted for his hand.

Mizuno has come up with a novel concept of steaming the glove in the store and then fitting the glove to the owner’s hand. There is no need to do any of that with Carpenter’s glove as it already fits.

There are a few players in the league now that do wear gloves made to fit them specifically. Boston Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Anaheim Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton each wear a glove custom made by Wilson specifically for their hands. Pedroia said, “After two weeks (from when his hand was measured) I got this glove back, and I put it on and started playing catch. It felt like the same glove I had when I was growing up.”

The business of gloves

Carpenter got into the business because he could combine his love of baseball with his artistic and creative side. Carpenter graduated with an art and design degree from Rhode Island School of Design and went on to get a fellowship from Yale. He initially applied for a job at Rawlings in Missouri but was denied despite his credentials.

Carpenter later went to a Rawlings factory and re-applied for the job, saying he would do anything without mentioning the Yale fellowship and was hired for data entry and later also worked as a janitor. While working for the company Carpenter learned that most players get personalized gloves, with fancy stitching with their names and favorite colors, things like that, but the glove itself is largely off-the-shelf models. Carpenter saw that he could exploit the custom-made niche.

Carpenter has yet to strike it big in the majors. His biggest success has been when Brian Gordon, a career minor leaguer, used Carpenter’s glove in his brief stint with the New York Yankees in 2011. Gordon said in a testimonial “putting a Carpenter glove on literally feels like an extension of my hand - that's how light and good it fits."

Nobody can do what he does. Scott is a true master craftsman - Michael Schwimer

Carpenter’s partner Schwimer also used the glove in stints with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011 and 2012. Currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury, Schwimer believes he can be a liaison between Carpenter and players in the locker room saying: “Nobody knows more about the future potential of gear than a professional player.”

Schwimer is optimistic that Carpenter’s glove has a Big League future: “Nobody can do what he does. Scott is a true master craftsman.”

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