The Last Baseball-Glove Maker in America


A baseball glove is basically an addition to your hand that allows
you to trap the ball between the thumb and the index finger in such a fashion that you can make a great catch and throw it back. From the time I started playing baseball I’ve been in love with the game. Something very basic about it. It’s not about fads or this or that, it’s about a rich heritage that goes back you know, over a hundred years. (dramatic music) (bell rings) (tense music) I’m Rob Storey. I’m the Executive Vice
President of Nokona Ball Gloves. We make world-class ball
gloves here in Nokona, Texas. To build a glove you’re
going to have to have the right leather. We use a number of different leathers, such as kangaroo, cowhide,
buffalo, even some Cayman. When that comes in to us, we
begin the grading process. We’re looking for any
blemishes, scars, defects. With a classic walnut glove,
we’re going to be using a leather that we call Walnut Crunch. It’s very durable, but
very easy to break in. A lot of players like that
because they can go out and play catch immediately. We introduced some cutting
dies, or what we call clickers. Basically big cookie cutters. We gotta take that leather
and cut it into about 25 different pieces. We have somewhere about 2000 cutting dies. While the leather’s still flat, do what we call hot-stamping. We’ll take other pieces
to the embroidery station. Where we have fixed and
single-head machines that can pump out four
to 500 gloves a day. Putting all that information
somewhere on the leather so that the customer is educated. Once that’s done, then
it’s time to transition over to the stitching department. Two or three of the pieces
go a different direction where they’re made into the
web or the pocket of the glove. Another station will
start the interior lining. This is the part that the hand touches. Not only the palm lining,
but the mac fingers, as well as three center pads inside. Start to welt those parts
together while we’re adding the third piece of material in between the seams, setting
the spine to the backs of the fingers of the glove. Really at that point, you begin to see the glove come together. The fingers are finally
married to the front. And it becomes a shell. Once you’ve closed the
glove, it’s inside-out. Literally pushed the leather down, and pushed the inside back to the outside. Then it’s time to start shaping the glove, and we do that through a series of forms that look like giant hands. They’re heated to about
250 degrees Fahrenheit. Pulled around and shaped with a mallet so that all the welting and all the seams are just perfectly aligned. (truck engine starting) Living in a small town like Nokona, Texas is a big part of who I am. I think Nokona Ball Gloves wouldn’t necessarily work somewhere else. It’s about the local people and the pride. The town itself is very much
a part of the final product. I’m a fourth-generation
family member in the company and in the 1960’s, most
baseball glove manufacturers decided to take their
manufacturive offshore. My grandfather, Bob Storey,
didn’t want to do that. He wanted to give
employment to the locals. He made a decision at that point that was very crucial to the long-term history of our company, and that was that we were going to be American-made. Something that’s been a part of Americana for decades and decades but they can’t find anywhere else
now in the United States. There are up to 40
different labor operations that go into making a glove. And so it’s not just stickin’ a piece of leather in a machine. More and more people
are starting to realize just because you can make
it cheaply somewhere else that doesn’t make it good. You’ve gotta put the very best
craftsmanship into the glove. We think our history of
80-plus years of doing that, we’ve learned how to do it. Leather’s one of the most interesting materials known to man. The feel as it firmly
wraps around your hand, the subtle pop as the ball hits it, these characteristic are things that make crafting, and with this
medium, one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. (slow country music) After the forming marry the outside shell with the inside lining. We’re going to be gluing
some parts together. So in the inside liner, take long strips of
tensile-strength laces, and start filling 120 holes in the glove. Cosmoline holds the palm
to the inside of the liner. It’s a very heavy form of petroleum jelly. It looks a lot like peanut butter. It’s a great adhesive. We can open up a glove 10 years later and that stuff’s still sticky inside. First the top fingers, then the bottom perimeter of the glove. And finally the web, which
usually kind of gives the glove it’s character,
into one finalize piece. We will physically beat
the palm of the glove. That softens the glove,
shapes the leather, take out all the wrinkles,
and makes it just right. We take hot petroleum jelly and lanolin and we spray that onto the glove so that we have a very
uniform layer of oil that starts to moisturize the leather. Just like skin, if left to its own design, will start to dry out and crack and flake. We bag, we tag the glove, seal it up and get it ready to go out to the market. (tense music) Even though it’s evolved
through the years, it’s still very very
personal to each player that uses the glove. I think to our customers,
Nokona Ball Gloves represent a product that
is rich in heritage, at the top level of the game, and hopefully lasts for decades to come.

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