By: Mike Jones
There are five major steps in the production of a quality baseball glove (“Baseball Glove”). They are as follows: Die-cutting the Glove Parts, Shelling and lining, Inserting plastic reinforcements, Constructing the web, and Lacing and Stitching (Berlow, 2007). The general process for making a baseball glove is the same across various companies, but there are a few details that Rawlings focuses on that make their products the best there is.
Die-cutting the glove parts
The parts of the leather hide that will be used for the baseball glove are cut by a machine into four parts: the shell, lining, pad, and web (Berlow, 2007). This process resembles a cookie cutter style of cutting. Early in this stage, the official Rawlings logo is burned and embroidered into the leather (Berlow, 2007) .
Shelling and Lining
The shell of the glove is sewn together while inside-out (Berlow, 2007). After that, it is steamed to ensure flexibility throughout this process (Berlow, 2007). The glove is then turned right-side-out and the lining is inserted (Berlow, 2007). The next step is one of the most crucial in the process. The lined shell is placed on a device known as the hot hand (“Baseball Glove”). The hot hand heats up to help shape and form the glove to the correct size, while also ensuring that each of the finger holes is opened up (Berlow, 2007).
Inserting Plastic Reinforcements
Two layers of leather are hand-stitched together to create a pad (Berlow, 2007). The pad is then inserted into the heel of the glove (Berlow, 2007). Rawlings uses two-part pads to increase the flexibility and durability of the glove. The type of glove plays an important roll in this process. There are different styles for different positions. For example, catchers mitts need 5 layers of leather padding to ensure the protection of the player’s hand (Berlow, 2007). At this stage, plastic reinforcements are added in the thumb and little finger as well (Berlow, 2007). These pieces provide additional support and protection.
The web is then created from several pieces of leather (Berlow, 2007). There are various different webbing styles, usually preferred by players according to position. Some of these styles include, but are not limited to: Trapeze, I-Web, Basket, Two-Piece Closed. The web is constructed separately before the entire glove is stitched and laced together (Berlow, 2007).
Stitching and Lacing
Most baseball gloves are laced with one piece of rawhide that can be up to 80 or 90 inches long (Berlow, 2007). The lacing starts at the thumb and laces the entire glove together, ending in the web (“Baseball Glove”). The web is also stitched together with nylon thread to ensure greater stability, as this the part of the glove that will need to endure the most wear and tear. Catcher’s mitts and first basemen gloves are hand crafted from four parts: palm, pad, back, and web (Berlow, 2007). The palm and back are sewn together and then joined with the other pieces via rawhide lacing (Berlow, 2007). Lay Off Operation is the final step of the manufacturing process (“Baseball Glove”). It is essentially the fine tuning step. The glove is again placed on a hot hand for final shaping and quality assurance (Berlow, 2007) .
(“MLB Gloves,” 2014).
Rawlings Sporting Good Company, Inc. has a history of being an “American-made” company. Aside from baseballs, most of the company’s products are manufactured in the United States (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History). Formerly known as the Rawlings Corporation until 1967, the company was originally private (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History). In 1967, Rawlings was bought out by A-T-O Inc., which gave Rawlings Sporting Goods its own division (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History). By 1990, Rawlings was one of the only companies manufacturing baseball gloves in the United States (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History). They sent hides from steers in Missouri the leather companies in Chicago, Illinois and Tullahoma, Tennessee, where the leather was tanned and sent back to the manufacturing plant in Ava, Missouri (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History). This is where the company’s baseball gloves and most of its helmets were being made. In 1994, Rawlings went public, and by 1997 considered itself to be the leading manufacturer and supplier of baseballs, baseball gloves, and baseball protective equipment in North America (Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc. History).