March 22, 2019
At a factory located about 100 miles outside of Dallas, employees literally are working “hand in glove” to produce the high-quality leather accessories used on baseball and softball diamonds nationwide.
Since 1934, in the small town of Nocona, Texas (population: 3,000), premium ball gloves have been handcrafted by skilled American workers. Each of the gloves made at the Nokona American Ballgloves manufacturing site is individually cut, stamped, stitched, laced, and embroidered by the company’s 75 employees—giving the mitt its own unique identity and feel.
And the company, itself, is nearly one of a kind—representing one of the last baseball glove factories in the United States, according to a recent NPR report.
“We literally bring leather in through one door and magically, ball gloves come out the door at the very end,” Rob Storey, Nokona’s executive vice president, told the public radio station.
And Storey should know: He grew up in the business. To survive the Depression, his grandfather, Bob Storey, added baseball gloves to his line of leather goods in 1934. Since then, just about every U.S. competitor has moved production overseas.
[In] a lot of [the overseas] factories, people have never even seen a baseball game or know what it is. Sure, it would be easy to go over there and do something. But that’s not who we are.” he said in an interview.
And in the youth market, they are big. “I grew up using a Nokona glove,” recalls Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Robby Scott. “My first glove that I ever really remember was a first baseman’s mitt that was a Nokona.”
Indeed, he told NPR, “I will never wear a different glove.It’s a special bond I have with them. They could have 200 players wearing their gloves. But, to me, it seems special because they make it seem like I’m the only one.”
And, says Storey, Nokona is the only maker he knows of that will refurbish its old, tattered mitts. He says that doesn’t happen with gloves made overseas.
Research contact: @bzeeble