Looking Beyond Leather

Bill Weir, C. Michael Kim & David Miller
This Could Be Big

This week's blog post is an edited transcript of a very long text message from our special guest Fernando Perez, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays. Follow him on Twitter @outfieldrambler.

Check out Scott Carpenter's custom-made synthetic baseball glove, and his custom hand-molding process, at Carpenter Trade Company.

There are more baseball equipment start-ups than you could imagine, some started by baseball lovers who've only grazed the game and some by former players. Players apply empirical research in producing a product they believe should exist. The outsider makes assumptions based on library research and inklings. Rightfully, half of the products are laughed at and tossed in the trash of locker rooms when passed to players to demo.

Baseball players are often superstitious to a fault, but until that fault is disproven, they're merely acknowledging that their wheel works fine, although this stance disallows them to seize an opportunity to make the wheel more perfectly round. For that reason, when asked to try out the new Carpenter baseball glove, I approached it with a sense of excitement and apprehension.

The custom fitting in the Carpenter glove makes sense in theory since players' hands, and the way they close their gloves, vary from player-to-player. However, the physical identity of baseball gloves is fairly consistent from brand to brand and this glove feels different than any other infield/pitcher model I've used.

Humbly, Mr. Carpenter conceded himself that the first impression of the glove is usually negative. My first impression of the glove wasn't bad until I caught a ball. His glove feels like an entirely different device than a traditional one. If a player isn't turned off by the muted thud sound the ball makes when it strikes the pocket, as opposed to the familiar snap of leather, he or she might be turned off by the design in the palm of the glove which perches the hand into a claw position, which many infielders strive for. How this feel pans out after the glove is broken in is something I can't comment on, as I only had one session with the glove.

The palm innovation is actually the more exciting one, but since the gloves I handled weren't made specifically for me, it felt as though the placement of the claw was off. It seems though, if placed in a personalized manner, Mr. Carpenter may be onto something exciting. However, the marquee innovation that Carpenter champions is the weight difference between his glove and the rest. Although the considerable weight difference (usually 5 to 10 oz. lighter than a typical baseball glove) is undeniable, is this advantage so considerable that the average player would consider taking the time to acclimate themselves to what feels like an entirely new device?

Since the "give" of an unfitted leather glove has been a staple of even the most modern gloves, the company may be hard pressed to change the way players wear gloves without the backing of a legitimate big company logo, especially in a sport that, for better or worse, adheres to an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude. In this case, sticking with the old is for the better, so far, but future models of these gloves, with guidance from some players, could be big — to borrow a phrase from Bill Weir.