One of America’s Last Baseball Glove Factories is Still Swinging in Texas
In the tiny town of Nocona you’ll find the nation’s only baseball glove maker in continuous operation for 85 years.
Baseball might be America’s pastime, but these days, less and less of the equipment essential to the game is made here at home.
Take gloves for example. In the United States, the Nokona baseball glove factory is one of the only baseball glove factories left. Located in the tiny Texas town of Nocona, about 100 miles northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, this family-run business has been making baseball gloves for the better part of a century. Basically, they’ve got it down.
"We literally bring leather in through one door and magically, ball gloves come out the door at the very end," says Rob Storey, Nokona's executive vice president, told NPR. "That, and about 45 labor operations, and you've got a ball glove."
Of Nokonas’ 75 employees, some, like Martin Gomez, have been there for decades. With 19 years under his belt, Gomez is considered a master of turning gloves, which is anything but easy. Every glove is sewn inside out first, and it’s Gomez’s job to shove a metal rod into each finger and turn it back the right way without ripping any of the stitching.
“This process in some ways is more difficult on the glove than the game of baseball," Rob explained to NPR.
Since the Storey family added baseball gloves to their line of leather goods in 1934, nearly all of their U.S. competitors has moved production overseas. But that was never in the cards for the proud Texans. Rob told NPR that his grandfather Bob, who died in 1980, said he'd rather quit and go fishing than import Nokonas.
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Today, Rob believes that being the nation’s only baseball glove maker in continuous operation for 85 years gives them an advantage.
“Our competitors are making them in factories. [In] a lot of those factories, people have never even seen a baseball game or know what it is,” Rob explained to NPR. “Sure, it would be easy to go over there and do something. But that's not who we are. We're not about easy.”