By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The secret to the baseball glove of the future, Scott Carpenter discovered, is in looking at the gloves of the past.
“I was at an artist’s residency at Blue Mountain Lake and someone invited me to meet with Ted Spencer at the Baseball Hall of Fame,” he said. “I realized that Cooperstown was a great location, not just for my business, but to study gloves. The best way to project forward is to look at how they’ve evolved.”
Now Carpenter, who has been making custom-fit baseball gloves since 2003, has been acquired by Marucci Sports, based in Baton Rouge, La., one of the leading manufacturers of baseball bats for Major League players who now want to expand into gloves.
As a fashion artist in New York City, Carpenter had made several gloves and exhibited them in shows alongside Keith Haring, who will be featured at The Fenimore Art Museum next summer, and other pop artists. “Gloves are a unique object,” Carpenter said, in an interview at his Cherry Valley workshop that will soon be moved to Cooperstown.
“They’re sentimental and complex,” he said. “I wasn’t making them to be ironic or weird, I was interested in everyday objects and the weight they carried.”
The more gloves he made, the better he got, and soon, he was making custom gloves for minor league players, including Noah Krol, then with the Oneonta Tigers, in 2007.
“A regular glove only has a knot at the thumb to adjust and that’s as much of a custom fit as you get,” he said. “But mine are custom fit to each person’s hand for a tailored, ergonomic fit.”
In the early days, he would ask customers to trace their hands, but now 3D imaging and printing has made it easier to get an even more custom fit.
“When you have a better fit, you reduce slack,” he explained. “Players tell me the glove feels locked in, so the exchange from the catching hand to the throwing hand is easier.”
In 2011, he made the first non-leather microfiber glove to be used in the MLB by Brian Gordon, the Yankee pitcher.
“I make the lightest gloves in baseball,” Carpenter said. “The average, all-leather glove might be 24 ounces, and mine are usually 5 to 8 ounces lighter.”
The gloves begin at $535 when he was selling them through his website; they will now be retailed at places like Dick’s Sporting Goods.
In 2001, he had relocated his shop, Carpenter Trade, to Cherry Valley, in a home where previous occupants used to make baseballs.
“I found an empty spool of baseball thread being used as a doorstop,” he said. “And I found a needle of the right size for that thread.”
He makes as many as 50 gloves a year, all by hand, on Singer sewing machines. “A glove takes about 19 hours to make,” he said. “And I know the connection between Singer and Cooperstown, so I thought it would be cool to use those machines.”
His first Marucci glove was made for Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, the former American League MVP.
“Other brands were interested in my performance-enhancing technology,” he said. “But Marucci was a fast-growing brand, and their bat is the most used bat in Major League baseball. They think they could have a similar impact on gloves, so that was motivation to acquire my business.”
Now under Marucci, he plans to relocate to the Key Bank building on Cooperstown’s Main Street, and hire additional employees to help keep up with the demand. “Marucci will mass produce the components, and I’ll finish them here,” he said.
And he plans to continue working with the Hall, as well as research among baseball fans and Dreams Park players. “There’s so much intellectual capital here,” he said. “People around here have that knowledge.”
In addition to professional-grade gloves, he also custom makes gloves for people with hand deformities and disabilities.
He had grown up playing baseball, and still plays in the Leatherstocking League locally. “My sons are one and 4,” he said. “I’m so specialized in adult gloves that making one for them is going to be a whole different product.”