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Wilson baseball gloves are known around the world for superior design and comfort, used by numerous Major League Baseball players today and in the past. While over the years the brand has become somewhat iconic – note the “Wilson” character in the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway” – nowadays, where are Wilson baseball gloves made?
The answer is, all over the world. While design specifications and requirements continue to come from the company headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, Wilson has expanded greatly to foreign markets by establishing manufacturing centers around the world.
Born and Still Designed in America
Wilson sells numerous baseball glove models, and production location depends on each type. For instance, a baseball glove industry-watcher claims the ultra-popular Wilson A2K model is made in Japan, while the A2000 versions are manufactured in Vietnam.
The company’s marketing videos indicate that the actual design and specifications for manufacturing elsewhere originate in Chicago. Namely, from a famous baseball glove designer who consults with MLB players to best deliver gloves that are most comfortable, lasting, and … performance-driven.
Expansion by Supply Chain and Tech
Because baseball glove manufacturing has become so high tech, with ultra-modern machines using pre-set specifications to produce identical cuts and sizes for glove parts, whether a glove is made in Illinois or Vietnam should make little difference.
For baseball aficionados, probably most important is the leather. Poor baseball gloves are notorious for drying or cracking, and for short lifespans for the leather strings that hold them together. Wilson, as a high-volume producer with a name-brand reputation to uphold, maintains a quality control system throughout its manufacturing operations.
The international focus began in the late 1980s when Wilson started subsidiaries in Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada; and later new manufacturing plans in Canada, Haiti, St. Vincent, and Scotland.
Why So Global?
It’s important to note a reason why Wilson focused on expanding operations outside the United States: a booming interest in baseball over the past few decades. Major leaguers like Fernando Valenzuela, Ichiro Suzuki, and Miguel Cabrera attracted legions of fans from the nations those stars came from.
With it came new fields, youth leagues, and overall interest in baseball in foreign nations, particularly Japan, other Asian countries, and Caribbean islands like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. With so much demand, it made little sense to keep paying for shipping out of Chicago to deliver quality baseball gloves thousands of miles to players and fans who demand them.
The baseball mitts are sold officially by the Wilson Sporting Goods Company, which still produces a great range of American sports equipment including items for football, basketball, fastpitch softball, racquetball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and pickleball. It also owns the brands Louisville Slugger and DeMarini, well-known in the baseball world.
The company was incorporated in 1913 as the Ashland Manufacturing Company, and the sporting goods line became prominent by the 1920s. Today for baseball, Wilson’s ace-in-the-hole might be glove designer Aso Shigeaki – commonly known as the Glove Guru. Since the 1970s he has been inspecting, fine-tuning, and designing baseball gloves adored around the globe.
Why do so many Major League players prefer Wilson models, particularly the A2K models?
Feel, experience, word-of-mouth, the company’s collaborative attitude, etc. The bottom line with baseball players and their gloves is comfort and trust. Gloves are said to be an extension of the hand, and the best ones are an afterthought out on the field. The more players rave about a particular glove brand and style, the more other players take notice.
In recent years, interest in custom-made gloves by much smaller companies has kept the large manufacturers like Wilson, Rawlings, and Mizuno honest. The big players have to react and adjust when known players shift to different styles and desires. Gloves today are much different than those of just a quarter-century ago, filled with technological advances and new elements added due to input from influential players.
What are alternatives to gloves found on shelves in major retailers?
Look into the Nokona, Roy Hobbs, or Glovesmith brands. Nolan Ryan raved about the Nokona gloves he started using as a child; the company has been making baseball gloves since 1934. There also are custom baseball glove-makes located around the United States.
Can I buy a Wilson baseball glove today and use it on the field immediately?
Yes, but it is recommended to “break in” a new glove before game play. While Wilson baseball gloves are made from quality leather and therefore should be pliable upon purchase. some gloves are rather stiff right off shelves or out of the box and need oils or other tricks to wear them in. For solid baseball glove break-in tips, YouTube videos can be quite helpful.
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