But what makes this baseball glove so great? Before the 2016 All-Star Futures Game at Petco Park, I had a chance to find out from Wilson’s master glove maker, Shigeaki Aso.
Aso was born in Japan where he entered into the sporting goods industry as an inspector. When he came to United States more than 30 years ago, he was disappointed with the quality of American baseball gloves. So he set out on a mission to make the best glove possible. Today, he is nicknamed the “Jedi Master” or “Guru” of baseball gloves and creates custom-made gloves for many players in the MLB.
In our interview, Aso said his gloves are manmade by hand. First, they check the hide for quality, then they ship it to Japan to make the leather in a factory that has been making leather for Wilson for more than 50 years. The leather is then checked for quality and is shipped to a manufacturer that also has been making Wilson gloves for over 50 years. “And so we are very good material makers” Aso said. “And cutting is the most important.” The palm and fingers are cut in a very specific way, and Aso emphasized that “cutting direction is important as well” so the material does not twist or break off. “It’s not the easiest thing, but they do it very, very well.”
Once you have a baseball glove, you need to break it in. And Aso has some advice on how to do it. He recommends breaking in a glove by wetting it using hot water, about 150 degrees (not boiling water). Once it is wet, pound it to make the pocket deeper. Then let the glove sit for a day and pound it again. Aso also recommends squeezing it back and forth many times and practice with a ball for function.
And for a kid buying a glove, what is the most important thing? Aso advises you should look for quality, one that fits your position on the field, and one that feels the best on your hand.
Before talking to Aso, I knew how important the baseball glove is for ballplayers. But he taught me that there’s a lot more that goes into a glove than I ever knew. Gloves need good craftsmanship and pride to ensure they feel great and allow players from Little League to Major League to perform well on the field.
Photo: Max Ferregur