Yogi Berra once said that "there's nothing more personal than your own baseball glove," and Rawlings is hoping to capitalize on that sentiment with its new glove, the Primo.
Rawlings has introduced the Primo as the culmination of 120 years worth of making gloves. It's taken two years to develop the glove, which features hand-sewn Italian leather forming an innovative three-layer design. Its maker claims it can be broken in to cater to specific positions.
The supposed best glove ever made is also the most expensive glove ever. It costs $400, or, more than what many people make in a week. The initial challenge for Rawlings isn't getting the gloves off the shelves, but onto the hands of major league stars.
High-wattage Rawlings clients - among them Derek Jeter and A-Rod of the New York Yankees, Jose Reyes of the crosstown Mets and Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals - all have so far declined to use the Primo in games, despite its apparently superior design. San Diego Padres shortstop Khalil Greene has one in his locker but to date has not switched.The bond between player and glove is a delicate, intimate connection. Like talking to a pitcher while he's in the midst of a perfect game, gloves bring about many superstitions. Many won't let others touch them, and gloves are often differentiated between practice and game use. So the battle to get players to switch is undoubtedly an uphill battle.
The Primo so far has found love only from the Padres' Jake Peavy, the San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito, and the Seattle Mariners' Horacio Ramirez. All of them are pitchers, who are traditionally the least attached to their gloves.
Ted Sizemore, a former Dodger who is now Rawlings's chief liaison with MLB players, is doing his best to address this. One of his tactics is to persuade minor-league prospects, not yet set in their ways, to wear the Primo during spring training. "You get them to like the color and the feel and the weight of the glove," he says. "A few start using it, and word of mouth spreads."It's interesting that the challenge is to get the big leaguers to switch, not the kids and fans who emulate them. The sticker price doesn't seem to be an issue for the parents and amateur players, who as the competition grows leans upon better supposed equipment to succeed. And it isn't the issue for the players either, as they get them for free. It's the comfort factor, stupid.
But as a former player, Sizemore understands the Sisyphean nature of his task. "It's very hard to get a player to change from something he really loves," he says.
Rawlings, in other words, has come up with the most lavish glove ever but has yet to persuade any everyday players to use it. Some have grumbled that it is too heavy; others just think it's bad karma to switch.If Rawlings and Sizemore are up to the challenge, they'll have Primo's on their star players next spring training. And if they can succeed with the Primo, then we can only imagine the price of the next great "best glove ever."