From youth baseball all the way through college, players wanted to know if there was a way for them to custom-design their own cleats.
"After talking with players at all different levels, we found everybody wanted to have that experience, that ability, that MLB players have to customize their own cleats," said Dave Millman, New Balance Baseball's strategic business unit manager and a former college baseball player at Babson. "So what we wanted to do was develop a way to make that for every player, any ability level, from MLB all the way down."
Customized cleats were previously a luxury reserved for professionals. Now, New Balance has brought them to the general public.
New Balance launched its 3000v3 baseball cleat line on Sept. 1 with the option for customers to custom-design their clears, the first time such an option has been available to the public.
After more than two years of research and design, New Balance believes it has opened a new frontier in baseball merchandise.
"One of the best things that we do as a brand and as a business unit is really listening the consumer," said New Balance Baseball associate product manager Matt Nuzzo, a former Blue Jays minor league infielder. "We listened to the consumer as much as we can for this customized process. We've been working really hard behind the scenes to make it happen."
More than 35 billion possible combinations exist for the custom 3000v3. Athletes can go online and design every aspect of their cleats, 15 steps in total.
Making a pair of custom cleats takes about three hours at the New Balance factory in Lawrence, Mass. There, a separate section of the workfloor is sectioned off specifically for the making of the custom 3000v3s.
"The possibilities are really endless," Millman said. "Not only be able to service individual players, but if a team wants to place an order with a state tournament in a week, to be able to build the order and get it to them before game time."
Beyond just the aesthetic appeal, New Balance worked to create a cleat suited specifically to the needs of baseball players. For one, they worked to improve ankle support after noticing how often hitters roll over on their front ankle after swinging.
Secondly, they created insoles that cushion the front of the foot especially in order to help enhance a hitters power base.
To make these baseball-specific customizations to the 3000v3's, New Balance turned to their sports science laboratory.
"We wanted to identify baseball-specific movements that can really nag someone over the course of a season," Nuzzo said. "It was really just about identifying the specific movements and talk with our sports science folks about finding the solution to build a more supportive shoe, or where there needs to be more specific support and comfort for baseball."
The end result is baseball cleats everyday athletes can customize themselves for the first time. In the end, New Balance answered the call that began on its social media accounts.
"It's really about player improvement and self-expression," Millman said. "We feel like this is a great way for players to self-express on the field."