Every aspect of a Nokona glove gets the personal touch, individually cut, stamped, stitched, laced and embroidered in the company's Texas facility. It has been that way since 1934 and the company hasn't shown any desire to change that level of personal care, instead only adding to the individual handcrafting with fresh ways to create custom designs.
"Because each glove is individually handcrafted, we have always been able to respond to players' unique preferences and needs," says Chip Sivak, Nokona sales director. "Today, though, through our online custom-glove builder, players can see their personal designs while they are building their gloves."
With the multiplicity of options, ranging from patterns and web types to leather, laces and colors, Sivak says the level of detail adds to the importance of choosing a structure that fits the need of the player.
That spirit of detail helped create a brand formed in Nocona, Texas, in 1934. The company name, derived from both the town it resides in and honor the historical chief of the area, turned synonymous with the town, as generations of workers have built gloves. During that time, no other glove company has the history of consistently produced gloves in the United States as Nokona. And it is that individuality that gives every glove, Sivak says, a unique identity and feel.
He says that with the philosophy of "quality above all else" and the heritage of a Made-in-America product, the ongoing emphasis on design and innovation draws players keen on a high-quality glove.
"To have guys in this industry for a long time in Nokona, Texas, is pretty cool," says Cody Anderson of the Cleveland Indians. "Having it tooled to my preferences is actually pretty special."
Just because Nokona has hand-made gloves for 85 years doesn't mean the company has skipped over innovation. With a history of manufacturing in its own facility allowing the company to have a tight control over quality and the ability for quick implementation of any product development, such as its current trend into more technical, higher-performing gloves, the company has the ability to maneuver as needed to meet player needs, they say. "For example, in the middle infield gloves, we use lighter-weight leathers and streamlined patterns," Sivak says. "This leads to quicker ball transfer and overall play."
Nokona has a model designed for each specific player. The classic Walnut gloves, lightweight, position-specific X2 or game-ready SKN Series made with Japanese CalfSKN, all serve a different player. Nokona's Alpha Series and X2 Elite Series remain two of the most popular models for a classic Nokona look, but with lightweight durability to improve performance.
Nokona's presence in baseball spreads into the Major Leagues. The company opened a sales office in Phoenix in 2010 to better serve professional players during Spring Training and the Arizona Fall League.
Tyler Saladino, Chicago White Sox second baseman, says he first started using Nokona as a young kid and remembers having a Nokona made him feel like a real ballplayer. "All the hard work that goes on behind the scenes," he says about the construction, "that is what it is all about."
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.