Image credit: (Photos courtesy of Franklin)
Whether the pink accents highlighting the Franklin-made Mother’s Day batting gloves across MLB or the one-off custom designs for players such as Ronald Acuna or Francisco Lindor, the official batting glove of MLB has embraced all things customization in the brand’s growing baseball presence.
From the eight MLB jewel events that bring limited-edition batting gloves across the league to the specially designed gloves for any of Franklin’s 250 MLB players, Adam Franklin, Franklin Sports president, says special events and customization have become a critical part of the brand, from professionals to youth.
The special-edition push from Franklin started in the 1980s when the brand used bold team-oriented colors to give a flash to the strict uniform rules of MLB (think Mark McGwire and Jose Conseco with bright yellow and forest green gloves). “Guys were wearing very loud team colors, but it allowed players to add flare to the uniforms,” says Adam Franklin. “We kept pushing the boundaries with what the players could wear.”
The first explosion for Franklin came when David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox had their popular run in the early 2010s, with Ortiz in a black glove with neon green accents. Franklin sold tens of thousands of those gloves in a 72-hour limited release. “Ever since David debuted that neon and black glove, the customization has totally exploded,” Adam Franklin says. “That is what drove us to work very hard to build a custom batting glove website. We believe we have the Rolls Royce of configurators.”
Players have embraced it as well, with even Franklin-sponsored professionals going on the site and buying their own gloves. Adam Franklin recalls coming to work one morning to see Josh Reddick had gone on the site and customized—and ordered—30 different pairs the night before. “This is a guy who doesn’t have to pay, but he’s going on and buying them himself,” Adam Franklin says.
From Lindor creating “wild and crazy designs” that celebrate his 2021 move to the New York Mets to Acuna embracing the brightest colors available, Adam Franklin says younger players take notice. The Lindor designs are so popular that Dick’s Sporting Goods will soon sell them at retail. Having that customization, he says, “is crucial for us to stay as the industry leader in batting gloves. It gives the end user the ability to have exactly what they want, a name, number, colors, materials, padding or no padding, the options are really endless.”
The eight jewel events from MLB help highlight that customization, starting with Jackie Robinson Day, moving to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Armed Forces Weekend, the Fourth of July, All-Star and then, new for this year, Roberto Clemente Day. For the special events, Franklin gives each of its players two pairs, one they wear in the game, which are often auctioned off by the club after the game, and one they keep as a memento. “It becomes something the players look forward to each year,” says Adam Franklin. “We release a limited amount online that we sell, and it is a fun thing for the players.”
With the addition of the Clemente day, Franklin can highlight the growing power of yellow as the biggest trend in gloves right now. “The one thing we are seeing that is huge, being asked for by all players, is yellow,” Adam Franklin says. “All things yellow.” Acuna is wearing a bright yellow design with the Franklin logo in red and blue. Roberto Clemente Day will put every Franklin MLB player in yellow.
Also new for 2021, with MLB and Nike teaming up on City Connect Series uniforms, Franklin is producing special-edition gloves to match the new looks, seen first with the yellow gloves worn by the Boston Red Sox.
Having the professionals highlight the design abilities of the brand has proven critical for Franklin. “Every kid wants to be like the pros,” Adam Franklin says. The Franklin plan aims to have at least one player on every MLB team and right now they have about 60% market share with over 250 MLB players. Adam Franklin says more guys want to wear Franklin, but they can only afford to sign so many.
Three styles get worn in the pros, with 65% of players donning the CFX Pro, the most popular for professionals and at retail. The Powerstrap, with a patented wrist closure system for a compression feel draws a certain type of player. The original glove Adam’s grandfather created with Mike Schmidt in 1982, the Pro Classic, with the exact technology launched then, still has a following, with 15% of Franklin players wearing it. All three are on the custom site in a range of sizes.
Franklin last month launched its Clubhouse Series, shoppable only on Instagram, with limited-edition, small-run gloves of customized player designs, all released monthly. For Franklin, customization is king.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.