Under Armour Embracing Premium Design with Fielding Glove Entry
Under Armour glove maker Ryan Lawrence knew authenticity in the baseball world required top-quality construction. He didn’t want to enter the fielding glove world with some crazy new material or futuristic design. He wanted Under Armour to prove it knew how to make top-quality products for baseball, steeped in tradition and craftsmanship.
“I think the most important thing as we make baseball product, whether a batting glove or cleat, is the athlete feels we are authentic to the sport and not just trying to make money in the sport,” said Lawrence, fielding glove product line manager for UA.
“A fielding glove is, I would argue, the most important product to a baseball player. Kids go to sleep with their glove, dads pass down their glove. We understand baseball. We have baseball players in-house and we wanted to make a serious statement about our commitment to baseball and make a product that agrees with players serious about baseball.”
Under Armour kicked off the effort in 2018 with two high-end glove offerings, the $350 Flawless line and the $250 Genuine Pro line, to show the brand’s ability to create quality product.
“I really was seeking to make a glove that felt and looked like a baseball glove that people were expecting to see and give it a little Under Armour design,” Lawrence said. “We wanted to make something authentic to the sport, out of respect for the sport. We need to earn our stripes before we have license to be innovative or something better than other brands.”
On a design front, Under Armour kept the all-leather designs traditional, with a patch on the back calling out the hand-crafted nature. All UA logos come embroidered and don’t expect molded plastic or rubber. Both glove lines come in Japanese steer hide, with the top five percent of the hides reserved for the Flawless line to create the “most premium offering.”
Inside the gloves, the Flawless line uses a slightly stiffer felt for structural support and Pittard sheepskin lining for the most premium moisture management. The Genuine Pro has a steer hide palm lining.
Each design comes with a full line, from 11.5-inch, 11.75-inch, 12-inch and 12.75-inch versions, including first base and catchers’ mitts. With multiple infield and a single outfield design, Under Armour paired the most popular webbing options with sizing—an I-web with the 11.5-inch and a modified trap or single-post web with the 11.75-inch, for example—to cover the most common designs.
“The goal is to have something that services each position on the field,” Lawrence said. “Where we take it from there is that we need to start showing more depth of product.”
To match that desire, starting in November, Under Armour will debut its Glove of the Month program to feature two to four models or sizes in particular color blocking designs each month through May.
“Our in-line stuff is meant to be accepted by a general population with neutral colors,” Lawrence says.
But the 100 to 200 special-edition gloves in the upcoming program show off the colorful looks possible from Under Armour without needing to stock every color in every design.
Getting to the final result on the Flawless and Genuine Pro required over a year of testing. Under Armour joined with teams of high school athletes to test out everything from colors to branding.
“We wanted to make sure the gloves were grounded in something the consumer wanted,” Lawrence said. “The colors we are using and the way we are using the colors were approved by core athletes.”
Along with design, Under Armour tested out four different leathers from the start, seeing how they broke in over time and getting feedback from the players. In the end, that process helped Under Armour settle on the Japanese steer hide, but also gave them a good idea about other leathers and possibilities for use moving forward.
“There was a lot of trial and error to hone in on the mix of material, pattern and look the kids were gravitating toward the most,” Lawrence said. “The high school athlete is very important, so we need to be tuned into them.”
With a focus on the high schooler, Lawrence said validation at the major league level also has value, so Under Armour is working with younger players out of the draft and college to grow its major league roster.
As Under Armour continues to grow its fielding glove repertoire, Lawrence will keep the goal of baseball authenticity as the main mantra.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.