Wilson Glove Guru On Continually Evolving The Line
Every year Ryan Smith, product manager for Wilson baseball gloves, turns over half the line. Whether new colors, patterns, lengths, designs or features, Smith aims to continually evolve gloves to fit the trends in the game.
And those trends get defined most prominently by the top players. "There is no way we could be as good as we are if we didn't have pros so in tune with their glove working on their craft daily and giving us feedback," Smith says. "They are giving us ideas and then we are giving it back to them to let them test it. We find out so many things from the pro."
Those fresh ideas came to fruition with the late summer release of Wilson's updated glove line, whether a new copper color on the A2K glove that has proven popular from the pro players right down through college and high school to youth, new lengths on most every model and even an entirely new Dustin Pedroia A2000 fit series.
Smith says that talking with pros led them to "go bigger." The typical middle infield glove when from 11-1/2 inches to 11-3/4 inches, while the new Todd Frazier third baseman glove, with the official title of TDFTHR for "Toddfather," extended to 12-1/4-inches for the Yankees' player. "They want that extra length as the ball gets on the third baseman a lot faster," Smith says. "They want to get into the hole or down the line just a big longer or easier, but still control the ball."
Expect to see new outfield and infield patterns for both infield and outfield styles, as well as new Japanese-influenced gap welting. With gap welting, Wilson folds over a piece of the palm in high-stress areas to help keep it from ripping and allowing the pocket to get a bit deeper. "It gets deeper and keeps it stable," Smith says.
The fresh Pedroia DP15GM game model--a single-post design--now comes in a colored red superskin. The emphasis on color has bolstered the Wilson custom builder options for the 2018 line, adding grey and navy blue to black, white, royal and red for the superskin options.
Superskin, a microfiber material half the weight of leather with twice the durability, offers players a lighter glove, popular with smaller players and pitchers who know the benefits of a lighter weight over the course of the season. Robinson Cano, Pedroia and Mookie Betts all use the superskin designs. "Now you have the ability to get more of the glove you want (with the superskin builder)," Smith says.
In keeping with a strong Pedroia push for the updated lines, the A2000--easily Wilson's most popular model, worn by Carlos Correa, which now includes a new infield pattern, single-post chevron web and gap welting--comes in a Pedroia fit series. Those gloves, both in the 11-1/4-inch and 12-1/4-inch lengths have smaller wrist openings, narrower finger stalls and thinned out heel pads, "so a smaller hand can use it and control it."
New for 2018, the M2 catcher 33-1/2-inch mitt features a thumb and wrist protector for foul balls. Wilson has worked with Ivan Rodriguez for years, Smith says, to develop the new style.
"We are always looking to make the game better and connect the player with the glove that is right for the game right now," Smith says. "Not because we think it is right but because the player says it is right."
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.