Former Rawlings employee Scott Carpenter’s Carpenter Trade Company manufactures a custom-built synthetic leather mitt that according to the Atlantic’s Daniel Fromson, “many early adopters consider it the best glove in baseball.” At $300 a pop, surely Adam Dunn can afford one?
The big innovation is Carpenter’s use of suede-like synthetics—matted polymer fibers pioneered by the footwear industry—that weigh less than half as much as leather. After a decade of tweaking, his glove, according to his tests, is five to 10 ounces lighter than any rival. A baseball, Carpenter points out, weighs about five ounces: “Imagine taping two baseballs onto the back of your hand, and what a difference that would make if you were fielding a bad hop.” Other advantages include breathability, durability, and memory-foam-like padding.
Carpenter’s design also sets his glove apart. Among the spools of thread, bolts of fabric, and antique sewing machines in his workshop lie plaster casts of players’ hands. He shapes a glove’s lining to account for every contour and joint. A perfect fit eliminates slipping and translates to better leverage. In addition, the entire glove is more curved than usual and has flared-out sides, all of which helps funnel a ball into the pocket.
Many players view this kind of change as the equivalent of asking grown men to buy T-ball gloves. (Synthetic gloves long meant only one thing: vinyl, the Fisher-Price kiddie car to leather’s Rolls-Royce.) “People were making fun of it left and right,” says Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Michael Schwimer, recalling his minor-league teammates’ reactions when he began wearing a Carpenter glove in 2008. “It was like, ‘Aren’t those the ones that come in the cereal box?’” Nonetheless, Schwimer says the half dozen or so pros who use the glove—mostly minor-league pitchers—agree that its performance is unequaled: once players give it two weeks, he says, they don’t go back.