Nokona Gloves: Made in the USA
A small brick Texas building is the home of the last American ball glove
Nothing is more personal to a baseball or softball player than their equipment. Players spend a good amount of time deciding how heavy the bat should be, how tight cleats are, and what shin guards are easiest to move in. One of the pieces of equipment that a player holds most dear is his or her glove. For players like me, Todd Walker, Jorge Sosa, Jeff Fulchino, and Nolan Ryan, that choice is always a Nokona brand glove.
Many baseball gloves, like many other things, aren’t really made in the United States anymore. Big brands like Rawlings, Wilson, and Mizuno, have their gloves shipped thousands of miles away to be stitched. Nokona is just about the only high-quality mitt that is made right here in the USA. In the small town of Nocona, Texas, next door to a live-feed store, a small brick building is the home of the last American ball glove.
The town of Nocona was named after Comanche chief Peta Nocona, and refused to let companies trademark the name. So, with a simple switch from a “c” to a “k”, Nokona was born in 1934. Founder Rob Storey refused to let production cross over the seas. One of his favorite sayings was “‘If I have to tell my employees we’re closing up and they don’t have jobs anymore, I may as well get a bucket of worms and go fishing’.”
Nokona only has around 35 employees that hand-craft each mitt that leaves the store. They each take special pride in crafting the leather to hold up to high-quality standards. The hides are imported from Chicago or Milwaukee, and then tested for temper and thickness. Workers lower heavy presses onto metal dies to cut the leather. Then all of the pieces, which could be up to 25, are sewn together and shaped. A grease that was used to clean rifles in World War II, is used to keep the pocket flexible. An American flag is stitched onto the hide of each glove to remind the player of where it came from, something the company takes great pride in. When a customer purchases a glove directly from the store, the cashier Helen will write you a hand-written receipt, just like she has been for the past 55 years.
Special craftsmanship goes into each glove, which is reflected in the high prices. Gloves range from $200 to the $500, depending on the model of the glove. Nokona ships around 40,000 gloves each year, which is only a small fraction of what the major companies can do. But you get what you pay for with a Nokona glove. While you might be able to buy a Rawlings glove for under a $100, it will most likely die out on you within a year or two. On the other hand, I’ve used my Nokona for at least 5 years already, and have not had a problem with it. If I ever were to, all I would have to do is send it back to the store, where they will fix it right up and send it back to me.
Baseball is known as America’s past time. In a world full of overseas markets and imported goods, Nokona is a small company making sure that phrase holds true. Next time you’re out buying ball equipment, remember that small town in Texas, and buy Nokona.