Baseball: Played in America and Still Made in America
Arguably the most famous name in baseball manufacturing is Hillerich & Bradsby, whose Louisville Slugger wooden bats have been made in their namesake Kentucky city for 129 years. But Marucci Sports, founded in 2002, could have more bats in use by the MLB. "I think there are days when they're No.1, and there are days when we are No.1," a Louisville Slugger rep told USA Today last fall. Hillerich & Bradsby also operates a museum.
Based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Marucci Sports has rapidly grown since its first major league appearance in 2003. Like Louisville Slugger, Marucci's wooden bats are produced domestically while aluminum and composite bats are manufactured outside America. It won't pay for endorsements but boasts partnerships and board positions with strong hitters Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista.
Warstic Bat in Dallas markets white ash and maple bats to "warrior" ballplayers of all ages. Former minor leaguer Ben Jenkins created Warstic so he could run the business from his home studio while he was on the road in his family's trailer. A graphic designer and creative brander, Jenkins employs social media to demonstrate his designs.
Most major glove manufacturers get their materials internationally or produce the entire product overseas. Not so for Insignia Athletics of Worcester, Massachusetts, which five years ago started making gloves for baseball and softball and is planning to add bats. Most workers, the company says, have never played baseball. Insignia touts personalized gloves that can be shipped in 10 days and a supply chain that covers 12 states, including Pennsylvania palm paste and Texas laces.
Like baseball's version of a snowflake, Nokona promises that each of its gloves is unique. The custom leather manufacturer has been operating since the 1920s and stays modern with fans posting pictures of their gloves to the company's social media accounts. You can tour the factory in Nocona, Texas, 100 miles northwest of Dallas.
Lena Blackbourne Baseball Rubbing Mud
Lena Blackburne, a third base coach for the old Philadelphia Athletics, in 1938 discovered mud in the Delaware River, near Palmyra, New Jersey, that nicely removes the sheen from new baseballs. A descendant of a friend each year harvests hundreds of pounds of muck "resembling a cross between chocolate pudding and whipped cold cream" for all MLB and some minor league teams.