For Worcester Glove Manufacturer, It's A Fever Pitch

Download Audio

The Fenway bustle returns Friday, as the Red Sox host the Yankees in the team's home opener.

The Red Sox win-loss situation is different from season to season, but the Fenway scene hasn’t changed much for decades. The stadium will be filled with suits and ties playing hooky from work along with their sons and daughters playing hooky from school, many carrying baseball gloves hoping to catch an Opening Day foul ball.

Gloves waiting to be shipped at the Insignia factory (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Gloves waiting to be shipped at the Insignia factory (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Some of the gloves the children tote have a story. As opposed to most fans carrying the Asian-made gloves that dominate the market, some baseball fans have been snapping up premium baseball gloves made by a Massachusetts-based company.

Based in Worcester, Insignia is one of only two firms making leather baseball gloves in the entire country. For owner Jim Devaney, business is booming.

"At this point, I would say that our restriction is our own capacity," Devaney explained on the factory floor. "At this point, our ramp-up is behind our sales effort. It's been a long time since we could say that here. And it's a nice situation. That's one you're willing to work Saturdays and Sundays for."

Right now, Insignia is churning out 100 gloves a day. By July 1, Devaney wants to increase his output nearly three-fold.

It is an incredibly labor-intensive process from cutting dozens of glove parts out of steer hyde, stitching each component seamlessly together, molding the stiff leather until a hand-like shape is formed and then threading the stiff, thick laces tightly through the seam lines.

"The very serious baseball player that is willing to spend money on a premium glove, we think that's the opportunity," said Rob Devaney, Jim's son, who helps manage the day-to-day business.

The premium gloves range in color as much as price — anywhere from $159 to $329, depending on the customization. Though they make more traditional gloves, many have multicolored leather, trim, laces and varied embroidery. They can be tailored to match any local college or high school team colors and even be personalized for the individual ballplayer.

"We think beyond the serious baseball player, there's also a component of personalization and gift-giving that is not available if one has to go to Asia and wait 8-10 weeks for that same product, which we deliver in 10 days," Jim Devaney added.


An Insignia worker builds a glove from scratch. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An Insignia worker builds a glove from scratch. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Devaneys are proud that their gloves and all their components are made in America. They are even more proud that they’re being made mostly by new Americans: Latinos, Vietnamese, Albanians and Iraqis. The company reached out to community groups such as Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Services and the city of Worcester to find skilled workers.

It's "one of the few factories in America that make for the American pastime with an immigrant base that's not American," Jim Devaney mused. "That is ironic."

This program aired on April 8, 2011.


More from WBUR

Listen Live