By Jay McEvoy
The game of baseball strikes a beautiful balance between tradition and evolution. Whether it is the bat you swing, or the ball you throw, both have undergone significant cycles of innovation over the years. The baseball glove, too, continues to evolve.
On Opening Day 2018, a new level of high-performance customization will take the field: the Carpenter C-MOD, a weight-saving, personalized re-structuring of an existing glove with a new wrist strap (optional), new padding, new binding, and a new Carpenter lining tailored to your hand measurements. Two-time World Series champ Ben Zobrist believes in the C-MOD’s performance benefits, and he plans to game a Rawlings PRO200 with the C-MOD customization in 2018. Below, master glove craftsman and designer of the C-MOD, Scott Carpenter takes us through the process:
Zobrist was drawn to C-MOD out of sheer curiosity. Zobrist tells WPW, “I love playing with things, tinkering with things that could make me better, and I also like being an original. I love the adventure of doing something or trying something that’s never been done. I knew when I first contacted Scott that no one was doing what he was doing.”
On the proverbial journey to C-MOD, Scott Carpenter and his company, Carpenter Trade were indeed breaking new ground. In 2011, a Carpenter glove was the first synthetic glove ever worn in an MLB game. Worn by pitcher Brian Gordon of the Yankees, Carpenter’s synthetic materials reduced weight and improved ergonomics.
For the C-MOD process, Carpenter takes an existing stock glove and transforms it from a one-size-fits-all, mass-produced, mostly leather model into a custom hybrid of leather, synthetics, and other carefully engineered parts. He uses the physical dimensions of the player’s glove hand to create an ergonomic and tailored fit that has never been seen before in custom glove design. Using a microfiber that is more durable and breathable than leather, Carpenter is able to reduce the weight of a stock model between 1-3 ounces. With a completely redesigned pocket, Carpenter also replaces the existing thumb and pinky stays with engineered stays that create a larger catching area and greater leverage when squeezing.
Zobrist was immediately drawn to the performance advantages of C-MOD. “I saw the process, and although I didn’t know what it would be like, it was intriguing,” he said. For Ben, a lighter glove would mean a faster glove, which equaled better defense. A liner designed exclusively for his hand would provide unprecedented locked-in responsiveness, and the use of more breathable materials would keep his hand cool. After meeting Carpenter in the vistors clubhouse of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park to take a casting of his hand, Zobrist gave him his Rawlings Pro Preferred game day model, a bruciato 11 ¾” PRO200-2KBR, for the 20-hour engine overhaul. Scott performs all of this work by hand, without cookie-cutter dies, which results in a truly custom fit.
The moment of truth came when Zobrist put the C-MOD PRO200 on his hand. “It was incredible,” Zobrist recalls. “I put the C-MOD on, and it just felt so good, like part of my hand, and it was so light. I really felt like this was my glove, and that no other is going to feel this way. I could also tell immediately that this was built to last. The first time I played catch with it, I felt like I didn’t even need to break it in, the ball just goes right where it needs to, and I know exactly where it is.”
For the majority of his career, Zobrist has used a batting glove underneath his infield glove, and a transition to a C-MOD would represent a full 180 on the overall feel while playing without one. It didn’t matter. “It wasn’t as hard to make it feel like my own as I thought,” Ben said. “We [MLB players] are so particular about our hands and how they feel in a glove, you know? It usually takes me a couple of months to warm into the relationship of a new glove, but I was surprised at how much it just felt like an extension of my hand after only a few days. I feel it breaks in quicker, and feels more natural as it breaks in. At first, the palm was a little stiffer, but that’s because it had more strength behind it than before.”
The C-MOD is no longer a secret thanks to Zobrist. “I talk to people about this A LOT. My C-MOD was my BP glove all year, so people would pick it up and be like ‘oh man!’ and I would say, ‘yeah, let me tell you about how this is done.’ People started to ask ‘wait, he made it lighter? How did he make it lighter?!’”
Despite being named a Rawlings Gold Glove Finalist this season using a non-modified glove, Zobrist said that he is still making the switch to his C-MOD. “Going into next season, I know I am going to use the C-MOD,” he stated confidently. “I feel like this is how I should have always been wearing a glove. Why not do innovative things to make (gloves) better if we have better materials? Why isn’t everyone doing this?”
Zobrist knows its not always that easy, especially at the major league level. “It’s a mental hurdle for sure. When it comes to priority, it is more important that the player is confident with a product than the actual product itself. However, if you want statistics to back up your confidence, I believe that the Carpenter theory of lighter, stronger, and more durable materials are going to stand up to any other product.”
World Series MVP, two-time champ, and three-time All-Star Zobrist has learned to be fearless in his pursuit of excellence on the field. “To me, a player needs to decide whether he wants to take risks in order to change and grow,” says Zobrist, “I’m in the group that wants to take those risks to find the next thing that is going to make me better.”