Sports | November 30, 2020 12:35 pm

Inside America’s Last Baseball Glove Factory

Based in Texas, Nokona maintains an admirable ethos

Nokona baseball glove
A Nokona glove in the San Diego Padres dugout.
Jon Durr/Getty Images

There are a number of reasons why manufacturing jobs in the United States have declined over the last few decades, ranging from offshoring to automation. It’s created an alarming situation for people concerned about American workers’ ability to make a living wage, and it’s a cause that has appeal across the political spectrum.

A new article by Colin Martin in The American Conservative explores the long history of one manufacturer — and illustrates how manufacturing jobs can spark a larger sense of renewal and connectivity in the communities where they’re located. Martin’s argument focuses on one particular company: baseball glove manufacturer Nokona, the only company of its kind still making gloves within the United States.

Nocona, the town Nokona calls home, is a place where leather is vitally important to the economy — boot manufacturer Fenoglio is also based there. In the case of Nokona, the company’s ethos is established by its founder, who took a stance early on against offshoring the manufacturing process.

Martin spoke to Kim York, who works as a flash cutter at Nokona, and who made a very good point about the importance of manufacturing jobs that pay well. “I can’t go to Walmart and buy your goods in the first place if I don’t have a job,” York said.

While Nokona’s gloves don’t have as much of a following in Major League Baseball relative to their competitors, they have had some high-profile supporters over the years, including Nolan Ryan. And they’ve earned a reputation as a maker of high-quality goods, proof that a time-honored system of manufacturing still works very well.