Six MLB All Stars Quick to Adopt New Wilson A2K -- Company's First Major Line Extension to A2000, Industry's Best Selling Glove Over Last 49 Years
Jul 21, 2006
A2K Made From the Top Five Percent of Wilson Leather Hides; Co. Looks to Capitalize on Growing Glove Market
CHICAGO (July 21, 2006) -- Baseball players are the most superstitious of athletes.
Pitchers jump over the chalk baseline on the way back to the dugout, batters have their at-the-plate routines. On a winning streak in the playoffs? Players will wear the same pair of socks until they take home the championship.
To top that off, in baseball -- more than any other sport -- equipment is truly an extension of a player's body.
So: why would any major leaguer switch gloves on the spot, especially when it takes on average a year to break one in? And why would they tempt the wrath of the Gods of Glove, feeling that it's partly the mojo of the mitt that got them to The Show?
On July 31, Wilson Sporting Goods will release the A2K (MSRP $299), the company's first major product line extension to its A2000, the industry's best-selling glove since its introduction in 1957. Even before it hits shelves, pros such as the Mets' David Wright and the Red Sox's Curt Schilling have put the A2K into play.
The result? For Wright, 59 putouts and 16 double plays to date, which has him on pace for career season-best numbers in both categories.
"This is more than just a glove for me...this is a tool, this is my livelihood. I have to have supreme confidence in what I go out there and use," said Wright of his switch to the A2K back in spring training.
Speaking to the fact that the A2K's materials are hand-chosen from the top five percent of Wilson Pro-Stock hides, Wright continued: "This is the best leather you can mold a glove with. It's strong, maintaining the shape I originally broke it into. But, it's also soft enough where it feels real comfortable...the ball stays in the glove."
In 94 starts, Wright's fielding percentage is at .953, a career high.
In addition to Wright, five other 2006 MLB all stars have put the A2K into play since first receiving it in April: Carlos Beltran (Mets), Lance Berkman (Astros), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Brad Penny (Dodgers) and Kenny Rogers (Tigers). Rogers has won four of the last six Gold Gloves awarded to American League pitchers.
Other notables using the glove: Rich Harden (A's), Javier Vasquez (White Sox) and Jason Marquis (Cardinals).
A2K Continues 'Luxury' Trend in Gloves, Follows Other High-End Sporting Goods Introductions
According to Jim Hackett, Wilson director of baseball, it's the A2K's high-end materials and focus on craftsmanship that makes it among baseball's top "luxury" gloves -- a product he believes will continue the new trend of luxury products in the category.
"You've seen it in golf and tennis, and now with the A2K, you'll see it in baseball: product innovation at the highest levels, combining the best raw materials and the best design," said Hackett. "Ten years ago, people went out and bought new cars to get that feel for luxury performance; now, it's sporting goods."
Highlighting the A2K's biggest luxury feature, Hackett expanded on Wright's mention of the glove's Pro-Stock Select leather, noting its uniform thickness and density, which delivers low-rebound performance, optimal weight, extended durability and unmatched pocket stability.
More A2K Features, Benefits
Inside the A2K, a micro-perforated, full-grain leather lining conforms to the player's hand and wicks moisture away for added comfort and control. On the back of the wrist, perspiration is managed by Dri-Lex lining, an ultra-breathable lining which transfers moisture from the skin, keeping the athlete's hand dry and cool.
It also has three additional features: retro colors; rolled and stitched Dual Welting, and; a patented finger design that helps maintain a stable pocket.
The A2K comes in eight different-sized models (11.25 to 12.5 inches), each with different webbed-pocket styles (H-web, T-web, dual-hinged closed web and ASO closed web) - all designed for different skill positions (infield, outfield, pitcher).
Five of the eight models come in both left- and right-handed throw.
Baseball Participants, Glove Market Growing; Opportunity to Capture Baseball Viewers
In numbers released from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) in late May, baseball participation in the U.S. was at 10.3 million participants in 2005 -- up from 9.7 million in 2004.
Also: in the SGMA's last sporting goods sales numbers (2004), the wholesale size of the baseball/softball glove market was $128 million -- up from $110 million in 2000, a 16 percent increase over the last five years.
"We already have a dedicated customer base; however, we believe that the A2K will help Wilson capture a good percentage of those half-a-million-or-so new players to the game," said Hackett.
Another target for Wilson: the 18-to-34-year-old who watches baseball in person. According to a survey in May in Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal, baseball was a surprise No. 1 (26 percent) in regard to what sports people in this age group like to watch in person, beating out football (25) and hockey (24).
Said Hackett: "What this study tells us is that people are closely watching the sport -- and that our professional-player seeding will succeed in driving customers to retailers to buy their favorite player's glove model."
But even with an increase in 18-to-34-year-old interest, Wilson says it will continue its efforts in reaching out to its younger-aged customer base, growing a new generation of loyal brand fans.
According to the SGMA, there are four million players in the five largest youth baseball leagues -- and 30,000 youth travel ball squads, which is entirely separate from Little League or Babe Ruth participation. In addition, high school baseball participation has increased by 10 percent since the 1990-91 academic year.
To find which retailer in their area is carrying Wilson's A2K, customers can log onto www.wilson.com/wilson/team/baseball/index.jsp and enter their postal code.
About Wilson Sporting Goods
Wilson Team Sports is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world's leading manufacturers of sports equipment and owned by Amer Sports. Wilson designs, manufactures and distributes sporting goods throughout the world and focuses on making technologically advanced products which help all players play better. Wilson's core sport categories include: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Slowpitch and Fastpitch Softball, Bats, Volleyball, Soccer, Youth Sports, Uniforms/Apparel, Golf, Footwear and Racquet Sports (Tennis, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton and Platform Tennis).