"You make baseballs? How did you get into that?"
- Nearly everyone
Memories and emotions work in strange ways. As an adult, I couldn’t tell you the name of almost any teacher I've ever had who didn’t teach an art class, or something hands-on. Sad but true. For me, the best times were spent learning how to make something. Anything, really.
My fondest memories, and many of my friendships, are an intermingling of art and baseball. People who have shaped my skills, on and off the field, or in the studio.
Like most kids, my first experiences were in learning to play the game. Pretty much every day. If we didn't have a team game or practice, we played at home. Got a patch of grass? We can play on that. We improvised to play wherever we could. Home plate was a bare spot of grass, first base was the side of the house, and second base was a tree. Stealing third required careful sliding to avoid the raspberry bush. Sunsets were a call home to read the baseball books I checked out of the school library.
Eventually life twisted and turned and brought me to Massachusetts College of Art where I learned to make even more things in the Industrial Design department. Despite all of the typical distractions, I never stopped thinking about baseball. It was always there. I've called it an escapist passion, but at a certain point, your interests become defining characteristics. That point was reached when I attempted my first baseball in 1998. Let's just say that first ball was not something you'd expect someone to build a business around.
Fast forward to 2008. Life is good, money is being earned.
A love of history and handcraft combined with newfound knowledge of how things are made. It was only a matter of time before I made a baseball. The spark came from an issue of Smithsonian magazine with an article on vintage baseball that was being played around the country using handmade equipment.
The idea to make a ball was natural. As it turns out, it was the mere attempt to make a ball that eventually fueled my desire to actually make a ball.
Through art, I learned patience. Patience gave me the ability to craft. I've never made anything worth showing another person that was made quickly, or on the first attempt. Patience also gives the opportunity for reflection, which is another beautiful aspect of baseball.
I've learned through time and reflection what I love most about the game, and much of it is nostalgic. Born from the things that make us feel a certain way. As collector of baseball antiques, I came to appreciate the details that made one baseball or glove better than another, and when put into historical context, the advancements and evolution became ever more interesting.
Memories and emotions work in strange ways. I couldn’t tell you the name of almost any teacher I've ever had who didn’t teach an art class, or something hands-on.
Sad but true.
What I do remember about being a kid is baseball. I grew up in the Boston area listening to Ken Coleman call the Red Sox games on WPLM. The images formed by his words alone still resonate in the deep recesses of my brain. He had an eloquence to his delivery that was just perfect, in my ears anyway.
Just down the road from our house lived an elderly neighbor who was a high school friend of Mr. Coleman. He was also a former bat boy for the Boston Braves in the 1920’s and was given a shot at making the club a few years later. I’d spend countless afternoons listening to him tell stories of Babe Ruth (whom he also caddied for) , Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams. Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.
From the start, I developed an affinity for the long-gone heroes of baseball. Like the green of Fenway, the roots of my imagination were set in stone. The aesthetics of the early game are the elements that really drove my fascination. The wool, the dirt, the grit, the funny looking gloves. I loved it all.
Looking back, one of my fondest memories as a kid was spent sitting with my dad for a night game at Fenway, in seats that were gifted to us by Ken Coleman. We were in the wooden grandstand directly below the press box behind home plate. The gentleman in front of us was smoking a cigar and meticulously recording each play in his score book. That was 1987, and the Sox played terrible baseball that day, but we loved it. I feel privileged to be just old enough to remember the sights, sounds, and smells of the the old days in the old, dirty, ballpark. I’m sure it was different in the days of Ruth, Foxx, and Williams, but that memory still permeates.
I've made things as along as I can remember. Still do. I made my first baseball in 1999 while studying Industrial Design at Massachusetts College of Art. The campus was located on Huntington Avenue, just down the street from where the very first World Series was played in 1903. What I initially thought was an interesting way to spend an afternoon, ended up being the first step in a decade-long personal journey of reflection on what it actually meant to "find the thing you love to do, and do it better than anyone."
When I formed the Huntington Base Ball Co. in 2009, my goal was to re-create the elements that drew me in to this beautiful pastime. I love the visual characteristics of the early game and the attention to detail in the items that were created for it. The rawness of the materials, and the style of the cut. Those vintage pieces were also beautiful objects that were made by hand and made to last. In our shop, we continue that tradition.
Baseball meets Research meets Craftsmanship. Hello again.
Let's play some Base Ball!