There are approximately six to seven million baseball gloves manufactured every year.
You may have heard of the giants like Wilson, Mizuno and Rawlings. But the first Black-owned company to supply gloves to current major league players, called Steelo, is a start-up in a legacy style industry. In an interview for "LA Times today," Steelo’s owner Steve Friend joined Spectrum News 1 anchor Kelvin Washington with the story.
What You Need To Know
- Businessman Steve Friend's one-man company Steelo Sports is the first Black-owned company to supply gloves to contemporary major league players
- Friend wants to help ensure MLB doesn't overlook the broader picture of appealing to Black fans and to younger fans in general
- Friend has recruited a dozen players to the Steelo roster, including three with major league service time this season
- By letting players express themselves and show off their personalities, Friend said, baseball can make inroads into an audience it struggles to reach
Friend has been a baseball fan since he was a child, having grown up watching players like Ozzie Smith, Bo Jackson, Ricky Henderson and Barry Bonds.
"I fell in love with baseball at an early age, and when I was old enough to go to games, it started to sink in that this is something I want to be involved with lifelong," said Friend. "I got a deep passion for this."
Friend explained that before launching Steelo, he worked in e-commerce for sporting goods and also worked for fashion and cannabis companies.
"For the past decade, I have been working in the corporate world," he said. "On the side of that, I have been operating and starting up this business, so I have had a double life the last 10 years. And it has been a very interesting journey."
Friend wanted to start his own business to offer a different perspective and do something different from the corporate giants that dominate the manufacture of baseball gloves.
"I have got a passion for products," he said. "I was in fashion design and footwear design before I was in this baseball company. I want to combine two worlds with fashion and baseball. The legacy companies have been around for a long time, but I think there is a great opportunity for other companies to come in and have a different perspective of the game and what the game can be. I am excited to bring what I can bring to the table, and hopefully, that helps move the needle."
Since starting his business, Friend has recruited various players to the Steelo roster.
"One of the players includes outfielder Jonathan Davis from the Toronto Blue Jays. He is a great guy, a great player, and I love him to death. We’ve got Sterling Sharp as well with the Nationals now. And we have a handful of other players that are coming up, making their moves, and there are many more to come, so I am very excited about that too."
As MLB officials focus on reversing the decline in Black participation in baseball, Friend would like to help ensure the league does not overlook the broader picture of appealing to Black fans and younger fans in general.
"The numbers of the Black demographics in baseball have decreased exponentially," he said. "So it is essential from my perspective to bring what I can bring to the table. If I can bring infrastructure from a company’s standpoint to the table and help guys gain notoriety or do my part on that end, I can bridge some of those gaps. But it is a lifestyle thing that these guys are into outside the game, myself included. I am really into fashion and hip-hop. Many of these guys are too. And it is time for some of the bridging of those gaps to happen. And I think that can be possible when you start including a 360 view of what these guys are really into and providing an avenue for them to express themselves and be who they really are."
Click the arrow above watch the interview.
Watch "LA Times Today" at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the app.
Can one Black glovemaker and 'Fear of God' make baseball cool again?— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) May 10, 2021
SoCal's @HunterGreene17, one of baseball's elite prospects, spurned the big glove manufacturers to sign with a former ballplayer and his one-man company. Why?https://t.co/UXLUloKKa0