Home of 'broken-in' baseball gloves and softball gloves by Master Glovesmith Dave Katz
Katz Sport Shop 14 River Road
Meriden, CT 06451
(203) 238-4311

Minding their OWN businesses

By Desmond Conner | April 20, 2013

What kid growing up in love with baseball wouldn't want this job — breaking in baseball gloves for a living.

David Katz, 62, who loved playing baseball growing up and played on a Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team into his late 30s, has been doing just that since the mid-1970s when he bought a small sporting goods store from his brother in his hometown of Meriden.

He's got a website now, but his business was really built by word of mouth, not advertising. He's not a techy, no cellphone or smartphone.

"I just figured everybody knew how to break in gloves," Katz said in a recent phone interview. "As a player, I had my own little method that I used and figured everybody did, but for the heck of it, I took a few of them, broke them in and I threw them on the shelves.

"You know, my first concern was that people thought they were used because you have to pull the tags and everything. I thought people might think that, but as soon as I did it, people started buying them, and it pretty much started me breaking in everything that comes into my store. I just kept with it. It's enjoyable, what I do. I don't put a huge amount of stress on myself, nobody is on my back ordering me around."

Katz does things his way. Sure, a customer can get to him through katzgloves.com, but he says he really needs to talk directly to the customer because "there are questions I need to ask in order for you to get the proper glove."

Game-ready gloves out of the store? Anybody who has ever bought a new — stiff — glove knows breaking them in for desired comfort takes time.

And guess what? The guy hardly ever lacks for business, especially this time of year.

"It's built itself up to where everybody who comes in here is either a repeat customer or has been sent by someone," the glovesmith said.

And Katz has seen it all when people try to break in their own quickly.

He said microwaving was a favorite for a while. Steaming them is the latest fad. Some run over gloves with their cars. or try motor oil.

"It's kind of comical some of things they do," Katz said.

Katz, who has a business degree from Quinnipiac, understands he's doing a great service to many, mostly on the high school baseball and softball scene, who appreciate a glove ready to go. He sells all sorts of brands and also designs his own gloves that sell for $250 all broken in. To break in an adult glove will cost about $65. A kid's new glove could cost $48, all broken in.

Through word of mouth, some famous people have found Katz, too. Caroline Kennedy's secretary called and ordered one. "I didn't actually talk to Caroline," Katz said.

Retired Yankees catcher Jorge Posada used the services of Katz.

"The reason I got Posada is because he had these two agents, Seth and Sam Levinson," Katz said. "Those guys have kids who play baseball and they found out about me from some guy from Brooklyn who used me several times, and their kids happened to play on the same team. They've been sending me their kids' gloves for six or seven years now ... they loved what I did and they talked Posada into letting me do one for him." The agents, by the way, said Posada was pleased.

At one point John McEnroe called and left a number, Katz said, but they never did hook up.

"I used to break in quite a few gloves for the guy that [directed] Seabiscuit, big Hollwood director, Gary Ross," said Katz.

But generally he is breaking them in for everyday people.

Joe Candolera and his sons Derek, 13, and Nick, 16, of North Branford, have been getting their gloves from Katz the past eight years.

"I think when it comes to his gloves you start with what's not to like about them," said Joe Candolera of North Branford, whose uses the services of Katz for his children. "They're just good quality gloves that are ready to go, no break-in time, nothing like that. He sells his own line with great designs and they are nothing you will find in any other store. The one thing I've always appreciated about him is that he'll always steer you in the right direction."

Katz bought what was then pretty much a sporting goods store from his brother Richard, athletic director at Platt High, shortly after earning that business degree in 1975. He soon started to break in the gloves. It took him about a week to do so.

As far as how he does it, forget about it.

"It's what I do for a living. It would be like Colonel Sanders or Coca-Cola giving you their formulas, you know," Katz said laughing. "No, what I do is totally unique."

That means it's a secret. The only thing Katz will say is that it still takes a week to get the glove broken in right — new or used. He got a box of new gloves in last Wednesday. In seven days, they will be broken in. If a customer wants the glove softer, Katz can accommodate.

"There are little technical parts of it, too," Katz said. "I break them in to different degrees. I don't do every one as soft as I can get it because you actually get some of your more accomplished players, accomplished high school kids and college kids, that actually like them a little stiffer. If I made every one as soft as I could get it ... I mean, I can't re-stiffen it, but if you came in and said, 'I like this glove but I'd like it a little bit softer' I do have a way that I can make it softer in a couple of minutes, even after working on it, shaping and softening it, for a week."

When Katz was playing for and managing Katz Sports Shop in the Twilight League in 1985, he had a young kid in center field named Bernie Williams. Yes, that Bernie Williams, the retired center fielder for the Yankees. Williams was attending a baseball camp at Cheshire Academy. A camp instructor played for Katz, and soon Williams did, too.

Katz now spends most of his work days massaging baseball and softball gloves, which is fine with him. He got rid of cable a few years back. He enjoys playing guitar and, of course, baseball. And he's not big on the Internet, telling people on his web site that "I am not an Internet super store. I am simply a guy who knows gloves and how to break them in. I treat each and every glove as if it were my own."

And, as Katz says, get the glove to him by 5 p.m. during the week because that's when the store closes, and when it closes, that's it until the next day. Store opens at noon. And it's noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, or you'll have to wait until noon Monday.

"That's just the way I am, and some things are just the way they are," Katz said.

But the glove doesn't ever have to be just the way it is. Not in Katz's world. Not after a week of work on it.

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