Former high school ball player Tomohiro Yonezawaya, who got into the sporting goods trade after his active days, knew how expensive new baseball gloves are, which was an obstacle for many young people.
So he started a business to collect, repair, and recondition used gloves from players and teams, especially for young athletes who may not be able to afford high quality new ones.
“There are children who cannot buy gloves for financial reasons but still want to play baseball,” said Yonezawaya, 39, who opened Re-Birth’s Kamata outlet in Ota Ward in January. “We wanted to offer gloves at the lowest possible prices.”
Its service attracts attention, as The recycled gloves are expected to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the sports community.
The re-birth renovation studio branches in Tokyo’s Ota and Setagaya districts collect used gloves from individuals and baseball teams. The inner leather and laces of the gloves will be replaced for reuse so they can be sold or donated.
Around 200 revived gloves from various top brands such as Mizuno, Zett and Wilson will be exhibited at the Re-Birth. All have unique designs.
Baseball gloves are mostly made from high quality leather, so new ones come in at around 60,000 yen ($ 545).
Since mending gloves requires specialist knowledge, those that are still usable are often replaced by new ones.
In addition, high school ball players typically need to purchase new gloves several times before their field positions are finalized.
FORMER COLLEGE BALL PLAYERS
Yonezawaya was a member of the Akita Commercial High School baseball club. In his third year there, Yonezawaya’s team took part in the opening game of the prestigious National High School Baseball Championship at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
After graduating from college, Yonezawaya worked for a sporting goods chain operator and then moved to a major supplier of online shopping sites as a buyer. He found gloves, which he bought in large numbers, unsold, sold at very low prices, or simply disposed of.
Yonezawaya came across the glove remanufacturing project when he met Satoshi Oki, 24, who has glove repair skills after Yonezawaya founded Global Porters in 2017, a company that handles official merchandise from professional baseball teams.
Yonezawaya negotiated the idea of selling refurbished gloves at a third of the price of their never-used counterparts.
Oki had worked for the same sporting goods chain as Yonezawaya. At the time, he asked glove manufacturers to fix their products, but the process was taking a long time.
For this reason, Oki traveled from Fukushima Prefecture, where he worked, to the Kanto region to learn techniques from artisans at sporting goods manufacturers. Oki also sent them photos for advice over the phone.
For four years, Oki mastered all repair procedures and founded the re-birth studio with Yonezawaya.
Oki repairs and renews 100 gloves every month collected through the internet and the studio’s outlets. Not only does it revitalize worn leather, but it can also advise you on how to repair and keep better gloves in tip-top shape.
Allegedly another “Memorial Revival” offer has also proven to be popular, in which old beloved gloves that are no longer worn are treated with a special preservation method to prevent them from being broken down for the exhibition, or in pencil and card cases being transformed.
With reports said that there are less specialized baseball stores these days that can handle damaged gloves, Yonezawaya said that “taking care of artisans is part of our duty”.
In addition to increasing the number of its outlets, Re-Birth also wants to run a campaign to donate refurbished gloves to players and groups outside of Japan.
“We’re going to show with remanufactured gloves the importance of using things carefully for long periods of time,” said Yonezawaya. “With this we want to make the baseball community more sustainable.”