Manasquan’s Jeff Bradley Starts Company Making High-Quality Youth Baseball Gloves
After raising two boys who played baseball and seeing the type of gloves young players were often stuck using, Jeff Bradley spent years trying to come up with a better option.
Bradley, 53, a Manasquan resident and former sportswriter for ESPN the Magazine, has realized that vision with his new company, Bradley Baseball Gloves, which sells 21 different models of gloves for players primarily ages 8 through 15 that are created for their hand sizes and needs. All of the sales are done through the company's website.
"The biggest thing I observed in a lot of youth gloves is that kids' fingers aren't reaching the finger areas, so they're pushing them through and creating a big bump in the palm of the glove,'' Bradley said. "It's getting that part right and putting reinforcement through the palm so it doesn't clump and the glove holds its shape."
Bradley, who received his initial inventory in December, also wanted youth players to be able to quickly break in their all-leather glove to use in games. Those games will be coming up fast, as the official start of Shore Conference baseball is on Friday, with the youth teams to follow.
"The problem is that if you put a glove on a kid's hand and tell him to break it in, he probably doesn't have the hand strength,'' Bradley said. "It was a lot of work to get that right.
"I spent three years developing the patterns and the components, finding the type of leather I wanted to use and tinkering with the size and the way I wanted it to feel on a kid's hand."
Bradley runs the business in addition to his full-time job as director of communications for Toronto FC, a Major League Soccer team. He is living in Canada while his wife is still in Manasquan, where she teaches at the elementary school.
Baseball has long been a part of his family, as his brother is Princeton University head coach Scott Bradley, who played Major League Baseball for four teams over nine seasons. Jeff played at West Essex High School and then was part of the program at the University of North Carolina.
"(Scott) agreed with me that the (Bradley gloves) seemed different and better on a kid's hand as opposed to hard and unworkable,'' Bradley said.
Jeff's son, Tyler, 20, was a Shore Sports Network second-team All-Shore selection as a catcher for Manasquan in 2015. He went on to play a season at Furman University and is now doing a prep school year ahead of realizing his dream of entering the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
His younger son, Beau, 18, also played youth baseball before focusing on the family's other passion, soccer. He will be joining the team at the University of Virginia after a prep school season. Jeff's other brother is Bob Bradley, the former head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team, and his nephew is Michael Bradley, who plays for Toronto FC and the USMNT.
Jeff previously had experience in the baseball glove business as part of New Jersey-based Leather Head Sports, which makes gloves that cost up to $275 and competes with high-end companies like Rawlings and Wilson.
In creating Bradley Baseball Gloves solely by himself, he used the same manufacturer as Leather Head, but wanted to find a price point between the low-end youth gloves that usually only last a season and the custom models that can cost up to $350. The Bradley gloves sell for $125.
The gloves have already been a hit in Texas, where former Tar Heels star Benji Johnson, a roving catching instructor, is based. He saw them on Facebook and asked for a sample.
"He said it's the best youth catcher's glove he's seen,'' Bradley said. "He became my first rep, and we sold out of the catcher's glove."
Bradley's aim for his glove is the same goal for his company - make something that's built to last.
"It's a glove that can last a kid his entire Little League career,'' Bradley said.
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