Ben Jenkins played one season of professional baseball: 41 games for the 1996 Martinsville Phillies of the rookie Appalachian League. One of his teammates that season happened to be Jimmy Rollins, who was just getting his feet wet in pro ball. It will be interesting to see what Rollins remembers of Jenkins, his one-time double-play partner, because while only one of them made it further as a ballplayer, they both wield important bats and “colorful” personalities today.
I was looking at Coach’s Father’s Day collection of gift ideas for men, and was especially inspired by the story of their dip-dyed bats. If you watch the video about the bats there, made by Warstic for Coach, you will see the story of Jenkins, in his own words.
Those words are a great example of this blog’s focus on Heritage Baseball, a father and a son playing catch and then a seed planted that becomes an inspired creativity. The bats are $248 each and would be a pretty cool Father’s Day gift, with several different colors in stock. Here’s what Jenkins had to say about his passion:
“Two things that I’ve always been most passionate about in my life would be baseball and making art for design. As early as I can remember playing catch with my dad, I was also drawing and painting, making things with clay. I was always doing those two things. Even up to the point where, during my early 20s, I was playing Minor League ball and designing in a hotel room.
“I don’t see myself much as an inventor-type designer. I’m more of an improver. I think as I get older I keep getting more and more minimal. It turns out that that creates more meaning. I love simple things, strong authentic design stands the test of time versus things that are overly complex.
“Design is in my blood, it’s not something I’ve decided to do, it’s just something I’ve always felt like I’ve needed to do. It’s kind of a fever type thing, where I get this feeling that: I need to make something, I need to make something, I need to make something. Design becomes like a therapy to getting that out of my system. It’s nice because I end up having made something.
“The designs are simple, bold and strong, and I think that’s what really resonates with people. Baseball is such a mental sport, and hitting a baseball is all about confidence and believing that you can do it. It’s just this feeling of, ‘Hey, this isn’t just a bat, this is my Warstic, this is my bat.’ Where Warstic and Coach really come together and see the world in the same way is that design is about simplicity, and it’s about essential, and it’s about creating something beautiful in the most simple way you can.”
It is Coach’s first collaboration with the Texas-born designer, who was undrafted but given a shot at a baseball dream, one he turned into an opportunity. He turns 39 in August. His is a limited edition collaboration of classic craftsmanship and modern style, and a good Father’s Day idea. Maybe he can get Jimmy Rollins to swing one at least in BP.
Here is the video of the bats’ story, in Jenkins’ words:
Each Father’s Day we show our appreciation for everything our fathers have done for us. We give symbolic gifts, as we know that actually paying Dad back for everything he has given us over the years is impossible. For many, an appreciation for the national pastime is an important part of their father’s legacy.
It starts from a young age, typically with a father sitting down with a child to explain a game on television, or in the stands at a Major League or Minor League game. The pace of the game is perfect for these teaching moments — initially rules, then fundamentals, and eventually strategy. Soon the teaching is happening in the stands at the ballpark, accompanied by a sundae in a miniature helmet. We learn to watch the game the way our fathers watch it.
The baseball education isn’t limited to discussion, as soon our fathers transition into the role of coach. This can be as simple as playing catch together in the back yard or practicing hitting in the park. As we grow, our fathers might lend a hand coaching our t-ball or Little League teams, or could simply lend support from the stands during games and advice afterward.
The vast majority of us transition to fandom over the years, but a select few get the opportunity to play on for a living. For a fan, it’s great seeing the son of a former player making his Major League debut. From father-and-son combinations like the Griffeys, who actually played together in the Mariners outfield, to three-generational Major League families like the Boones, there’s a lineage on the diamond as well in the seats.
I was looking around at possible Father’s Day gifts for my own Dad, and I noticed that Coach’s Heritage Baseball collection is designed with fathers and sons in mind and a good idea to share. Inspired by the sport that inspired Coach, it features eye-catching regulation gloves, colorful hand-dipped bats and wallets and baseball paperweights made with their iconic glove-tanned leather. So you could give Dad Color and Craft this Father’s Day, some luxury that combines his favorite tradition.
There’s something incredibly nostalgic about a vintage baseball glove. A glove from the 1930s and 1940s looks fairly similar to what we use today, except for the fact fielders’ gloves were yet to feature lacing between the fingers. One thing that’s remained the same is the rich leather used to make the gloves.
That leather inspired Coach when they started out back in 1941, initially specializing in small leather goods like wallets and billfolds. As a nod to that past, Coach has released the Heritage Baseball Billfold Wallet as part of their Baseball Collection.
The limited edition wallets are handcrafted with leather from vintage baseball gloves. Each wallet is numbered and totally unique, typically requiring the leather from 1 1/2 gloves and two to three days to create. Initially, the gloves for the wallets were found on eBay, before Coach found a dealer in the Midwest.
Establish your link with the game’s past by taking a look at the full collection Baseball Collection, available now online at coach.com and select Coach Men’s stores.
It was a time of real grass, real heroes and real magic.
Drumbeats of war were growing louder in the distance, several months ahead of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. But in the Summer of 1941, there was baseball and there was everything else. Boys played it all over and everyone watched, literally in their own world. Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Billie Holliday were on the radio, but so were Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bob Feller.
Entering 2012, Major League Baseball’s last seven seasons were the most-attended seasons in the game’s history. We are coming off an epic year that featured a mind-blowing regular season finish and then a postseason capped off by a World Series for the ages, featuring maybe the best Fall Classic performance (Albert Pujols’ three-homer game) and maybe the best Fall Classic Game (6).
You can’t really compare a season like that to the one that happened 70 summers before it, but you can hope to carry on the legacy, to remember that past and why people loved it and why they love the National Pastime today. We always wonder if someone could hit in 56 consecutive games again, like Joltin’ Joe did in ’41. We always wonder if someone finally will bat .400 again, like Teddy Ballgame did then.
We wonder if our modern memories will be as strong to fans later this century as those memories of the Summer of ’41 were to those who were handed them proudly from generation to generation. They were days of innocence, days no one could ever replicate again. The world changed on one day of infamy. For years to come, America was at war, its citizens rallying around a common cause of war.
Baseball became a matter of relief, played to remind us of what once was and could be again. Then came peace, baseball carried on, leading the way through societal change from the breaking of the color barrier to labor and free agency to mass broadcasting and one day four MLB.com apps ranking among the top four sports apps in something called iTunes. Baseball has carried on the spirit of 1941.
You see it in the fundamental elements of the game, pitcher throwing to batter, and batter whiffing or driving one over the wall. You see it in a company like Coach, because it was founded in that same year of 1941 as a men’s accessories brand that had baseball at its core. Yes, the brand known to so many for its popular handbags originally produced items such as wallets, attaché cases and bedroom slippers that were inspired by the feel of a much-loved, broken-in baseball glove.
Those same durable tanned leather as sporting goods houses made mitts for those baseball heroes. Today, Coach offers The Baseball Collection, and if you take a good look at that Heritage Baseball Billfold Wallet, you can feel the connection to the Summer of ’41. It takes about 1 1/2 gloves to make one of those wallets, and most of the vintage gloves came from the ’30s and ’40s. It is not just a feeling, but a tangible link to that halcyon past, a fun reminder of how baseball connects us now.
There was never a summer in baseball like 1941, and we go out to the ballpark today wondering if this might be the year that creates the same kind of magic that lasts a lifetime. We can only remember and hope.