Crest Hill shop crafts MLB’s Gold Glove awards
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org October 10, 2012 8:24PM
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:52AM
CREST HILL — While baseball fans around the country may be wondering if their favorite players will win coveted Gold Glove awards this year, Crest Hill businessman Andy Wood already knows the answer.
But he’s sworn to secrecy, even though Joliet Pattern, his family-owned business at 508 Pasadena Ave., just finished creating the awards for the second year in a row.
Wood can’t talk about the winners — not even with family members — until after the Rawlings Gold Glove recipients names are announced live on ESPN in early November.
“I’ve got my own brother calling and asking about a particular player,” Wood said during an interview Wednesday.
The names are a closely guarded secret, and Wood had to sign a nondisclosure form with Rawlings when he landed the Gold Glove contract.
“We limit how many people can come into this room and see them,” he said as he led a reporter on a tour of his business.
Joliet Pattern doesn’t normally make sports awards, but it was a deal Wood couldn’t pass up.
Originally started by Wood’s maternal grandfather, Andrew Dillman, as a tool and die company on Industry Avenue in Joliet, the company has morphed into a retail graphics, merchandising and display company.
Joliet Pattern, which employs 35 people and moved to Crest Hill in 1965, makes many of the plastic and metal display units used to hawk meals and merchandise by all kinds of businesses, including McDonald’s, CVS Pharmacy and Absolut vodka.
Joliet Pattern’s front offices are filled with items from past jobs, including a Korbel champagne ad for California stores that featured a surf board.
“We were scratching our heads wondering what the tie-in was between surf boards and champagne,” Wood said.
Sometimes the company gets exact specifications for displays, other times, Joliet Pattern pitches its own ideas. Wood, 61, who lives in Oswego, is always on the lookout for innovative designs.
“My wife hates to go shopping with me because all of a sudden, I’m laying on the floor trying to figure out how our competitors put something together,” he said.
In the case of the Gold Glove awards, Joliet Pattern had just landed a contract to produce the retail display units Rawlings uses to sell its baseball equipment.
Shortly after the contract was signed, executives from St. Louis-based Rawlings decided to tour Joliet Pattern’s 75,000-square-foot building when the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Cubs in July 2011.
During the tour, one of the executives asked Wood if his company could produce the Gold Glove award, too, because Rawlings was looking to make a change. Wood — who became an Orioles fan when he spent the early part of his childhood in Maryland — didn’t hesitate for one second.
“That was all it took for me,” he said. “I said, ‘We can do that.’ ”
For the prototype, Joliet Pattern adhered to the tradition of the award, which features a gold baseball glove and two gold baseballs on a platform. But it made the base out of marble, which was much heavier than the previous wood base.
When the prototype was shown to Rawlings, a Joliet Pattern salesman apologized that the award weighed about 20 pounds more because of the marble. But Rawlings officials were thrilled.
“They loved the prototype,” Wood said. “They said, ‘We want the heaviest trophy in major league sports.’ ”
And that’s what Wood gave them. Joliet Pattern signed a three-year contract with Rawlings, but Wood hopes to be making the Gold Glove awards for years to come. Wood enlisted the help of another area company, T&D Bowling and Awards of Joliet, to engrave the metal plates with Gold Glove award winners’ names.
Joliet Pattern also made the Rawlings Gold Glove TV set used last year when the award winners were announced live for the first time on ESPN.
The set has been in storage at Rawlings for the past year. A team from Rawlings was expected to load up the set and travel to Crest Hill this week to pick up the Gold Glove awards, which were locked tight inside a crate to keep them away from prying eyes.
“This is how secretive it is,” Wood said.
Joliet Pattern assembled 18 Gold Glove awards for Major League players: Nine each for the National League and American League players who exhibited the best defense skills at their respective positions.
Labor of love
Also, the company made three lifetime achievement awards, 200 college baseball awards and nine high school awards. The college and high school awards are smaller than the Major League Baseball awards, which feature mitts and balls covered in gold leaf.
A replica of the Gold Glove awards being produced at Joliet Pattern is on display at First Community Bank of Joliet at 2801 Black Road.
After the winners are announced on ESPN, the Gold Glove awards will be given to the players during an awards banquet on Nov. 9 in New York City.
The whole experience has been a labor of love, Wood said.
“It’s one of those things where you go, ‘I’d almost do that for free,’ ” he said. “When you grow up a huge baseball fan, this is about as close as you can get to rubbing shoulders with this caliber of sports figures.”
But Wood is going to get even closer next month. While he couldn’t attend last year’s banquet in New York because he had a conflict, that won’t happen again.
“This year, I’m going.”