There's something undeniably nostalgic about the hand-stitched wallets Brad Yurkovich creates.
Anyone who played catch in the backyard as a kid is likely to feel it. Call it the "Field of Dreams" effect.
A lifelong lover of baseball, Yurkovich is transforming timeworn leather ball gloves into wallets, billfolds and credit card cases.
Men drawn to Yurkovich's re-purposed leather creations at craft shows almost reflexively bring them up to their noses, he said, to inhale that unmistakable ball-glove aroma.
The appeal of his wallets "is really all about the memories," Yurkovich said. "It's not necessarily about the Cleveland Indians."
Beyond functionality, they are talisman-like objects. "When you're a kid, you take your glove with you wherever you can," said Yurkovich, who was a pitcher for his high school team in Painesville. "As an adult, these (wallets) are a great way to carry your glove." The snap wallets will carry seven to 10 cards plus cash, and expanding with use, he said.
Yurkovich's business, Yurko Stitch Co., based out of his North Canton home, is enjoying a steady growth. At the recent Handmade Arcade show in Pittsburgh, "I was blown away by the response," he said. "Everybody always talks about the Steelers, but the Pirates are huge out there.
"The cool thing about my stuff is it's the one table at the event that is Baseball, Sports, Man. Guys will come and stand at my table and talk baseball." He sold about 35 wallets, which go for $65, at the Pittsburgh show.
"They're all handmade and unique. No two ball gloves are the same. They have character, sweat and dirt," Yurkovich said. "It's a one-of-a-kind gift with sentimental value. I want people to pick it up and smell baseball."
Yurkovich will be selling his wallets at the Crafty Mart's Last Call show on Dec. 17 from 1 to 6 p.m. at Goodyear Hall at 1201 E. Market St. in Akron. His creations also may be ordered from www.yurkostitchco.com.
Yurkovich readily admits that he didn't invent the baseball-glove wallet concept. What happened is he saw one for sale online for $150 and decided to try making one himself. He bought a Nolan Ryan glove at a secondhand shop and carefully tore it apart. His first wallet attempt was primitive but he steadily perfected his leathercraft, making more wallets for friends and family, then decided to start marketing them for the more affordable price of $65. He makes everything by hand and by himself.
He finds the gloves through constant searching at flea markets, secondhand stores and on eBay. Rawlings, Spalding, MacGregor, Wilson and other recognizable brand logos are represented on his wallets. Some gloves are embossed with star signatures, including Don Drysdale, Reggie Jackson, Roberto Clemente and Cal Ripkin Jr. The names trigger stories from customers at shows.
Yurkovich is happy to make custom wallets from gloves people provide. To use more of the gloves, he makes keychains, refrigerator magnets and even customizes leather belts with ball-glove belt loops. The leather work "is therapeutic for me," he said. "I get so dirty and dusty."
Inevitably, working with baseball gloves reminds Yurkovich of his father. "He was my coach growing up.," he said. "I have so many memories of playing catch with my dad and brother."
His wife, Dayna, recalled how a woman at a show in Columbus teared up when she saw a wallet that specifically reminded her of her husband's father, "who no matter how tired he was from work would always take time to play catch with him. There was this total emotion just from a baseball glove."
Yurko Stitch Co. is not Yurkovich's only baseball-related business venture. He and Dayna are partners in Lemonball Lemonade, which sells lemonade at the minor-league ballparks of the Akron Rubber Ducks, Lake County Captains (in Eastlake) and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (in Florida).