Long, hot, humid days in the Venezuelan Winter League were only relatively short stints in Mark Minicozzi’s 12-year minor league career. A product of East Carolina University, Minicozzi was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 17th round of the 2005 draft, and made it no higher than Triple-A during his long, and rather productive career.
A minor league batting title and multiple All-Star appearances were interspersed around injuries, seasons in independent leagues and time on the disabled list (now called the injured list). Minicozzi’s career ended in 2017 with one final stint in the independent Atlantic League with the Somerset Patriots.
After spending some time finishing up a Recreation and Facilities Management degree from ECU and an internship with the Pirates’ baseball program roughly a year prior, Minicozzi went to the Atlantic League with a slightly ulterior motive.
“I was still playing — I was actually playing in the Atlantic League that next year after I did my internship,” Minicozzi said in a phone interview this week. “I went there to play to sort of end my career and to also product test our gloves. I got to spend about three months of having the majority of the guys who played in the major leagues, a lot of guys Double-A, Triple-A, to get the feedback from them of how to make a really good product.”
That product was batting gloves, a product most baseball players, from Little League to Major League Baseball, use to gain a better grip on the bat.
In the years since product testing the early prototypes of his gloves, Minicozzi has grown his company, Primal Baseball, into a very successful business.
“It was something I was sort of passionate about, trying to develop a glove — I hated batting gloves when I played,” Minicozzi said. “I never could find a batting glove that really worked for me, that I really loved. I wore the ones that I liked, but I thought it was part of the game that I could make better and it was a way that when I’m done playing I could still be a part of the game.”
During his playing career, Minicozzi said he was never fully impressed with batting gloves from companies like Nike and Franklin and often recounts his time in leagues like the Venezuelan Winter League or the Mexican Pacific Winter League as times when those gloves showed their weaknesses.
“Being Italian, I sweat a lot so I would sweat through my batting gloves in some of the places I played,” Minicozzi said. “I just wanted to make something that would hold the sweat better.”
What he came up with was a breathable, yet durable batting glove that everyone, no matter their skill level, would enjoy slipping on their hands. Tired of synthetic leather gloves during his playing career, Minicozzi makes his gloves out of real pitted leather with a lycra spandex backing.
“That was really the main thought behind it was to give a really premium exterior that’s soft and feels good and is moisture-wicking,” Minicozzi said. “Then have a really high quality leather grip that feels good and withstands the durability of a lot of games.”
What sticks out the most about Primal’s gloves, however, are the unique and colorful designs that can be found by scrolling around the company’s website. Everything from Joker themed gloves in a variety of colors to the “Power Stones” look and even gloves with the face of a goat on them, Minicozzi’s company is all about making batting gloves fun for everyone.
“I actually had some buddies who would come up with ideas like ‘oh, you should make some crazy-looking gloves,’” Minicozzi said. “That was sort of — I actually thought they were crazy — but we just ran with it and really grew really quickly. That’s been a big part of our company.
“We do a lot of gloves that either have a joker or clown, different faces. Gloves that are fun, it’s not just about the performance of them but for kids to have fun and be able to enjoy it. I think that was one part of me — even high school, college, pro — I was always that sort of crazy, loud guy. It sort of fit me to have that kind of character product.”
Primal Baseball is not limited to just batting gloves. Customers can also find all different types of apparel and accessories as well as football receiver gloves and face masks so people can remain protected from the COVID-19 pandemic. Custom fielding gloves also seem to be on their way, according to the website, while customers also have the option to customize certain gloves with their name and number.
Recently, Primal Baseball rolled out a pledge to donate $5 of every purchase of special childhood cancer awareness batting gloves to Lighthouse for Hope, a non-profit organization that helps families of children with pediatric cancer.
The first type of partnership Minicozzi has done with a non-profit organization like Lighthouse for Hope, helping children overcome cancer strikes a special place in the former Pirate’s heart.
“One of the former players that I played with, and now he coaches with the New York Mets, Jeremy Accardo, his daughter has cancer,” Minicozzi said. “It was something that we definitely wanted to do. The foundation is a foundation that gives money to families who — cancer treatment is extremely expensive and a lot of those families don’t have the money to afford that.”
Leighton Accardo is one of nearly 16,000 children to be diagnosed with cancer every year, and as Minicozzi points out, not all are fortunate enough to have insurance through a Major League baseball franchise to help pay for treatments and other expenses.
Lighthouse for Hope helps bridge that gap with less fortunate families and Minicozzi believes his company has a responsibility to give back to the community and the nation’s children.
“Being able to have a brand and to be able to do some good and really give back to those kids, just to see the smile on their face,” Minicozzi said. “We sent the gloves to the Accardo’s and saw how excited they were about them…It’s a very little thing we can do, but giving back to the community and giving back to the kids is definitely a mission that Primal Baseball wants to support and be a part of.”
Over the last three years, Primal Baseball has grown into a company that can give back and help enact change in other people’s lives. According to Minicozzi, at least 13 colleges around the country have players using Primal products, including former ECU player and coach Tommy Eason’s squad at Pitt Community College in Greenville, North Carolina.
In addition to that, Minicozzi said roughly 35 minor leaguers wear Primal products while Tommy Milone, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, is also a customer. Nevertheless, Primal’s target market remains primarily with youth sports.
“We do like to focus on the youth sports and the travel sports,” Minicozzi said. “Obviously that’s a lot bigger market than the professional side of it. We try to cater to every market we can possibly get into.”
In three years, Minicozzi’s company has grown so much that it now requires its own manufacturing plant in Pakistan. Through an old friend, Minicozzi was able to get the first gloves produced, but in the time that has followed, the business has grown so much that it now employs 18 to 20 workers overseas who make batting gloves and other products everyday.
From a desire to want a better batting glove during his playing days to getting valuable feedback from his teammates in the Atlantic League to influencing which gloves professional baseball players wear, Minicozzi has seen his business catch on in a big way in a relatively short amount of time.
A quality product owned by a quality individual with a quality goal, Primal Baseball’s future only seems to be getting brighter and brighter.
“At the pro level, it’s so ingrained into your brain that you can only wear Nike or Under Armour or Franklin and guys try on our product,” Minicozzi said. “We get a lot of people that are like ‘wow, these are amazing.’ It’s cool to sort of be able to break into that, it’s a really tough market to break into, but each year it seems like it’s growing more and more.”