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Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber wore cleats with 3D-printed plate during season opener

Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber was the first player to wear 3D-printed footwear during a MLB game during the team's season opener on Monday night. 

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On Monday night, Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber wore a 3D-printed plate in each of his spikes, becoming the first player to wear such a piece of footwear during a MLB game. 

Bryan Gothie, Manager of Cleated Innovation Division at New Balance, explained that over the past few years, the footwear brand has been working on a 3D plate that would be unique to the mechanics of pitching. After Gothie and his team talked with Kluber last fall about the concept and how it could improve his game, Gothie said the Indians’ ace was receptive to the idea and invested in moving the project forward. ​

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Through a biomechanical data collection process, New Balance studied Kluber’s pitching motion and the force exerted in different areas of his feet. The two focus areas included Kluber locking in the heel of his back foot during his windup and then firmly planting his front foot.

New Balance constructed a stud placement or “wall” on the outside of Kluber’s right cleat to prevent his foot from twisting. On the left cleat, a curved wall was added at the toe while midfoot and heel studs were rotated so he wouldn’t slip when followed through on his throws.

“We really concentrated on getting the spikes aligned in a way that when he lands with that front foot, it’s not going to move at all. Again, that’s consistency and movement for him, knowing that every time he’s going to pitch, he’ll have the same exact experience,” Gothie said.

After combining the data and information obtained through multiple conversations with Kluber about what’s important to him from a mechanics standpoint, Gothie and New Balance’s Lawrence, Mass. Sports Research lab tweaked the initial 3D design. A few prototypes were tested throughout spring training, and Kluber now has his 3D plate, which he’ll sport at Globe Life Park.

A Cy Young Award winner in 2014 and 18-game winner in two of the past three seasons, Kluber said in a statement: “We’ve addressed a lot of variables so that now I have more stability, more traction, and just a better feel for where my body is.”

“The ability to have 3D printing at our disposal will really allow us to continue to push the envelope on what 3D printing can deliver and what the needs of athletes are and how we can react to that. We looked at this as, every player on the field has a different glove based on their position. Why wouldn’t a player want a spike built for their specific position as well?” said Dave Millman, Strategic Business Unit Manager for New Balance Baseball. “As we zeroed in on the pitching position because it’s the most asymmetrically-driven movement on the field, we felt there was a lot we could uncover there. We still feel there’s a lot more to uncover based on a pitcher’s specific motion and what their specific needs are.”