Basket of Rawlings baseballs sits on a practice field

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

MLB Buys Baseball Maker, St. Louis-Based Rawlings For $395 Million

A former Rawlings executive says Major League Baseball actually buying a stake in a supplier is "uncharted territory." 

June 06, 2018 - 8:00 am

NEW YORK (KMOX/AP) — The 131-year-old Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. – founded in St. Louis and still based in Town and Country – is being sold to a private equity firm, that has partnered with Major League Baseball for about $395 million.

The iconic sports gear maker, which has outfitted children and pros alike, from Roberto Clemente and Mickey Mantle, to Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Giancarlo Stanton, is being acquired by a fund managed by Seidler Equity Partners.

Major League Baseball, which relies on Rawlings for its official game ball, is a co-investor.

Chris Marinak, an MLB executive vice president, said Tuesday that the ball is "one of the most important on-field products to the play of our great game."

Art Chou is a former Rawlings executive who left the company in 2014 and is now a partner in the sports-tech investment firm Stadia Ventures. He says MLB's deal with Rawlings is really unusual for a league to buy an equipment supplier, calling it "uncharted territory."  Major League Baseball actually buying a stake in a supplier is game-changing, he says. 

"If I'm a core guy at Rawlings that wants to build the baseball business then this is very, very positive," Chou says. "And on the flip side, if I'm a competitor to Rawlings for some of that business with MLB then I'm concerned." 

Chou doesn't believe the Rawlings headquarters is going to leave the St. Louis-area, but it could possible find a new, more attractive headquarters somewhere like Ballpark Village. 

Rawlings has been focusing on baseball and softball lately, dropping other products like football helmets.

Newell Brands Inc. said Tuesday that it was selling the company, founded in St. Louis in 1887, to better focus on its core brands. It recently sold its disposable cups and cutlery business for about $2.2 billion. The Hoboken, New Jersey, company owns Sharpie, Calphalon and Rubbermaid.

The sale is expected to close in the next two months.