Photo courtesy of New Balance.
Photo courtesy of New Balance.

New Balance, once known partly as a sneaker for middle-age runners, is continuing its push into baseball with the recent signing of Major League stars Evan Longoria, Ryan Howard, Matt Moore, Mike Napoli, and Jean Segura as well as the re-signing of C.J. Wilson, Yadier Molina, Curtis Granderson, and J.J. Hardy.

New Balance will be the official on-field footwear and off-field athletic footwear and apparel provider for these athletes.

Years ago when Nike and Reebok courted big-name super stars to be their brand ambassadors, Boston-based New Balance seemed intent on pursuing a different course.

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Now, though, about 500 baseball players will be wearing New Balance shoes this season, including Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, (but only 20 percent of that number receive monetary compensation), New Balance said.

“When we made the decision to sign several professional athletes in 2010, the goal was to further enhance New Balance’s performance authenticity,” Mark Cavanaugh, general manager of sports marketing at New Balance, wrote in an e-mail. “Already established as a leader in performance running, we looked to the sport of baseball as a platform to broaden our brand’s touch points with younger athletes and show the world that our performance innovation extended beyond the running category. ”  

Cavanaugh added: “Our endorsed baseball players have also agreed to give back to charitable endeavors as part of their New Balance sports marketing agreement. While HRs, RBIs, and ERAs are tools to evaluate a player’s performance or perceived value, we also use an additional criteria: character.”

In 2014, New Balance baseball athletes will be wearing either the new 4040v2 or the MB3000 cleat on the field. The 4040v2 is a lightweight, low-profile cleat that utilizes performance running technologies to provide athletes with superior, lightweight comfort and fit on the field, the company said.