Mets star dreaming big as New Balance 'Lindor 2' cleat arrives

Elite shortstop strives for crossover appeal with new signature shoe

July 14th, 2023

Being one of just three current MLB players to have a signature cleat is not a distinction takes lightly. In fact, when New Balance first broached making him the centerpiece of their baseball division, Lindor initially balked at the idea -- because he wanted to make absolutely sure he had accomplished enough to deserve the honor.

“I remember that meeting,” said New Balance senior product manager Matt Nuzzo. “We were talking about launching his shoe ... and also talking about a signature apparel line down the road. And he just wanted to earn his stripes more.

“Honestly, it was a refreshing thing. It takes courage to be different. I don’t think Francisco lacks in that category at all.”

Several years later, Lindor -- now a four-time All-Star -- has clearly earned the right to think big. And as New Balance drops the Summer Storm edition of the Lindor 2 in both cleat and trainer versions on July 14, the Mets’ star shortstop has lofty ambitions for his second signature shoe that go well beyond the national pastime.

New Balance / AP Photos

“I see basketball players with people wearing their shoes everywhere, and that's something that I want,” Lindor told Mets reporter Anthony DiComo last Thursday before posting five hits in a big Mets win. “That's kind of how I envision my brand, as something that can transcend more than baseball. That, to me, is very important: for men to use it, for women to be able to use it. I almost wanted like a unisex shoe, something that can help people express themselves.”

That mindset is exactly what New Balance sought when identifying someone to lead their up-and-coming baseball division. Lindor was emerging as one of the sport’s most exciting young players, but that wasn’t all he brought to the table. New Balance appreciated his unique flair, both on field and off, while realizing that the blue hair and flashy suits belied someone who took his craft very seriously.

Similarly, Lindor has poured himself into making his cleat the best it can possibly be. While some signature athletes are content to lend an idea or two and let the designers do the rest, Lindor was directly engaged throughout the entire 18-month process. When prompted -- and you don’t have to twist his arm -- he enthusiastically reels off details about each one of the five prototypes of the shoe. Essentially, he wants first-hand knowledge that it will represent him and the brand the way he envisions.

“Working with Francisco is great, because he’s very direct,” said Dan Webb, designer of the Lindor 2. “He knows what he wants, he’s very dialed in, he’s happy to work with you. He gives you ideas. He’s excited about what you bring him. He’s just a great partner.”

Lindor asked Webb to account for three sensibilities -- he wants the cleat to perform, he wants it to be sustainable and he wants it to look good. Lindor was the driving force behind a unique system that involves two straps that counterbalance each other to enhance the shoe’s lockdown, and at his behest, the design team has curbed waste with a new process that uses only the materials it really needs.

Courtesy of New Balance

As for the shoe’s curb appeal, Webb joked that it’s a family affair: Lindor solicited his loved ones’ views to make sure it’s something they’d want to rock themselves.

“I want something that I can wear on the field and look good, but still wear it off the field,” Lindor said. “And all the women in my family can wear it and still look good and not be like, ‘Oh, that's too much.’ I wanted something they can use and little kids can use. If it's a movie theater, or to a restaurant, or if you want to go clubbing, you can go clubbing with this shoe. If you want to go work out, you can use it.”

That sort of versatility fits with a brand that has experienced its own cultural evolution. Long known primarily as a family-owned running and walking shoe company, New Balance has made inroads into the streetwear and lifestyle categories thanks in part to popular collaborations with high-profile figures like Aimé Leon Dore founder Teddy Santis.

As Nuzzo pointed out, this is a significant departure for New Balance; the brand’s slogan for many years was “Sponsored By No One.” In recent years, though, New Balance has stepped out of their comfort zone a bit, expanding from their core business while staying true to their identity.

“Embracing their roots seems to have brought a whole new level of confidence to the New Balance team, which you see in everything from their product design to their marketing, and all the way through to the athletes they’re able to sign now,” said Nick Engvall, host of the Sneaker History podcast. “If they can continue to create products their athletes wear off the diamond, it makes the authenticity of the partnership that much more powerful when fans see the players wearing the brand both on and off the field.”

Courtesy of New Balance

Meanwhile, New Balance has made major inroads within the national pastime. As a dynamic player and personality with an easy smile and infectious enthusiasm, Lindor checks some of the same boxes Ken Griffey Jr. did for Nike in the '90s. About a quarter of MLB players are now wearing New Balance cleats. And earlier this year -- to Lindor’s excitement -- New Balance added no less than Shohei Ohtani to their roster, which Nuzzo isn't sure would have happened without Lindor showing what is possible.

“I think Francisco is the perfect face for New Balance's baseball efforts,” Engvall said. “He's likable, personable, and has a sense of fashion that is memorable, but for all the right reasons. That's not even taking into account what he does on the field.

“With Lindor now a couple seasons into his New York era, we're seeing the commitment from them take its natural next steps with crossover models the fans can get behind.”

Looking ahead, the Lindor 3 is already in development, and the brand has big plans for Lindor, Ohtani and the whole baseball division. As such, the Lindor 2 isn’t an endpoint so much as a runway, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that its namesake has big dreams, including potentially having his daughters work with him down the line to help spread his message of positivity.

“I want to be somebody that can touch people's lives in many different ways, whether it's through creativity, through happiness, whether it's helping someone become bigger, better in life,” Lindor said. “I want to be able to help the world be better, and inspire young athletes and inspire the next generation, whether it's to be a baseball player or an athlete or somebody who creates their own stuff.

"That's my picture ... the bigger picture."