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No business like shoe business

If Jim Mann has his way, Schenectady will be as well known among Major League Baseball players as Beaverton, Ore.

Mann's company, 3N2, is currently making inroads in professional baseball with its shoes and wristbands. Among its growing list of sponsored players are Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks and San Diego Padres' prospect Kennard Jones, as well as Capital District natives Casper Wells (Oneonta Tigers) and Chris Salamida (Tri City ValleyCats).

I think we'll be adding more people next year, and we may be adding more major leaguers next year, said Mann. "Not necessarily at the same level as Rickie Weeks, but definitely some more major leaguers."

Mann, a Colonie native, started 3N2 (named after a full count on a batter in baseball) five years ago after leaving Beaverton's primary employer, Nike. Within two years, the company manufactured its first baseball shoe, and two years later it had its first sponsored Major League Baseball player in Weeks.

"A lot of work and a lot of luck" helped Mann land Weeks, he said. "Paul Barbour, who is our promotional guy, lives down in Louisiana. He knows Roger Cador, who's the baseball coach at Southern University, where Rickie played college ball. We talked about having Southern wear our shoes, and coach Cador said, 'Why not get Rickie to wear your shoes?' So it was through coach Cador that we got Rickie."

Landing Weeks proved to be a turning point for 3N2's reputation. Now, Mann said he can enter any major league locker room and talk to players about wearing his gear, whereas he had been shut out before because larger companies such as Nike, Reebok and addidas held exclusive rights.

"That helped us legitimize ourselves in the baseball world," he said.

Mann used to be part of the professional sports merchandise machine when he worked for Nike from 1989 through 1999 as a shoe designer. But he grew tired of living and working overseas in Nike's Asia quadrant, so he returned to his Capital District roots by opening 3N2 in Schenectady with a friend, Jamey Storvick.

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