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College freshman gets kicks designing cleats for major-leaguers

By Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Though Urrutia hasn't spoken with Hernandez, who dealt with the New York company on details, designing his cleats is "very surreal." He credits King Felix with inspiring his transition to pitching and watched the final inning of Hernandez's 2012 perfect game before every high-school outing.

Just last September, a Seattle Times photographer captured Urrutia snapping a selfie with Hernandez, who'd headed toward King's Court fans at T-Mobile Park after his final Mariners start. "I jokingly mentioned to my friends that Felix was placing an order and we laughed," Urrutia said. "Little did we know what the future held."

His business had begun to take off only the previous month, when Hernandez's teammate, Santana, met Urrutia outside his apartment to discuss the Instagram offer. Santana paid TrainKicks $150 for a flag of his native Dominican Republic and his grandfather's depiction on his cleats.

Soon after, cleats designed for Magill were posted on an MLB Instagram account - catching the eye of Stadium Custom Kicks founder Alex Katz, 25 and a Class AA pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.

Katz started his business in 2017 after the Chicago White Sox drafted him out of St. John's University. As Katz grew clients through baseball, he contracted work out to a handful of shoe artists nationwide while he played.

Urrutia's company is now one of those. He'll deal with athletes directly, or, as in Hernandez's case, fill orders placed through Katz.

"He would always tell me that the one player he wants to work with is Felix, so once that order came in, I knew right away that's a project for him," Katz said.

Katz said Urrutia was a perfect fit.

"I could tell right away just by looking at his (Instagram) page that he played baseball in high school, was a huge baseball fan and does quality work," he said.

 

Lake Washington won the state 3A championship game in 2018, with starting pitcher Jonathan Vizcarra and then-closer Urrutia wearing customized TrainKicks cleats.

"That right there was the best moment of my life," Urrutia said.

By last summer, though, it was still the biggest TrainKicks highlight. Urrutia contemplated folding the company.

But he'd won some local scholastic business competitions, and one of the judges - Passport Unlimited CEO Roger Blier, 62 and a former Lake Washington ballplayer - became a mentor and urged Urrutia to push on.

"His product is so different and unique," Blier said. "He definitely had a differentiator there, and I think it's something that could just grow. Not just across the country but around the world."

After chatting with Blier, Urrutia "rolled the dice one last time" with his Instagram appeal to Mariners players. Having generated $12,000 in revenues since, he's dropped his own baseball career and spends 30 hours a week taking his business as far as the game's top pros allow.

"When I really want to do something and get an end result, I'm willing to work as hard as it takes to get it."

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