Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Changing The Tools Of The Trade

A few weeks ago, there was some significant buzz around Twins territory regarding catcher Kurt Suzuki. After a dismal start to what would likely be his final year in Minnesota, something had changed. His offensive production had risen, and he looked like a different hitter at the plate. That talk surrounded a change of his bat, and the maker wasn't the only difference.

What if I told you that using technology dating back hundreds of years no longer made sense? What if there was a better way to make a baseball bat? What if combining those two questions resulted in a monumental shift in the way in which baseball is played? Kurt Suzuki is currently in the midst of finding out.

Enter Axe Bat.

I had the privilege of speaking with Hugh Tompkins, Baden's Director of Research and Development. Matt Peterson, PR man for Baden sports helped to make the connection. In speaking with both of them, I was able to catch a glimpse into a technology, and a way of thinking, that has the potential to revolutionize the sport of baseball.

Baden Sports has been around for a significant amount of time, but they have remained a smaller player when it comes to certain niche avenues within sporting goods. Having never been synonymous with bat making, the Axe Bat was going to be a large undertaking for them. Through innovation and design, the axe handle was developed back in 2010, and has is rooted in principles based on Ted Williams' book describing a swing that mimics that of an axe.

Going back to the first question regarding dated technology is close to where Baden started with the Axe Bat. A round handle had become a generally accepted way in which a baseball bat was made. It had always been made that way, and no one had ever though to challenge the idea. Being an innovator however, and looking to carve out a new part of the market, Baden decided to reinvent the wheel. Wood bats no longer needed to be cut solely on lathes and now could utilize the technology of a CNC machine.

As Tompmkins put it, "We built a better mouse trap."

In reality, that's exactly what they did. In utilizing technology that had evolved to allow for a better product, Baden simply took advantage of it. Scientifically proven to be a more effective way to craft a bat, the Axe Bat design was the culmination of Baden Sports challenging what has been accepted as status quo.

What's great about the adoption and adaptation of the Axe Bat among the sport however is the organic growth that Baden Sports has fostered. They didn't reach out to big leaguers buying their hands at the plate. In fact, Dustin Pedroia actually reached out to them.

A season ago, Pedroia placed an order on his own through their website. Victus Sports handles the crafting of the wood bats as they're well ingrained withing Major League Baseball already. When Pedroia's order came in, the team over at Baden wondered if it was in fact the Dustin Pedroia. As his production rose to end the year, the organic growth followed suit.

Having made appearances around spring training this season, the Axe Bat gained traction. Despite not taking it north with him out of the gate, Suzuki hopped on board with the technology full time a month or so into the season. Since June 2nd, Suzuki has slashed .365/.386/.553 for the Twins. While the Axe Bat probably can't be given sole credit, it's foolish to ignore to altogether.

At the highest level, Baden and Victus are able to create a completely custom baseball weapon. At the dish, the axe handle is crafted for each individual player, with the hitting surface being specifically designed to incorporate the wood grain on the sweet spot nearly every single time. Through video study and swing analysis, the CNC machines are able to specifically craft each Axe Bat to their player, and Baden keeps files for all those utilizing their technology.
Baden Sports and the Axe Bat are changing the way in which a batter steps into the box, and if you aren't bringing it to the plate, you're already at a disadvantage.
Given time, the production will continue to be harder to ignore, and the growth of the Axe Bat will surely continue. When asking yourself why you use a round bat handle, you'll be hard pressed to answer with anything but, "because that's the way it's always been." If presented with an opportunity to attack the game with a better bat and better technology however, you'd be hard pressed to find a reason to turn it down.

Baden Sports and the Axe Bat are changing the way in which a batter steps into the box, and if you aren't bringing it to the plate, you're already at a disadvantage.

No comments:

Post a Comment