IIATMS exclusive: A chat with BatGlove founders, Phil and Steve Rauso

IIATMS: What avenues have you traveled down with respect to getting this product tested, approved and accepted within MLB (and/or MiLB, NCAA, etc.)? How did the BatGlove fair in testing?

BatGlove: Contacted VP of Licensing for MLB, Howard Smith. Sent a prototype bat with the Polymeric Safety Film installed to his office in New York City. In October 2008 we obtained a testing protocol for the product and to speak with Roy Krasik, MLB’s senior vice president of operations. Tests were conducted on our product using Rawlings ash bats passed with a 100% success rate when the bat failed in the region where the tape is applied. The report was given to the MLB Commissioner’s Office/Health and Safety Committee. We were listed as a composite bat for this test but it was verified by USDA afterwards that it was in fact a solid wood bat and not a composite.

In April / May, 2009 the BatGlove was approved by Roy Krasik for the Minor League Short-Season A, Rookie-Advanced and Rookie League games, practices and exhibitions (“Professional Play”) during calendar year 2009. September 2009 we received official pilot test confirmation from David Kretschmann of the US Forest Service to be conducted on maple baseball bats using the “BatGlove.” Nov/Dec, 2009 maple baseball bat tests conducted at Lowell/UMASS. (David Kretschmann of the US Forest Service was not present for the Dec 2009 tests). The bat glove performed with 100% success in all areas tested as shown in their Lowell/UMASS report*.

[*IIATMS NOTE: The Lowell Report can be downloaded/viewed by clicking here to launch the pdf: Lowell Report 12_15_09. I strongly encourage everyone to read and review this report.]

IIATMS: Tell us about the testing procedures for products like this one. What’s it take to get an invention through the funnel process at MLB? How long does it take?

BatGlove: In 2006, Dr. James A. Sherwood, Patrick J. Drane and Rebecca Shaw contributed to a book called “The Engineering of Sports”. Their study performed at the Lowell/UMASS MLB Testing Facilities show scientifically the proper way to test a solid-wood baseball bat in extreme, realistic conditions in a controlled environment. One of the main points stressed when testing a solid-wood bat, is that the bat should be supported at the handle area when testing to simulate the batters hands on the baseball bat. This is the manner in which our bats and all bats approved for on-field use are to be tested… including Rawlings. The process should have only taken less than 1 year but we are now going into our 3rd year of trying to save a life.

IIATMS: If the BatGlove was, in fact, approved by MLB for use, why haven’t we seen or heard of this product being used in the Majors yet?

BatGlove: The summer of 2009 we applied product to 300 bats in the minor leagues for the Arizona summer league teams and the Missoula Osprey /Diamondbacks affiliate team in Montana without incident. Chris Park of MLB was supposed to be conducting a study of the 200 bats used in the last half of the 2009 season for the Missoula team but for some unknown reason the data was not collected properly. Rawlings made a statement that “a tethering or hinging effect may occur” and could be a safety concern to the batter. This was enough to have MLB pull the plug for the 2010 season.

IIATMS: So what happened with the Rawlings’ testing of the BatGlove product? I’m guessing that you and the team were present for the testing of your product. What went right and/or wrong?

BatGlove: In November of 2009, without any team members of the BatGlove present, the BatGlove’s amazing ability to reduce flying debris on broken baseball bats was also tested using the incorrect or “test-to-fail” procedure (see link) by Rawlings Sporting Goods. Yet the Bat Glove performed with an amazing 86% success rate even under these unrealistic conditions (including an unsupported bat handle) that would never be encountered on the playing field. Lowell/UMASS would never test a solid-wood bat in this manner in order to achieve realistic, on-field, scientific results. Rawlings bats must also be tested and certified by the Baseball Research Center at Lowell/UMASS prior to being used in the MLB as noted on their RAWLINGSGEAR.com website. All BatGlove tests performed at the MLB Baseball research center at Lowell/UMASS passed with a 100% success rate under extreme realistic conditions not showing any signs of tethering or hinging as Rawlings claims. Those claims were shared with the Union and that resulted in the scuttling of the product before the 2010 season.

IIATMS: What’s the impetus for a bat company, any bat company, from blocking acceptance and usage of the BatGlove? Will it result in fewer bats breaking, hence lower revenues for the bat companies? Is this only about the money?

BatGlove: We don’t know. What we do know is that Lowell/UMASS stated in their reports (see pdf link above) that our product has the ability to make a solid-wood bat more durable. We are not a bat manufacturer and do not know of the impact it would have on their industry. We do know that the incidents of injuries and possible death will be drastically decreased, therefore decreasing the chance of possible litigation against their industry, thus saving them money.

IIATMS: So using the BatGlove results in fewer cracked bats? Asked differently, does the BatGlove prolong the life of a wood bat?

BatGlove: According to the approved MLB Baseball Research Center at Lowell/UMASS dated Feb. 2009 that wood bats were to have “shown to be slightly more durable than the ash bat on impacts…

IIATMS: What’s the Union’s stance on this product? Can players, under their own freewill, apply the BatGlove? Will they be punished or prohibited?

BatGlove: Once the safety concern was made by Rawlings, we were informed that the MLBPA would require additional testing to insure that the issue raised would not be more than 1-in-100 times. David Kretschmann of the USDA stated that Rawlings would donate lab time and MLB would pay for the bats to be used to conduct this study. In order to achieve the required results 130 bats would have to be tested. Rawlings declined to use their product for this study. We ordered the first 36 bats from the Old Hickory Bat Company with the bill going to MLB.

We then received the desired protocol for a test study to be conducted with another “test to fail” sequence. That is when we backed off of the testing to be conducted in St. Louis at the Rawlings facility. We then requested that any additional testing be conducted at the approved Baseball Research Center @ Lowell/UMASS. We were then informed that we would be responsible for all costs of bats and lab time if they were to be tested at Lowell. I then asked the question “what is the acceptable rate of failure for this next test?” Less than 1% was the answer. I was then told that if we ran a perfect 130/130 there was no promise that the product would be implemented. Is it my responsibility incur any additional costs associated with a product that has already been proven viable in all Lowell/UMASS tests and is already allowable under MLB Rule 1.10?

IIATMS: So even if your product again performed to 100% success in another round of self-financed testing, MLB would not commit to using the product, essentially keeping you and the company in a perpetual state of limbo?

BatGlove: Exactly.

IIATMS: We’ve seen another similar sounding product being discussed around the ‘net today, coming from Australia. Are you aware of any other products targeting this problem and if so, where are they with respect to testing and acceptance?

BatGlove: None that we know of but we at the BatGlove have been targeting this product and working closely with MLB since 2008. I think the issue of this other product is just a brainstorm by someone, of something that already exists…. The BatGlove.

IIATMS: Has Rawlings approached you and your company about any possible acquisition or partnership?

BatGlove: They asked us if we would be interested in “entertaining” an exclusive agreement. We stated “because we believe that this product should be on every bat, not exclusive to any particular bat manufacturer. We are not bat manufacturers and don’t aim to be. We want our product on every bat, to improve safety. Nothing more“. This isn’t about the money.

IIATMS: Today might be the first time most people have heard of the BatGlove. I suspect (and hope) it won’t be the last, either. What do you want people to know about you, the product and your company?

BatGlove: We want to prevent injury and possible death without changing the integrity of the game. We are looking to put this technology in the hands of the people that can do something about this serious issue and hope it will be looked at more carefully as this unfolds.

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Thanks again to the Rauso’s for their time and effort.  You can follow BatGlove on Facebook, or on their website.

You can follow Jason on Twitter here.

@Jason_IIATMS

About @Jason_IIATMS

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