Changing My Mind With A Big Stick

I spoke on the "Innovation At Speed" panel today hosted by the Suffolk University Center for Innovation and Change Leadership. Great panelists around me:
  • Kory Kolligian, Chief Operating Officer, Design Continuum
  • Angela Kyle, Director, TIAA-CREF
  • Robert Wong, Executive VP and Creative Director, Arnold Worldwide Advertising
  • Robert Zeytoonian, Chief Executive Officer, Zorian Bat Company
  • Beate Chelette, Director, Corbis Images I got to spend some of the pre-panel time with Bob Zeytoonian, who was a minor league baseball player, coach and currently makes bats for ballplayers of all ages. By researching local hard woods, focusing on quality and consistent manufacturing, and sigificant person-to-person marketing, Zeytoonian has developed several hundred custom bats, including those used by Big Papi, David Ortiz of the home-town favorite Red Sox.

    My most recent experience with baseball bats has been with the aluminum variety, through five years of coaching Little League, and I've been strongly in favor of the lighter, bouncier sticks because they let the smaller ballplayers get the bat around. Despite some of the safety concerns focusing attention on aluminum bats, I've stood my ground on the basis of making the game more enjoyable for the youth player. It's more fun when you can hit the baseball, and wooden bats are simply too heavy for most 8-12 year olds to swing with sufficient speed and accuracy. Or so I thought.

    Today, a man with a big stick changed my mind.

    Bob's key points were that a bat should sound like a bat; it should be the crack of the bat and a thunk, not a plink, as the ball comes off the swing. He also added that aluminum bats send the ball into the infield more quickly, changing the game from a defensive perspective as well as an offensive one. Switch to wooden bats with a deadened ball rebound, the infielders get an extra step to make the play. Finally, he argued that you can't use technology to change the national pastime. Turns out that the man who turns bats for a living knows his wood, and Zorian Bats makes youth size and weight sticks. I stand corrected: you can make a youth bat that lets everyone play, on both sides of the ball.

    But hopefully the ideas we shared on the panel changed Bob's mind about technology and baseball. Technology won't change the national pastime by changing the tools of the trade, as Bob fears. Instead, it changes the way we interact with the sport. Baseball was the first sport played under lights, paving the way for generations of young players to enjoy spring and fall games that weren't broadcast during school hours. More recently, mlb.com provides live game casts, statistics, video, images and news to fans of all ages, geographies and loyalties. Again, it's not about changing the sport but innovating to bring the sport to as many fans as possible, in as many ways as possible. Everybody plays.

  • Comments:

    Hal's point is a good one. I am specifically concerned with "quality of the game issues." I do NOT believe ALL technology is bad as it pertains to baseball. I just don't care for "rocket bats!" I do love to watch baseball at night! Thanks, Z

    Posted by Rob Zeytoonian on November 10, 2006 at 02:05 AM EST #

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