On the 8th episode of the BatCast we spend some quality time with Jennie Ritter. Jennie runs the grassroots section of DeMarini and Slugger fastpitch bats. With the recent release of the DeMarini CFX, and a number of other exciting insights into fastpitch bats, the following is our Slugger and DeMarini fastpitch Podcast Transcript.
You can download the full version on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.
Note: These are not our exact words but a very rough transcript
Brian: How have the last 4 to 6 weeks gone for you?
Max: Its been a grind, but we are seeing at the light of the end of the tunnel. We need some rest. But it has been awesome.
Brian: What do you see on the fastpitch side in terms of things players are looking for. You see a lot of folks live, because you guys have a real story. What do fastpitch players ask you the most questions about.
Max: Fastpitch is a huge market. It runs from 7 year olds to girls over 20. They love the new bats, they love the style to it. The biggest brands are Slugger and DeMarini. Easton might be #3. But, for us, we see a ton of new DeMarini and Slugger poeple that love the new Demarini bats. They just released the CFX bat. Crazy to think we have come this far.
Brian: Sounds like baseball. Looking for the new look, good balance, lots of pop.
Max: You have fastpitch players?
Brian: Yes. I have a couple daughters that play. They use the LXT.
Max: When a boy comes in and asks for a new bat the parents are more likely to buy a new bat for daughters instead of sons. We can see the parents spend more money on the girls.
Brian: Yeah. My 8 and 9 year old daughters play in an all boy pitching machine league. And they use the LXT from Slugger. It is a fun sport to watch. Fastpitch rarely gets as much publicity as it deserves. You can find it on ESPN every so often. I have a treat for you, today we have Jennie Ritter. Usually we have some bat science guy. But, today, we have Jennie Ritter who is the grass roots manager for fastpitch for Wilson. She is a previous National Champion. If you are okay with it, let us get her on the line.
Max: That’s awesome. Let us do it!
Brian: Jennie: thanks for joining us!
Jennie: Looking forward to it.
Brian: Talk through how you ended up doing what you are doing with DeMarini and Slugger.
Jennie: I played at University of Michigan in 2003 to 2006 and we won the 2005 national Championship. I played professionally and on team USA as well as a year in Japan. Then I retired. Slugger called me. I said yes. Was there for a 1.5 years before they were acquired by Wilson. Now I deal with evosheidl and ATEC as well as DeMarini. I am in the grassroots manager. We deal with all levels of the game at every level of association. My input on technology and getting the right piece in the market is what I do.
Max: 2005 Season, how special was that for you?
Jennie: We held the #1 ranking throughout the year yet no one thought we could win it all. But we just had outstanding hitters. From top to bottom it was really a team effort with some amazing team chemistry. The bottom of the lineup showed up when we needed it. That idea of a team has helped me for a long time especially considering what I do now on the DeMarini team.
Max: What year did you start at Slugger.
Jennie: Fall of 2014.
Max: Newer to the DeMarini line then?
Jennie: Yes. But I know them well because we competed against them for such a long time.
Brian: My #1 Question — How do you deal with the fact that you now control two fantastic bat lines in the fastpitch space. How do you help them differentiate between the CF DeMarini line and/or the Slugger Xeno/LXT? How do you convince them?
Jennie: First thing to mention is the R&D teams are separate. As such, there is quite a bit of difference between each individual bat. The benefit is that we hit each bat in the market a lot to get the right feedback. But each bat each has a different feel and different sweet spot. Our job is to come out with the best performing bat that satisfies the needs of the players. And we keep innovating.
Max: You guys are both 1 and 2 in the market right now. It is crazy to see. I am baised towards Easton, but every girl that I have spoken to in the last year is either Slugger or DeMarini.
Jennie: Every day we come to work to figure out how we can make it better.
Brian: Let’s just go the slugger line: talk us through the difference between the XENO and the LXT. How would you describe the two bats?
Jennie: The LXT has a new stiffer joint this year and gives you a better feel. The Xeno will have the same technology but give some maximum flex with the two disc technology. The Xeno has a pretty large sweet spot. It is going to feel like a home run every time you hit it. So a player who likes a nice feel then the Xeno. The LXT uses a TRU3 connection piece, so that is different. In the LXT we have removed of the discs so it can have a larger sweet spot. This might mean it takes a bit more of a work in. And the TRU3 has a little more of a joint so a it has less stiffness than the XENO. But it will not feel like a home run every time like the XENO. There is more feedback in the LXT than the XENO.
Another difference is we took some weight out of the end cap in the LXT. It just gives it a lighter swing. Feedback from the new 2018 LXT has been outstanding. It is a great bat.
Max: A question we get a lot: People would hit with the XENO and people thought it was breaking. Or, that it was broken. The sound was real harsh. We looked into why it was. What is your take as to why they sound so different.
Jennie. It is because of the metal discs. It is the sides of composite walls engaging the composite discs. So, as the bat flexes then it smashes up against the discs and gives that sound. You are hearing the metal discs hitting the side of the composite wall. This makes the bat hot out of the wrapper—especially at slower bat speeds. It is how we can create some maximum exit velocity on a swing that is not necessarily the fastest.
Max: What is TRU3?
Jennie: It is the new LXT and will be in the new PXT, that we have yet to talk about. It reduces the vibration. it allows you make quicker adjustments at bat. A lot of players choose that so they can feel the differences.
Brian: The discs on the newer versions this year?
Jennie: One disc inside the LXT. Two discs inside of the XENO.
Brian: I hope the people listening caught on. We hear people all the time say that standards have made the bats perform the same. But all those tests are done at certain pitch speeds. So, the ability to use an LXT or XENO and give it good pop at a low bat speed is the world of difference. It is what drives technology and what drives price. And it is why people should feel comfortable spending more money because it gives you better velocity at better pitch speeds. I just wanted to reiterate that because I think people miss that.
Brian: We have the LXT and the we have the XENO. And now we have a bat a new 2018 bat that is a PXT. What is that?
Jennie: PXT has the LXT TRU3 connection, but it has NO discs in the barrel. It gives the bat an amazing feel. The feedback we hear is that people are getting from the LXT. It is an exciting bat. More pop and a larger sweet spot. This is the bat that is most exciting to us. It is pretty amazing what we can get out of that bat and the pop is outstanding.
Max: I’ve seen that bat. So far so good. It is not going to sound the same right?
Jennie: Correct. Not the same as a CF9, but not the same as the crack that the XENO and the LXT.
Brian: If you are taking notes at home: we have the PXT, the LXT and the Xeno from Slugger. Now you will see the breadth of Jennie’s job because we have yet to even speak of the CFX from DeMarini. So putting Slugger on the shelf for a second, talk us through the CFX and how it compares to the CF9.
Jennie: This is a good example of changing in the barrel technology. The CFX there is an improvement on the D-Fusion handle. It gives for greater weight control and redirects energy back into the barrel. That is the most exciting thing that DeMarini has come out with. The barrels are big and people like the big barrel with some good flex. So the CFX improves that feeling. The composite technology is 22% stronger so we can distribute the weight better. And the CFX will be the lightest swinging bats in the market.
Max: The CF9 drop 10 and drop 11 and the new CFX are always the lightest swinging bat. What about the CF Insane bat. How much end load is that?
Jennie: It is the only true end loaded bat on the market. Some of the bats, like the XENO, has a drop 8 or drop 9, but the Insane is the only fastpitch bat where the balance point is built towards the end cap. It is for elite power hitters and a real endloaded feel. Used for an elite hitter and serious swing.
Max: So, for college players/
Jennie: It really is a preference. If you can get quick hands with an endload you will see a result that is still very good. A lot of players like a balanced feel. Endloaded is a specific preference but those that swing it love it.
Brian: I get a lot of questions a day on social media. That sound about like this: “Hey JBR, my daughter is 11 years old. What fast-pitch bat should she get?” We all laugh of course. As if the age is the perfect answer. What would be the questions you would like to find out from them first before you go off and start making recommendations?
Jennie: My first thought would be the size of the girl. A lot of variety of sizes and a lot of bats that work. Sizes matters. Then I would want to know, preference they like in terms of feel. Do they need to feel like there is more pop and need confidence then may be we push them into a XENO. If they want more feedback then we have other options. If they are a slapper then we look at the CF Slapper. And some could use the end load even if they are not in college. The feel is the next most important question. All the bats are going to perform well. Those are the questions I would ask—and of course sizes with a couple different lengths and weights. Feel and comfort and confidence with the tool in your hands. Then, of course, you need to demo the bat. If some think they are certain fans of a XENO but then once they hit it they change their mind to the LXT. If you are listening I would say go out and demo. Don’t choose on color. Color should be the last thing. Think about what you need in a bat to perform the best. Because that is what matters. We will provide the best tech but you need to hit the balls. We want to a company your success and not be the reason for your success.
Brian: I heard the HOPE bat might be out? As well, tell us about the Slapper bat?
Jennie: Yes. The hope is gone. The balanced CFX will come in a drop 11, 10, 9 and 8. The Slapper is a bat you can use to hit with too. The weight of the barrel in the Slapper is in the hands. And the barrel is an inch longer. For slappers it is designed for a longer bat and more control to put the ball in play. But, the Slapper can be used for more than just slapping. Some power hitters use the Slapper. It uses the same composite. Although it is designed for a slapper it still performs at peak powers. You can swing away with the CFX Slapper.
Max: What bat would you choose?
Jennie: I am fan of all of them and each hit the market in their own ways. Something I would prefer might not be something that someone else prefers. And although the bats are different they just fill different parts in the world. I am a big fan of technology. So, I will buy into the latest and greatest technology. Others like the idea of the feel. I am going to go with the best technology. R&D spends hours of testing and I like that idea and put a lot of value on that. The most innovative technology.
Max: Brian, what would you take?
Brian: I’d take the Slapper, all day. People were slobbery over the Combat MAXUM. For all the same reason people loved that bat the idea of a huge barrel and a light swing the Slapper bat is perfect. Don’t hit it at home with baseballs. The slapper can drop bombs. How about you Max?
Max: I’d use the XENO. Boring answer, but it is fantastic. 10 years of the XENO and it is newer and improved with the end cap. Pretty fantastic. I look for the PXT to be the underdog this year although it is the most expensive.
Brian: Jennie, 2005, 2 outs, runner on 3rd. You are up. What do you choose. I am forcing you into a question you don’t want to answer.
Jennie: First of all, if we are in that situation we are in big trouble. But, I would lean on technology. I would grab something that gives me the max. All the bats are outstanding. I’d look for something with serious pop and I’d choose an Slugger bat or a Demarini bat.
Brian: I can’t imagine what it is like to be the Wilson rep selling fastpitch. Because, they own the entire space. Despite the fact that you guys own the market, what is the Wilson story or the Fastpitch final sales pitch.
Jennie: Every bat is different. Demoing the bat is a big deal. You are going to get better results but to demo the bat. One interesting thing about our company is that we have become a one stop shop. There is not a hitter in the world that will not find the right fit with a Wilson brand of bats (Slugger and DeMarini). Custom things are awesome and we have some very great stuff across the board for apparel and protection too. You simply do not have to go anywhere else. We are confident in our products that they give everyone an option. We are confident in all of our products.
Max: When our rep comes in we have girls come in and hit too. There is a lot of value in just seeing the bats. And getting real feedback from real hitters. Thanks Jennie.
Brian: At the end of the podcast….
Jennie: Tune in next week to the same bat time on the same bat channel.