On the 9th episode of the BatCast we spend some quality time with Ryder Dupuis, bat product manager for Marucci Sports. We talk CAT 7, Hex Connect and a host of Marucci insights otherwise unknown to the podcast and internet space.
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Brian: Max, Welcome to the podcast, You guys sell a lot of Marucci Bats?
Max: They are coming to a complete manufacturer. They now do very well in every category. The CAT 7 is a great bat.
Brian: 4 or 5 years ago people came to the site to read about Easton or DeMarini and few people came to read about Marucci. But, today, they are number two on our site. Behind Easton. DeMarini is super close. But they are in the top echelon of bat manufacturers in composite and metal. 4 or 5 years ago no one would put them on the top, but today they are.
Max: The 5-squared, I remember, when it was deemed illegal. People started to take note.
Brian: It is funny like that. I don’t think people are doing this on purpose. But the ultimate consumer reaction to a bat that gets banned, people are attracted to it. That CAT7 is in style now. Stiff feel, nice ping. It has a bunch of great sizes, huge sweet spot, great pop, great user feedback. The CAT 7 is our #1 selling bat this year. Will be interesting to see.
Max: The only thing missing is them having college teams use the CAT 7.
Brian: The #8 drop 8 option is the CAT 7. The MAKO Beast is a good choice there too. But that feels more like the ZEN. In terms of performance.
Max: We did not order enough of the drop 8 Marucci CAT 7. People ask me about that bat all the time when they find out their Zen went illegal.
Brian: Yeah, I guess most of the industry was not planning on a huge section of the drop 8 market to dissapear because it was deemed illegal.
Max: The drop 8 917 or Beast are pretty much the options. Or man up and swing a drop 5 zen.
Brian: Ryder, Give us your background, what you do, how it is you do with Marucci.
Ryder: I started at Marucci 7 years ago. From Louisiana. Marucci is Baton Rouge. When it was 10 to 15 employees. They were wood bat only then. I kept on here. We went from wood to BBCOR in 2011 and 2012. Since then we have grown dramatically in the baseball market. Me, I helped around the wood shop. Then was in customer service, then warranty, then managed some sales reps. Then when we got in other bat lines we started building up a test lab here. As we got deeper and sales started to grow and add some bat categories. I got away from the sales reps things, got into the lab, and learned everything I could. Tested, field testing, softball, baseball, everything. Then the product development opened up about two years ago. And now here I am. I am a Marucci loyalists. We now do everything. Kept the same passion.
Brian: Marucci is owned by MLB players. How true is that? What is the Marucci story?
Ryder: I’ll try and give the abbreviated version. Marucci was started by two Kurt Ainsworth and Joe Lawrence and Jack Marucci—who was the head athletic trainer at LSU. Kurt played in the league for a while. Was back getting some rehab. Jack was doing his rehab. Joe was a two time Gatorade player of the year. Went to Toronto. They were all rehabbing together. Started making bats in a shed. He bought a couple wood bats in his back yard. His son was young. Could not find youth wood bats anywhere. He would play around and cut some nice stuff too for big league bats. Some of these guys actually like the bats. They both knew the MLB chapter in their life was over. But they got it started in the back yard shed and it grew to what it is today. The actual shed is still there. It was literally a word of mouth growth. Players were getting these bats and thought they were awesome. First MLB bats used in games were illegal because Marucci was not a certified MLB vendor. We stuck with wood until 2004. And then in 2011 we started getting in other categories. Buys like Pujols, Vernon Wells, actually bought into the company early on. That started the story of a player owned company because it is true. Marucci bought its own wood supply up in PA from the Amish country. We own our wood to the Forrest down to when it ships to a clubhouse. So, 2011, 2012 we started at the same time as the BBCOR space. So, we designed a bat for that test. But a lot of companies were at a disadvantage. They were trying to retrofit old bats with the new standard. But since we did not have anything we could develop new bats from these old tests. Essentially since then we started getting into more bat lines and more bat markets. And, along the way, we have not lost our edge on the MLB market either. Just about anyone you see on our marketing are owners in our company. It is our culture. A lot of the guys that work here come from baseball backgrounds. Baseball coaches, minor players. We are a baseball company through and through. We are still a privately held company and not held to some other standard.
Max: I remember when that CAT 5 first came out. The rule change can really catapult a company. Tell us about the Limited Edition CAT 7, what inspired that Limited Edition CAT 7? The original is doing so great, why the limited edition?
Ryder: I love doing cool looking cosmetics on bats. I studied the market and what guys like. I like doing really good looking design. We want it clean looking. One of the big things is that we were one of the first for the bats to go a two year cycle. Coming out with a new model every single season is impossible. We think consumers know that old bats are the same as new bats. So, we wanted out distribution channel to do better. The CAT 6 had better sales in year 2 than it did in year one. But, knowing how good a bat is takes a year. So, with the CAT 7, we thought there was some value in doing a little refresher. We wanted something new in the CAT 7 and the regionals for the CWS. So, it was fun to give them something new. That limited edition is to help build some design. We want to bring some influence in the market and bring stuff that no one else can have.
Max: Explain the CAT 7. Is it just right?
Ryder: High performance without cutting corners. One piece aluminum bat space. Our aluminum has 7 variable walls with a ring free design. No governors, no internal parts inside the walls. And it is easier to produce. So, we like not cutting corners without any rings. We also developed a new aluminum. Very high tinsel strength and create thinner walls and widen the swing spots. The key is how wide of a .50 BBCOR space it is. That is the key. How far can you get it to the taper and towards the barrel. The CAT 7 has 7 variable walls. It is not easy to produce. Very precise and very good performance. The other major thing is the Anti-Vibration knob in the handle. The idea is from the archery industry that use a rubber harmonic dampener to make it a smoother feel. The AV2 is the second generation of the CAT 7. As a single piece bat, it helps it smoother. It also lower’s the swing weight too as it sits below the hands. That is why it is the best.
Brian: I had this great idea for a baseball bat is to lower the swing weight by adding weight below the hands. What is the back story on the AV2 knob? Does Marucci have that?
Ryder: Yes. Alvin bats. They had it. And Marucci ultimately bought that design and now we own that ability. It has been in the works for 8 years.
Brian: Fun to hear you talk about variable wall thickness. Does the 7 in the CAT 7 come from the 7 variable wall thicknesses?
Ryder: We did not do that until this year. But, it worked out. It was going to be the CAT 6, CAT 5, CAT X.
Brian: I like the name. Keep it. CAT 8, CAT 9. Aluminum single piece. CAT 7 is the best seller. Right?
Ryder: Yes. It is our flagship line.
Brian: If you look through the JBR site, you guys have released some beautiful bats. Like the Marucci OPS bat.
Ryder: We took that same structure and put it on a CAMO bat line. We found an affiliation between baseball players and hunters. It is fun to be a small little company.
Brian: Marucci Hex, massively barreled single piece composite. Then a Marucci Connect. How is that different?
Ryder: Composite bats have larger barrels. So, we need something different. In the 1.15 design it is much more difficult to get to the 1.15 with aluminum along the length of the barrel. Lots of players like composite. One piece is hard to get away from the vibrational feedback. Now, we have a two piece composite design. We have a shock absorbing connection. It is a threaded connection. It is not just glued together. It is literally threaded and screwed into place. It is a stiffer connection without the sting. It has made a lot of sense. We learned a lot from the Composite Hex. And now we have it in a lot of different sizes. Drop 8, drop 5, drop 10. Our composite arsenal has grown. We have great feedback.
Max: CAT 7 Connect, is that doing as well as we hoped?
Ryder: I think the Connect is more of a feel niche. It has more mass in the head. But those that want a head heavy feel bat then the CAT 7 connect simply weighs more. And it requires more power to hit. So it is a smaller niche. We will have that in a minus 5 design.
Max: What schools swing Marucci?
Ryder: We do not pay any school to use our products. Other schools are paid quite a bit by other companies. We don’t do that. But there are some like Bethany, Missouri Western, to just name a few. And we have some softball teams that are swinging stuff too. But we don’t pay.
Max: Marucci Pure Bat, What are your thoughts?
Ryder: It honestly it has done really well for us. We did not have a ton of inventory last year to make a big splash, but that is changing this year. We have a few major colleges using it. It is a lot of feedback. We are there now. You will see a serious push in fast pitch in the next few years. Very excited about it.
Brian: Does that bat change colors? We made a post about the worst bats ever. And there was old one that changed colors. What is the Marucci plan in a USAbat?
Ryder: Marucci is not getting into the USAbat standard. We are not interested in making a poor performing bat. Kids don’t quit baseball because they can hit, they quit because they can’t. Good luck to those that play in the space. We are trying to grow the game of baseball and we create high performing baseball products and we are not interested in being in that niche.
Max: You’d rather win fastpitch.
Brian: Three cheers for Marucci on that one.
Ryder: We don’t have to hit any particular number, we are privately held, we don’t have to play the games we don’t think make sense.
Brian: What is coming up?
Ryder: CAT 7 will still be around and the CAT 7 connect and Hex Connect. Some bats are on their second year. We have a lot of good things coming up this year. And regionals and quarter finals we have good stuff.
Brian: Two year Cycle, I would lead with this. Other models are made 12 months ago. They can’t be real upgrades. It takes too long to make a bat.
Ryder: Exactly right. You have to be 12 to 18 months ahead of the market. So there is no way to produce a bat that fast. So a 2 year cycle makes way more sense. It is how many really good golf clubs do it too. It has to feel the full length of an entire season. Just because it is a new model does not mean it is a new bat. We really like our 2 year cycle.
Brian: Bats can be different, but it is impossible to them be upgrades from a bat released 12 months ago.
Ryder: Titlist is a 2 year cycle. There is a reason for that.
Max: Where is Marucci going?
Ryder: I am in it right now for new bats and for the next series of bat lines. It is never ending. Always looking at new stuff.
Max: What is the final word, why does someone buy Maruccu?
Ryder: Marucci is from the ground up we are baseball player owned company. We are in the game. We are getting feedback. We own the majority of MLB wood bat usage. Marucci grows so fast over the last couple years and we will keep growing. You are picking up a quality product that is high tuned for quality performance.
Ryder: Join us next week at the same bat time and the same bat channel.