Below is a rough transcript of the podcast recorded with Justbatreviews, Closeoutbats and Rawlings Baseball on 3/10/2017. You can see the full link and download via your favorite podcast app here. You can also read up on our favorite Rawlings 2017 Bat Reviews here.
Brian: Welcome to the Batcast, Episode #7. Let’s get Mad Max On the phone.
Max: Let’s get into it.
Brian: 5 years ago we wouldn’t necessarily have done one on Rawlings in the bat space, right?
Max: Probably not. 5 years ago Rawlings really wasn’t in the bats. People thought of them as a glove company.
Brian: Yes. Baseballs and Glove. They still make both. Reading a statistic yesterday, they own something like 52% of MLB Baseball players gloves. And of course they are using all of MLB baseballs. But up until a few years ago they didn’t even make bats. When we get Kyle on the phone in a minute we can talk more about this. But years ago Rawlings bought Adirondack. And were a big player for a long time in the wood bat space. But for years they were never in the aluminum bat. They make the VELO now, which is a very popular bat. This was the first single piece aluminum bat. It is an extended composite end cap. Lights swinging aluminum bats are a must. It is a bat that you hear before you see. It is so loud.
Max: Then they have the 5150. That bat was much like the VELO until a couple years ago. It was like the VELO, but now it is more of a pure aluminum bat.
Brian: And the third bat is they have the Quatro. This bat has 4 pieces. And we can talk more with Kyle about that bat. It’s the new bright yellow bat. Do you guys see a lot of people buy it? Its really, well, yellow.
Max: Anyone who has hit with it really like it. But we think it is so loud that a lot of older players think its too much. But younger players like it. When folks hit with it they love it. I think Rawlings nailed it on those three bats. With the new USA bat standard, Rawlings can really add to some success to their bat line as it might benefit them more than anything.
Brian: It will really reset the playing field, at least in youth bats. Will be interesting to see what RAwlings does in terms of their USA bats standard. It is going to be such a wild ride come September of this year. Did you guys ever sell the 2 Legit from Worth last year?
Max: We did. That bat now became the Quatro as this 4-piece bat. So, yeah, we saw it sell alot.
Brian: When we first heard about the Quatro we saw it on eBay. Some college kid trying to get a few bucks out of it after he used it from Rawlings. I ended up writing Rawlings an Email wondering how in the world we can get that bat. They, of course, said that bat is under wraps. I guess my point is that they have been working on the Quatro for a very, very long time. It was a fun to see that so early in the build up. That was my first introduction to the Quatro.
Max: That bat will definitley get your attention.
Brian: Out of those three bats: VELO, 5150, Quatro. What does Mad Max take the plate?
Max: I go with the VELO. It is the standard for the last three years. It is short for Velocity. I just feels very smooth and I think that endcap is part of their success. Looking back no one talked about the end cap. Easton would put on it was never thought of. Now they realize the end cap matters and Rawlings was really the original bat that went there and I’ve got to give it to the VELO.
Brian: I remember when Demarini came out with a DeMarini and it was shaped like a D. And I read a bullet point that said something like it was aerodynamic. That somehow the shape of the endcap made it fly smoother through the air. You’ve got to be kidding me that this is really why they put the end cap. It looks cool. But, come on. It has nothing to do aerodynamics. I’ll name the folks who copied it: The Boombah Cannon; The 617 SOLO; The Axe Hyperwhip. But all these have taken what the VELO made famous and proved to work and, frankly, copied it. Where the variable wall thickness is found now on a lot of bats. Rawlings was the winner in that space and I think they are being rewarded in that by a lot people buying the VELO.
Max: It came on the scene when South Carolina won the national championship using their bats 7 years ago. It is amazing.
Brian: It has been fun to see them take over the space from basically not being involved in the bat space at all. But, behold, here they are. They are likely, what, the 3rd or 4th in the market.
Max: Yep. The big three are probably Easton, DeMarini and Slugger. But Rawlings is right there. Rawlings makes a great pitch to players. But Rawlings have the most impressive bats on the market this year. They are remarkably similar.
Brian: Let’s get the expert on the phone.
Kyle: Weather crazy. St. Louis awesome. Looking forward to baseball to start. Hey Max.
Max: I got my Rawlings sweatshirt on.
Brian: Tell us what you do at Rawlings. How fun it is and what is the best part of your job.
Kyle: I grew up playing baseball. Played at University of Kansas. Have a good natural fit at Rawlings. Spent just about the entire last 7 years working form the R&D to the bats from conception to launching it. It’s been a great opportunity. It has been fun to stay close to the game. Now I’m at the director level dealing with bats and batting gloves.
Brian: In 7 years, what have you seen change in the metal and composite bat space for Rawlings. Are we accurate to say that 7 years ago Rawlings didn’t even make metal and composite bat space? How has been the transition from a glove and baseball story to now a dead serious player in the metal and composite bat space.
Kyle: 7 Years ago we had some aluminum and composite offering but we might as well not have had one. When I was a kid if you were using a Rawlings bat you were not a serious baseball player—outside of wood. Taking calls from major colleges about our bats started from there and the BBCOR bat standard change really put us on the map. My first ABCA show I showed up to talk bats and I don’t think there was a single person that stopped by to talk about bat. Now, at the bat show, everyone wants to talk about bats. It is fun to see people care about bats. We obviously still care about gloves and balls.
Max: I think Rawlings may benefit most from the USA Bat standard. Explain the difference between the 5150 and the VELO? What is the difference between those two bats.
Kyle: The VELO is all about pitch speeds and having the fastest bat speed. The easiest way for us to do that is to make a very light swinging bat. We have seen the highest level of player using the VELO to maximize bat speed by taking out weight in the end cap by removing ounces out of the end of the bat. That makes for a faster swing weight. Our engineers have also honed in on the thickness of the middle of the barrel and optimize the thickness to make the barrel durable, meet performance standards and be long. It is our POP 2.0 technology. We added a laser groove to take even more weight out of the barrel. The 5150 is a bit of a blend but it is going to be more balanced instead of a lighter swing weight like the VELO. But it is the same idea but just a little more balanced.
Max: 7 Years ago, when did SC win the national championship. Then in 2011 they repeated. That had to have helped when they won, is that when it all broke out?
Kyle: It definitely helped. The phone calls we started to field were phenominal and it legitimizes you. We are starting to see that same go in our fastpitch line. To have the University of Oklahoma win for the first time using Rawlings fastpitch for the very first time brings a lot of credibility to your brand that would not happen if they didn’t win.
Brian: That POP 2.0 tech. We saw that laser groove on the VELO. It might be hard to imagine. But, imagining cutting a barrel in half. Then holding it an angle to see how thick the walls are. The walls have different thicknesses. That wall changes in thickness and helps you get a lighter swing. The next step of that at one part of that barrel there is even a deeper groove which removes more metal towards the end cap in terms of swing weight and that is the disadvantage an aluminum bat. It is the more material I put in the end cap the harder it gets to swing. The further away we can take more weight out the lighter it gets. So, not only is the thinner wall in addition to a composite end cap but the Laser groove takes even more out to make it an even lighter swinging bat. That is the 2017 bat. How did I do on that Kyle?
Kyle: That is great. You could work for us. With the original 5150 that wall was a 2 1/2 inch thick wall section that tapers down to a much thinner wall. From that original thick wall to what we have now is a dramatic shift. It is surprising to think we can make a bat any better year over year but we really can. And it really is an improvement year over year. Our engineers have been amazing in verifying that it is going to pass the test. It is pretty incredible.
Brian: As a guy who blogs about bat I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to categorize bats in a certain area. So, for example, the VELO has this and I can write a review about it. But, with the VELO, every one of those things are true except for what it isn’t. Let me explain. My son, who has every bat ever, my son swings a VELO—now just turned 10 year old son. However, that VELO is not an aluminum bat. It is called the VELO composite. Why the confusion?
Kyle: Yes. With a minus 12 in a composite bat we thought it fell into the VELO, velocity, family better than any others. But, in the end, it does make it confusing. But we didn’t have a full line of composites and VELO seemed to be the best fit.
Brian: Fair enough. And I liked the idea of a VELO as a fast swinging bat. That is fair enough.
Max: What happened to the TRIO?
Kyle: Two ways to see it. Compsites own the $399 price point. And the TRIO was an aluminum barrel. And up until the Quatro we felt like we just could not get there. We wanted a bat that could perform out of the wrapper at the limit. We still get calls that folks still want it. But we finally got to the time where we could benefit from a composite and that our composite had an advantage over other composites. But we think our price point didn’t work for most and I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you see a comeback of that bat—although not in the near future.
Max: We found that for $300 folks who wanted aluminum, were more likely to get a VELO if they were going aluminum. And the Quatro has done well. Should we expect an expansion of that?
Kyle: The Quatro will stay a lot like it was but we can make some enahancements that allow us to improve the overall balance of the quatro. You’ll see that. The focus for us really has been on USA baseball. You will see an Quatro USA Bat in the assortment. It will be pretty straight forward and you will see the line expanding and we will put more behind it. To come, more to come, but certainly we see the success of it and we want to put our eggs in that basket.
Brian: You mentioned that inner barrel. If you saw the Quatro, if you were to cut it in half, it doesn’t have any variable wall thickness because it is composite. But if you look inside there, it looks like there is another bat inside the bat. It is crazy if you have never seen it. Talk us through why that is there and what’s the point of that inner barrel.
Kyle: Our idea is that wanted to do something very unique that our engineers can work through. If you were to cut that bat in half, just like any other bat on the market, you would see a hollow inner barrel. The difference with our bat is that our outer barrel is very flexible. With that there is more trampoline you’ll be able to maximize performance but we still need to pass the test. So, we have put an inner barrel that acts almost as a governor so if the outer barrel flexes far enough then the inner barrel will keep the bat from flexing too much. The key benefit is that off middle barrel speeds you’ll see good pop as well as if you see a bat that works at slow pitch speed.
Brian: Here is my big take away. I hope the people at home have this aha moment. The sentiment I seem to always get is that it is the Indian not the arrow. It is there justification from most dads about ready to pull the trigger. Because people are always looking for a way to spend less money. But I hope people see a certain pitch speed make a difference. But, if a guy is throwing 92 and I’m swinging 87. Then, maybe, it is all the same. But what happens when I swing a bat 67 and see a pitch at 72 because I am a Jr. in highschool. The grand key is that bats work at different pitch speeds. And if parents could get that then I think they’d see why it might make sense to spend more money. Not saying it is always the case.
Kyle: Nail on the head. It also includes a sentiment of the feel of bats. We field those types of questions all the time. But, in terms of USA baseball, with the performance going backwards why would I pay more money for a bat that is moving backwards in the standard. But, still, the idea is that a much better performing bat simply costs more money because those are things that you pay for.
Brian: JBR does not imply to spend all the money you need. It just depends. You are playing 12 games in a rec league then who cares what bat you have. Bats do matter and the better the player gets, the more a bat matters. Not to get all preachy. If I am at home thinking my 13 year old son who doesn’t swing very fast might value from a bat that works on slower pitch speeds and off center barrel hits. With all that said, and no great transition, tell us about USA bats.
Kyle: The first date you can get one is September 1st, 2017. We are several months out. There are some others that are coming through with USA bats and they all looked at consolidating the rules and each association was doing there own thing so trying to bring together there own rules. Although USSSA will be on the other side. Performance going back wards is up for debate. Some see it as a good thing others see it as a risk to participation. In the end it is what is happening. We are mapping out what our designs are going to look like. USA came to us 5 to 7 years ago. Everyone pushed off. But now, September 1st, 2017 is when things come out. Janauray 1st is when those old bats are no longer valid. We look at it as a great opportunity for us and taking BBCOR as a mapping we are looking forward to seeing how this will change the entire playing field.
Max: I think Rawlings has the most to gain here. September 1st will be here soon.
Kyle: We should be ramping up with all the major accounts by that time and it should be ready for the holidays.
Max: What is the background with that famous Rawlings PING? I hear that bat in my sleep. How important is the color.
Kyle: Watching the series on Omaha was all about the PING. It was famous from that and we wanted to bring that back. We thought that was a feature that resonates with the game. And people associate a louder sound at contact with performance. No doubt you hear a VELO from three fields away. If you want to stand out on the field we thought the color on the Quatro would be a good choice. It makes a lot of sense.
Brian: What else is coming down the pipe from Rawlings?
Kyle: We have a lot of momentum and we’ve done well in BBCOR. But we we have seen with the standard change and working on the category of Youth bats is a huge niche of ours that we are focused on. We have a ton of bat trials and demo’s going on. That should be a big deal for us. From the youth category to fastpitch is very important to us. You’ll see those lines expand. We want to a place with that particular player. And, we should mention our wood bats. We continue to see our wood bats grow year over year in the MLB space. So, we decided to focus on our core products. We have to win and wood bats is what won the most from that decision. Machado is using our bat, Bryce Harper is using our bats. We have a lot of top level players now using our bats and many rising minor league players using our bats.