I am really excited to bring you the first interview here at Bat Scout. This is something that I have been thinking of doing for a while now, so I’m pumped that the day has finally come. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did talking to Jim!
Here at Bat Scout, we love to focus on the details of bat development and what goes on behind the scenes to make great bats for hitters. Today I welcome Jim Earley, Senior Manager – Louisville Slugger Innovation to Bat Scout to answer a few of our questions. Year in and year out, Jim’s group is responsible for brainstorming & developing the next generation of performance bats, which is no easy task.
What is your official title?
Senior Manager – Louisville Slugger Innovation
How many years have you been with Louisville Slugger?
I’m sure you wear a lot of hats, but can you describe what you do?
In a nutshell I oversee all LS non-wood bat development and manufacturing. This involves coordinating efforts from engineering, our product team, sales, marketing and manufacturing to make sure that each model meets our design specifications and gets launched on time.
What’s the most challenging / rewarding thing about bat development?
The most challenging thing is to develop something on a set timeline since the essence of development is that you are dealing with numerous unknowns with many possible solutions. The most rewarding thing is to see the product excel out in the marketplace knowing that you were part of the team responsible for its success.
In the 2017 line, the LXT Hyper and Prime 917 both use the newly improved Tru3 Dynamic Socket Connection. Can you tell us what was changed and the intended result?
To understand what we changed you first need to understand the TRU3 socket connection which is very different from all other 2-pc designs. Our socket connection literally uses a socket so that the barrel can pivot on impact in relation to the handle. An elastomer inner cone is bonded between the handle and barrel so that when the bat pivots it acts as a dynamic springboard providing the maximum amount of energy transfer to the ball on impact. In addition the elastomer inner cone has the secondary effect of dampening out all of the negative vibrations during impact. Most players love the feel of our TRU3 bats, but some players (typically those that prefer 1-pc bats) mentioned that there was too much movement. In order to remedy this we changed the shape / length of the elastomer inner cone which resulted in a more solid feel while still eliminating the negative vibrations.
This year, the LXT Hyper lost the S1iD in favor of the new PBF (Performance Barrel-Flex System). From an engineering standpoint, tell us a little more about this technology and what it means for hitters.
I have been wanting to change the name of S1iD from the beginning since most players did not understand that this meant the bat had great performance from swing 1. Even though I did not like the S1iD name I was against changing the name until we had a legitimate improvement in the underlying technology. The PBF name speaks more to why our bats have such great performance by focusing on the Barrel Flex. Unlike most bats our barrel design is extremely flexible and uses the underlying technology to prevent it from going over the performance limit. So when you hit at 100% our bat will perform the same as a competitor bat, but when you hit at less than 100% which is most of the time our bat performs much better than the competition.
When Xeno / LXT first came out they were closely watched by the NCAA due to the high performance and we had to send in multiple samples to prove that they did not exceed the performance limits. Because of this scrutiny we wanted to play it safe and added (2) disks (S1iD) at different locations to make sure the performance did not go over the limit. After numerous compliance checks and additional testing on our side we determined that we could still consistently stay below the performance limit by using only (1) disk (PBF). By changing to only (1) disk we were effectively able to double the size of the sweet-spot (maximum performance area) on the barrel.
The Prime 917 introduces MicroForm Composite, which sounds like another marketing term. Can you explain the technology behind it and how it works with the FCS (Fused Carbon Structure), which was first released on the Prime 916?
Microform – Per the illustration below our Prime bats use a patented barrel construction that uses small strips (Micro) instead of continuous layers that typically wrap 360 degrees around the barrel. This year we increased the number of these strips and made them smaller so that we could fine tune the sweet-spot even more. Since our design already performs at the maximum allowable limit we focused on making the sweet-spot bigger.
FCS – We introduced the terminology last year and it refers to a special way that we cure the composite barrel to ensure that all of the air voids are removed. No air voids = better durability so we are able to make the walls thinner for better performance and lighter weight.
With certification bodies continuing to place limits on performance, where do you see the next advancement in the bat industry?
I definitely see customization as the next evolution for bats. Demarini has done a great job with this by introducing the first adjustable weight SB model the Vizion along with offering custom graphics options for most of the models they offer. Louisville Slugger just started offering custom graphic LXT’s with plans to introduce more models in the future. In addition we are actively working on adjustable bats to allow players to fine tune the bat to best suit their needs. Our motto has always been that we may not always be the first to launch something new, but it will always be the best.
In addition to customization I am excited to see how far we can go with sensor enabled bats that can help players improve their swing.
What’s one thing that most players don’t know about bats, that you would like to communicate to our readers?
Most players probably don’t understand just how much engineering goes into each and every bat that we develop. For each model we are challenged to design a product that is high-performing yet passes the certification requirements, feels great, sounds good, meets the desired weight drop / swing weight requirements and is capable of surviving up to a 150 mph impact. This is no easy task and what makes it even harder is that each player has different preferences for sound, feel and swing weight. To make sure we are coming up with the best bats possible that meet the demands of the players we have an on-site batting cage facility that is filled with players every day testing our products. These players range from Olympic athletes to JV ball players to make sure we understand the specific needs for each type of player.
What is the best new product offering for the 2017 Model Year?
For 2017 we are introducing a new BBCOR model called the SOLO. Since the onset of the new BBCOR standard one challenge was to produce a 1-pc aluminum model with a very light swing weight. Our current Omaha has a very balanced swing weight, but our goal was to create something with a swing weight that was just over the legal limit. A low swing weight allows players to create the maximum swing speed possible while having more control over the bat. In addition stronger players can use a bat that is 1” longer to get more plate coverage while maintaining the same swing weight. The new BB SOLO meets this challenge and will be hands down the lightest swinging 1-pc aluminum BBCOR model on the market. In addition to the light swing weight it still has awesome performance and a great feel / sound.
A huge thank you to Jim for taking the time out of his busy schedule to bring you some exclusive information from Louisville Slugger!
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