Monthly Archives: July 2010

Rod Carew's GAPHitter

July 29, 2010

Hall of Famer Rod Carew has stepped into the world of baseball training aids along with his long standing career promoting and working for the game of baseball.

Rod Carew spent 19 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Twins and Angels, and still work at the executive level for both teams, along with a consultant position for The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Carew has dedicated his life to the game, and this is yet another facet for him to get involved. Rod Carew Baseball is the latest venture of Carew, and its flagship product- the GAPHitter, is dedicated to the science(or art, whichever you prefer) of hitting.

The GAPHitter is a crane-like hitting tee that suspends a baseball velcro’d to a tether that can swing, giving the user the benefit of hitting a moving, detachable baseball without the bruises of a pitching machine. The idea is a good one, as it is more adaptable to any skill level player than some hitting aids on the market, and creates more of a realistic hitting situation than a conventional stationary tee. One can vary the hitting elements by swinging the ball in different directions, at different speeds to create the illusion of different pitches or even different skill levels, with the hilarious side effect of a grand swing and miss. It creates a different dynamic than the Swing Away, it’s closest competition, and a more variable ball movements than the Joe Mauer Quickswing, a less expensive alternative.

All in all, this looks like a great start for innovation from Rod Carew Baseball, and although the price is steep at $299, the GAPHitter may be the new tee of choice for T-Ball coaches all the way up to the Majors.

How to Buy a Baseball Glove

July 28, 2010

There are several things to look at when buying a baseball glove. There are fielding (Outfield & Infield), first baseman and catchers’ gloves that range in sizes in Adult and Youth.

Outfielder Glove
Outfield gloves are the largest baseball glove you can find. Outfield gloves tend to have a deeper pocket to be able to catch fly balls with ease. Most outfield gloves range size from 12 to 12 ½ inches. The longer length will obviously offer more reach, however, there is less control.

Infielder Glove
The key to infielder gloves is the ease of getting the ball out of the glove as easy as possible to make a throw. All infielder gloves need to be small, to accomplish this task with ease. A good size for an adult infielder glove is 10 1/2 to 11 1/2 inch. These positions include second base and shortstop. Third baseman gloves are a little bit larger, from 10 3/4 to 11 3/4.

Catcher Glove
Catcher’s gloves have designated areas for the thumb, pointer finger and the remaining three fingers. Typically catcher’s gloves have extra padding around the fingers to prevent the sting from pitchers. Catcher’s gloves range from $50.00 to $300.00 depending on the hide. Make sure you spend a little bit more on a nice catcher’s glove for comfort and durability.

First Baseman Glove
First baseman gloves have a longer length to give as much reach as possible. Most first baseman gloves measure between 12 and 14 inches. They typically have a shovel like pocket to allow the fielder to scoop mis-thrown balls. There is a less padding to allow for additional mobility.

Continue reading “How to Buy a Baseball Glove” »

Top 5 Advantages of Shopping at a Specialty Sporting Goods Store

July 20, 2010

There are a variety of different sporting goods stores near our house. Some of them carry the same items, may be closer or could be much larger. Most of the smaller/specialty sporting goods stores are owned by a local family that may have been operating for several decades. I dont have anything against going to larger stores like Sports Authority or Gander Mountain, but the smaller stores do have their advantages.
Lets take a look:

  • Employee KnowledgeFor the most part, specialty retailers have employees that have more knowledge about the products they are selling.  There are many reasons for this but mainly because the employee gets one on one training by the owner or store manager.  Typically, the specialty stores are one to five category stores, so learning how to sell the entire suite of products isn’t as difficult for the employees.  Also, many people go work at a bike shop because they enjoy biking, or a running shop because they enjoy running and so on.  I do not want to say that larger stores do not have employees that know anything about the products they are selling, but we all have experience going into a larger store and not being satisfied with the employee knowledge.
  • Deeper Category Line
    Larger stores have a smaller amount of products for each category, mainly because of space and offering one price point to make sure they offer everything for that sport or category.  A bike shop will offer everything that you would ever need for biking.  Larger retailers offer bikes at only a few different price points and brands.  Also, large retailers have limited amount of parts and accessories for biking.  A specialty lacrosse retailer would have all equipment for lacrosse at every price point, so they always have stock and have more options for you.
  • Superior Services
    The service you will find at a specialty store is outstanding compared to a large store.  Whether you are looking to get your tennis racket restrung, snowboard waxed, bike tuned or ski mounted.  Typically, the service you will find at the specialty store will have an expert servicing your product and the turn around time is faster than what you would find at a larger store.  Also, there may be other services that a specialty store may offer that a large store may not.  For example, a specialty tennis shop is the only place you would get your grommet replaced.
  • Special Ordering
    Typically, specialty retailers can special order products for you if they are out of stock.  This comes in handy when you absolutely need something and it can save time from traveling from store to store.
  • Customer Service
    The easiest way to analyze this is the ratio between the amount of employees/customers.  The specialty store usually has an employee that can help every customer, which doesn’t always happen at the larger stores.  I don’t want to say that larger stores have terrible customer service, because that isn’t entirely true, just saying the customer service is better at a smaller specialty store.

So there you have it, 5 advantages of a specialty sporting goods store over a large store.  I shop at both and certainly larger stores have their own advantages which I will cover soon.

What Helmet Where the MLB All Stars Wearing?

July 16, 2010

The answer… The Rawlings S100. Sometime last year, I heard about the new Rawlings helmet that was resistant to 100mph impact. I believe Ryan Dempster, pitcher for the Cubs, was the first MLB player to wear the gigantic lid, but most people didn’t hear about it until David Wright was knocked out cold by a Matt Cain fastball. Wright came back wearing the new lid to further protect himself, but ditched it after a short time after much ribbing from teammates and the lack of comfort with the bulky nature of the helmet.

This season Minor League Baseball has mandated all players wear the Rawlings S100 helmet, which gives no one the opportunity for poking fun, and a few major leaguers have picked up willingly, and dealt with the Great Gazoo jokes in stride. At the All Star Game, a great deal of players were wearing one, and this may a sign of things to come. The sports world is growing more and more concerned with concussion prevention due to numerous studies done on former athletes, more notably NFL player and Pro Wrestlers, to show the dangers of concussions on long term mental health long after the athlete retires.

An interesting historical note on the S100′s exposure in the All Star Game is that a few years back, it was the Rawlings Cool Flo helmet that made its big game debut in the all Star Game, and the next season, every team had several players using them. This may not necessarily be the case with the S100, as the Cool Flo was just a shell redesign with more ventilation, while the S100 is a whole new lid, with a much larger size and more padding, which is completely different. The main complaint with the S100 last season was the size and weight, so Rawlings took the offseason to redesign them slightly to be a little lighter and sleeker, but still maintaining the same level of protection.

Whether the S100 hits mainstream soon or not remains to be seen, but it is an interesting step in the evolution of protection in baseball. Thanks to hundreds of minor leaguers spending the entire season wearing one, more MLBers may be wearing them soon. I don’t know whether MLB will mandate the S100 helmet, due to union strength in the MLB, but a strong recommendation has been made; and it’s up to the players to choose their method of protection.

Fits like a Football Glove

July 14, 2010

With football season rapidly approaching, it’s time to fire up the fantasy football magazines, live online drafts, and alcohol-fueled trash talking that follows. One interesting development in the world of fantasy football is the falling value of running backs, and the higher value for wide receivers. Much of this is due to point-per-reception leagues, and also the rule changes that the NFL has made to help the passing game. One reason us sporting goods types might argue is the development of receiver gloves.

Back in the day, receivers developed a way to make their hands stickier to catch the ball better. The problem was, Stickem left crazy glue like goop on the ball that could have created some looney tunes type moments for centers and quarterbacks had they not replaced the ball. Fortunately, the NFL banned Stickem, and better football gloves were developed. First there was tackified leather, and that works just fine, but the materials used now in football gloves provide a great amount of sticky, without Stickem’s ‘icky.’ So here are a list of things to look for when buying a football glove:

Types

Receiver/Secondary gloves- For those who catch and run. They feature an ultra sticky surface, which varies by manufacturer, and an unpadded back with usually sweat wicking material, or in the case of cold weather gloves, insulated material. They are for catching the ball, and catching it fast, without a whole lot of contact.

Running Back/Linebacker gloves- These are the middle ground of gloves, for catching and carrying the ball and taking a pounding at the same time. These gloves will feature the same tacky material on the palm, but may have reinforced or a lightly padded back to protect those in the trenches.

Lineman’s gloves- These gloves are all substance, with little style by the way of tack. Usually they’ll feature a tackified leather, which is not as gripping as the tacky material used for receivers; but is much more durable for the beating that the trenches bring. Lineman don’t typically need to grip the ball, except centers; but in the event of a fumble or a pick, it doesn’t hurt. There are a lineman gloves that will feature padding to protect the fingers and hands as well as gloves that are fingerless for those looking to grit it out.

Sizing

It should fit like a glove. Sounds easy, but given that everyone’s preferences on “fit” are different; make sure you are comfortable with the fit of the glove. No one ever asks you what glove size you wear(and if they do, you might not want them on your team), so get the size that fits you best. Typically, the best “fit” is as tight as possible.

Colors

Actually, there are some rules on colors of gloves, but not usually until you hit the higher levels of competition. Always double check with your league to make sure you can buy a team colored glove. I believe most college football leagues require the use of a grey glove, but that will also vary.

Pricing

Most gloves will start at around $20-$25 dollars and go up to the $50-$60 range for higher end gloves. Usually, the extra money goes to thicker material all around, added padding, additional tacky material and extra features to provide a better fit.

How to Buy a Basketball System

July 12, 2010

This is our first how to buy section, which is exciting because we believe it will benefit the average consumer shopping for sporting goods equipment. We dont know it all, however, we try to provide the most accurate information to help you make an informed decision on buying.

Portable Systems

Portable systems incorporate the base, pole with adjustable bracket, backboard, and rim into one system. Like most basketball systems, portable systems adjust in height from 7.5 to 10 ft. The portable systems feature a set of wheels that are standard for easy mobility; however they are not as stable because of this reason. You will have to fill the base with water or sand to provide the necessary weight for stability. Some people like adding weighs on the back base, however, this isnt recommended. It takes two adults to put a portable system together after you get it home.

Pricing – Portable systems cost from $99 to $999. The higher end portable features a larger base, bigger backboard and thicker pole. This makes the system more durable and stable for more competitive play. The lower end systems are less stable, the adjusting system is not as easy to use and it is less durable. You can buy a nice portable system for $299.

In-Ground Systems
In-Ground systems are usually preferred over portable systems because they are more stable and durable. These systems are positioned and cemented in a hole dug into the ground and are permanent. The installation of an in-ground system is more difficult because a hole needs to be dug and concrete needs to be poured. If you are not saavy at putting things together, we recommend to find a friend or neighbor to help out. Most retailers give you the option of purchasing installation with your In-Ground system purchase.

Pricing – Generally in-ground systems cost about the same as portables, however, there is a higher end price point with in-ground systems. You can buy a nice in-ground system for $399. The higher end price point is from $999 to $3999. These systems are sturdier, feature a thicker pole, easier adjustment and most feature a polycarbonate backboard. For safety reasons, the NBA has not used a glass backboard in decades. The professional systems run on the highest price point and resemble the systems that are used in the National Basketball Association (NBA). If you want a local retailer or contractor to install your system, it will cost from $249 to $599 depending on what is involved.

Continue reading “How to Buy a Basketball System” »

The New Xenith X1 Football Helmet

July 7, 2010

With all of the attention recently put on concussions in pro sports, most notably football, baseball and pro wrestling, More focus has been put on making the equipment safer to prevent such things(except wrestling- a steel chair is still a steel chair).

Football is the a huge hot button topic for concussion covering scientists, with much research being done on former NFL players, and many findings of deceased players having some level of brain damage from their career, most recently Chris Henry. Protecting the idols of our country from an untimely death or dementia is a top priority for everyone involved, and there have been many different solutions to the problem. Remember the ProCap(right)? It was a huge foam shell painted to match the helmet’s colors that went on the top of the helmet to cushion blows. Did it work? Sure. The few bold enough to wear it loved it, protection-wise. Aesthetically pleasing? Not so much.

So solutions have been proposed have involved making just the helmets themselves safer, and a new company on the helmet front, Xenith, has tried just that.

Their product is the Xenith X1 helmet(left), and it’s technologies are supposed to prevent concussion incidents, thanks to an innovative new padding design. I haven’t been provided with any definitive data on the prevention subject, but here’s how it works-

The Shock Bonnet, as they call it, is a flexible plastic bonnet that lines the inside of the helmet, with a series of shock absorbers strategically placed around the inside of helmet, replacing the immovable firm foam liners of conventional helmets. The innovation here lies with the shock absorbers that take on impact, and release air slowly to cushion the blow from within the helmet, resulting in less head movement, and ideally, less concussions. Another innovation is the fit seeker system that draws a cable around the shock bonnet and provides a better fit when the helmet’s chin cup is locked into place. A better fit undoubtedly results in better protection, and as difficult as it is getting kids to put on a helmet that really truly fits, every little bit of help is paramount.

The X1 helmet will set you back a couple hundred bucks, which is a slight increase from most conventional youth helmets, but with concussion prevention and general safety on every parent’s mind, it may be a reasonable price to pay for those looking for the latest innovation in football protection. I don’t know that we will see these helmets in college or the NFL anytime soon, but due to the nature of injuries there, look for them to make a slow creep into mainstream, or look for the football helmet giants to come up with something similar.

Sports Authority to Open New Concept Stores

July 6, 2010

The Sports Authority(TSA) announced that they will be opening new concepts stores called “S.A. Elite”. Interesting name, not sure I would have went with it. TSA says that the store will be a “small store concept designed to meet the needs of the elite sporting goods consumer while providing a unique and compelling shopping experience.” These stores will be around 12,000 to 15,000 square feet and they will offer high-end performance apparel, footwear, and accessories from premier brands. A typical Sports Authority store is around 40,000 square feet.

I would imagine that most if not all of these stores will be located in malls or lifestyle shopping areas. I would expect these stores to have unique products at higher price points to appeal to that specific customer. These stores will have to offer a strong shopping experience including unique, higher price point products that are tough to find at other athletic sports stores. Time will tell if they can pull it off, history shows TSA knows what they are doing.