At the Business First What’s Brewing Breakfast this morning, I learned a new reason to hate Albert Pujols, the former Cardinal slugger now hitting .212 (ha ha) with 3 homers for the Angels. Pujols is swinging a bat manufactured in Louisiana by a company named Marucci, one of several new competitors keeping our own Louisville Slugger personnel on their toes.
Bill Clark, the president of H&B’s Slugger Division, said the company got a wake-up call a few years back and discovered other manufacturers had passed Slugger in quality. The company made improvements. Even though Slugger continues to dominate the bat market with 55 percent of major leaguers, he said new competitors, especially those like Marucci, are aggressively targeting Slugger clients.
But Clark said the reason Slugger has been around since 1884 is its ability to build relationships with players, such as Chris Burke, the St. X grad who spent several season in the big leagues. Burke talked about his career arc, saying he never expected to bounce around the big leagues, then ultimately cut from the Bats and looking for another opportunity at age 32. Burke, though, is involved in several baseball-related businesses locally, including his own instruction company.
The other panelist, Bats president Gary Ulmer, said the team is always looking for ways to improve its product, and in its 13th year at Slugger Field is looking at a potentail makeover in a few years. Without the ability to market individual players, since the good ones always get called up to the Reds, he said the team’s personnel focus on creating a great fan experience.
A good crowd of 100 or more attended the breakfast, part of a regular series promoted by the newspaper.