AMES, Iowa -- Crack!
That’s the sound of success.
“We all want it to just work so that kids hit and hit better," says Rob Kibbe of Ames, admiring his new invention.
Meet the Magic Tee. The brain child of local baseball dads tired of the same old, traditional batting tee.
“You can make a good swing and the tee falls over!" gripes co-developer and little league coach, Ryan McGuire. "Well what kind of feedback is that?”
Pick it up, put it back, isn’t there a better way?
McGuire vented to his friend, Kibbe.
“He said ‘You know, I was teaching my kids how to swing and I just wish I could find a way to hang the ball because their swing motion would just be so much easier,'” said Kibbe.
Kibbe is a mechanical engineer.
“I thought well how hard could that be? You just need some suction to hold the ball in place, right?"
He got right to work in his garage, and it wasn't long before he called McGuire with good news.
“He had this crazy contraption on an engine hoist and a Shop Vac all hooked up," McGuire laughed, "and it worked!”
But the journey from that first prototype to the sleek, rechargeable Magic Tee? THAT was a challenge, even for Kibbe.
“You know how hard it is to print a 3D base that’s this big?" he gestured, arms wide. "It’s hard! It took like six months and 18 tries.”
But here it is—a revolution in hitting. The sweet spot of the ball, now exposed to the bat--allowing professional instructors like Mike Jensen to preach the modern baseball gospel of “launch angles” and practice it, too.
“It feels exactly like hitting a ball that’s being pitched,” said Jensen, after putting the Magic Tee through a thorough workout.
But the ultimate goal is to see this hit carry outside the state--to a national market.
To help with that, enter Sam Schill and Nathan Haila.
They’re product developers but also little league dads who saw Magic Tee help their own kids.
“I put him on the Magic Tee and the first ball he hit off of it, he hit it over the fence. So that’s when I was like ‘I think we might be onto something, here.’”
“People are looking for things like this all the time,” added Schill.
They shot a slick video, featuring McGuire.
The video will be part of Magic Tee’s campaign on social media and the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. There, customers will commit to buy the Magic Tee, and when enough commitments are made, production will begin.
The question is, is a $400 batting tee something people want?
“We believe it is," Schill said. "Everyone’s telling us ‘Hey, I want one of those!’ but now Kickstarter’s really the way that we’re going to roll out to check to see if we’re right.”
For decades, hitting tools have come and gone. The ones that have stuck have been the ones that have kept working.
“We want them to drag it to the field as use it," said McGuire, "take it home, charge it up and be able to use it the next day.”
In an age where we’re spending small fortunes on our children’s sports, the Magic Tee seems like a safe bet.
Safe, but not certain.
“As cool as it sounds, it’s also really scary," said Kibbe, of his new venture as an entrepreneur. "We’ve got to be in a position where if we go get this and we’re successful, we’re shipping product, and it better work, no matter what.”
Magic Tee could ship by the end of the year, meaning more hits, pings, and shots could soon be heard around the world. If you're interested in the product, you can pre-order one now on the product's Kickstarter page. The creators need to secure $70,000 in pre-orders before production can begin.