Yesterday, the baseball bat company Marucci sold to the investment firm Compass for $200m.
Marucci started out as a backyard hobby project. But by partnering with players instead of paying them for promotion, it became the biggest bat-maker in the big leagues.
It started with a case of accidental entrepreneurship
Gino Marucci fell in love with wooden bats when he was a kid. Back in 2002, when Gino was 8 years old, his dad Jack tried to find one for him.
But bat companies didn’t make any that were short enough, so Jack decided to make one himself. With an $80 lathe, Marucci began carving bats in a shed in his backyard for fun.
Bat-making remained a hobby until 2 injured MLB players training with Marucci — Kurt Ainsworth and Joe Lawrence — swung Marucci’s bats and realized they could become a big business.
So Ainsworth began recommending Marucci’s bats to other major leaguers by word of mouth, and in 2009 he co-founded Marucci Sports.
Then, Marucci’s success was powered by player partnerships
Other businesses treat players like bat-swinging billboards, paying them to promote their bats.
But Marucci instead partnered with players in the design process (before the 2009 World Series, Marucci and Chase Utley co-designed a bat for use against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera).
This led Albert Pujols, Utley, and other all-stars to voluntarily promote Marucci bats. Eventually, 25+ players invested in Marucci as co-owners.
So without paying for any sponsorships, Marucci soon toppled Louisville Slugger’s 100+-year reign as heavy hitter: Marucci is now the No. 1 bat brand in the MLB, used by more than 40% of players.
Under the new ownership, Marucci’s leadership team will remain in charge, but the company will expand to international markets like Japan and South Korea and roll out new products.
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