This ProXR Kickstarter project will fund field testing of conventional baseball bats versus ProXR bat technology. The goal of the testing is to validate and confirm the foundational theories on which the ProXR ergonomic bat knob design is based — specifically, that conventional baseball bat knobs cause dangerous compression forces to a batters' base gripping hand, thus, destabilizing the batters' grip, resulting in thrown bats, injuries to players' hands and poor swing performance.
Your contribution will fund a series of performance field tests of the ProXR baseball bat technology using pressure-sensing hardware synced to high-speed video, along with a production run of ProXR bats, to enable this research.
ProXR is a radical departure from traditional bat design. It is distinguished by an ergonomically correct, angled knob that works with the range of motion of the human hand. With supporting surfaces contoured to a batters' base hand, ProXR works with the changes that occur between the bat and the batter’s hands during a baseball swing. In addition to reducing the knob compression forces that cause problems, ProXR provides performance advantages to the batter – more precise bat control, greater plate coverage and better transfer of power from the hands to the ball.
The status quo for bat design is unacceptable when fans are being hit by thrown bats and players are breaking hamate bones. The standard bat knob is the cause and ProXR is the solution to those problems. Players and coaches need to know that the ProXR technology can be made available for their bats. Just contact your bat company and point them to this Kickstarter project.
Join me in this revolution to bring ProXR technology to baseball. Contribute to this project and spread the word about it to everyone you know who loves the game of baseball. You can have a hand in making baseball history with this project.
Some of the Rewards
Why This Project
Performance – so players, trainers and coaches can learn how conventional bat knob compression negatively impacts the performance of a batter's swing and learn that there is a new high-performance bat technology available.
Protection – for the fans, players and teams who are at risk of thrown bats and hand injuries from outdated bat design, which has long outlived its usefulness.
Progress – to evolve baseball bat technology into the 21st century with testing that challenges 135 years of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Passion – This is my opportunity to contribute my creativity, talent and thinking to baseball. For me, what makes Kickstarter so powerful is that it gives us a platform to connect, contribute to and support a common passion, in this case, a baseball bat project. It’s an open-ended connection that we can share with our friends and fellow baseball supporters to bring something new and exciting to baseball. We can all have a hand in bringing this new innovation to the game of baseball.
Testing ProXR and conventional bats will be done with pressure-sensitive gloves connected to a computer and synced to a high-speed video camera. Testing will allow for consistent and repeatable swing compression assessment to determine what happens with compression forces in the hand closest to the bat knob. The data feed from the pressure-sensitive gloves will show changes in pressure to the hands over time and the high-speed video will allow us to visually compare what happens to the base hand as the batter swings the bat.
To ensure consistent performance, all players will hit off a batting tee, taking multiple swings per different areas of the strike zone. For each batter, the tee will be adjusted to nine different locations in the strike zone to explore the variances in compression which occur in the different regions of the strike zone. For example, is there more compression on a high & outside swing or on a low & inside swing through the strike zone?
In addition to hundreds of players I’ve already tested using the ProXR technology in batting cages, I conducted an initial round of pressure tests with the help of some great doctors at Washington University School of Medicine, Biometrics Lab. That round of testing showed that a standard bat knob generates compression forces that peak around 80 pounds per square inch in less than 3/10s of a second. That’s like hitting the palm of your hand with a hammer every time you swing a bat. It also showed that ProXR reduces those same compression forces in the hand by nearly 25 percent.
This Kickstarter project will expand upon our initial round of testing with a much larger sample of players, with more bats, using more advanced technology. And, by syncing the data stream to high-speed video, we’ll be able to visually align the specific moments of compression during the swing. It will result in a complete view of data and images of the batters' swing from grip to follow-through. I have to tell you, I’m totally pumped about this testing!
This project started 10 years ago when, quite by accident, I unintentionally lost my grip on the bat I was swinging, nearly hitting my youngest son. Since that moment, I’ve been on a mission to understand how and why players lose control and throw bats when batting. What I have discovered is that conventional bat knobs generate huge amounts of compression to the key structures of a batters base gripping hand, which can induce batters to throw bats that threatens fans and players with serious injuries (see “Thrown Bats” below). I also discovered that knob compression causes a variety of hand injuries that plague players at all levels of baseball (see “Broken Hamate” below).
ProXR – Development Timeline
7/26/03 - Bat thrown by accident starts the ProXR development journey
8/9/05 - Patent application filed
3/25/06 - Spring Training with St. Louis Cardinals, Jupiter FL
4/14/06 - MLB determines the ProXR design is legal for use in play
5/18/06 - NCAA determines the ProXR design is legal for use in play
6/29/10 - ProXR Patent approved, U.S. Patent 7,744,497
9/5/10 - New York Mets Mike Hessman hits a stand up double with a bat featuring the ProXR angled knob technology – the first hit ever in MLB with ProXR technology
9/10/10 - Prince Fielder begins using bats with the ProXR technology
1/8/11 - ProXR named “Best of Show” at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Nashville, TN
3/13/11 - Spring Training testing with the Cardinals in Jupiter, FL and with the Mets in Port St. Lucie, FL
3/15/11 - Received notice that ProXR was accepted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame In Cooperstown as the first angled knob bat ever used in Major League Baseball
3/4/12 - Spring Training testing in Arizona with the Brewers, Angels, A’s and Rockies
The ProXR technology has been presented to some of the biggest bat companies in the game. But even with its list of achievements, performance benefits, protection features and use at all levels of baseball, bat companies are resistant to this new concept in bat design. 135 years of bat design, tradition and history are huge hurdles for bat companies to overcome, hence the need for this project.
From the players perspective, they are fiercely loyal to their brand of bat – it’s about the performance, balance, feel, wood quality and finish. Competing with the bat companies is not the objective for ProXR – to collaborate with them is. I want to provide baseball with conclusive test results and evidence that shows the conventional baseball bat causes immediate and real dangers for the game of baseball, the fans and the players who swing the bats. I also want to more specifically identify the performance advantages the ProXR technology delivers.
Stretch Goal - ProXR in Metal & More Wood Bats
In the event this project is fortunate to get funding over the goal, we’ll begin the process of making the ProXR bat in metal for testing and possible limited sales. We’ve already begun creating the 3D CAD files for the knob but the process of making the dies is where the heavy cost is.
Sourcing the production of the handles and barrels is an ongoing process and will only happen in earnest once the testing phase of the project is complete. This is a first look at the CAD drawings that will be used to create the dies for the ProXR metal knobs.
Additionally, if we hit our stretch goal, we will produce another run of 200 ash ProXR bats for those of you who weren't fortunate enough to get your hands on the initial offering of 80 bats.
For this project, the billets – or bat blanks – will be turned, weighed, graded and sorted, then shipped to another bat manufacturer to turn the knob. ProXR bats are made only from pro-grade, straight-grain ash produced by a company experienced in professional wood bat production. I have a supplier of consistently high-quality ash and find they perform exceptionally well. For this production run and round of testing, we’re going to keep things simple and use only ash bats rather than ash and maple. There has been plenty of research conducted comparing the two, and since the focus of this project is on compression forces, which are shape and design-dependent, not material-dependent, we’ll be using ash.
For the proposed production run, we plan to make bats in 32”, 33” and 34” lengths. We also plan on making three of the most common styles of bats in the prior lengths – XR-271, XR-110 and XR-243. For the proposed tests, most players will find these three bat styles are a close match to the style of bat they currently swing. The bats will all have a natural finish with some of the test bats having black markings on the barrels for video purposes.
As they were in the past, all ProXR bats will be numbered on the knob and initialed by me so I can track every bat.
The Knob Compression Factor
Baseball bats with knobs at the end of the handle have basically been the same for over 135 years. When bats were first developed, players didn’t hold the bat down on the knob, they choked up on the bat. The knob acted like a restraint to prevent the hands from slipping off the end of the handle, but the knob did not come in contact with the batters base hand during the swing.
Fast forward 135 years and the bat knob is still basically the same – it’s still round and on the end of the bat handle. The big difference from then to now is that the batters method of gripping the bat has changed from up on the handle to down on the end of the handle with their palm resting against or wrapping over the knob.
The peak moment of compression, which causes thrown bats and broken hamate bones, happens immediately after the intended moment of contact with the ball (hit or miss). Because batters swing the bat around their body, their hands must roll over the knob of the bat. At that moment, the knob compresses the area of the hand called the hypothenar – the padded area of the palm opposite the thumb.
Underneath the hypothenar are the ulnar nerve (which controls the grip of the pinky & ring fingers) and the hamate bone. Both the ulnar nerve and the hamate bone are vulnerable to excessive knob compression. It’s that knob compression which can result in serious consequences like thrown bats and broken hook of hamate bones.
Talk to a player who has just thrown a bat and ask them what happened. The answer will always be the same, “I don’t know, it just flew out of my hands.” Even with pine tar or other grip enhancements, they still threw the bat. Players will all look at their hands and wonder how it could have happened. The answer isn’t in their hands, its at the end of the bat – excessive knob compression.
The most dangerous aspect of thrown bats is that they almost exclusively land in foul territory and usually fly over the dugout and into the crowd. It’s one thing for a 5-ounce baseball to land in the stands, but a bat weighs a minimum of 30-ounces and has an erratic flight pattern. There’s a reason people don’t play catch with bats!
Most players grip the bat with their base hand firmly tucked against the knob, which perfectly aligns it over the ulnar nerve. The ulnar nerve carries the signal from the brain to the ring and pinky fingers and for gripping a baseball bat, those two fingers are the key to maintaining a strong and stable grip.
In a fraction of a second, knob compression interrupts the signal from the brain to the hand. In that time, the grip of the base hand fails and the bat is released from the bottom gripping hand first. The top hand can only maintain grip for a split second more as the rotational/centrifugal forces pull it away from the batter.
Watch the first video below carefully and notice how the top hand is the last to release the bat, which then helicopters out of the players hand. You will see the top hand follow the path of the bat because it was the last hand to release the bat.
For reasons not yet known, it’s very rare to have a thrown bat occur when contact is made with the ball. My theory is that contact with the ball reduces the speed and force of the barrel of the bat just enough that the knob compression on the ulnar nerve’s signal is not interrupted.
With the power and ferocity that bats fly into the stands, you have to be amazed that no one has been killed yet.
Virtually every broken hamate injury in baseball occurs to the players non-dominant hand. Batters who throw right and bat right, or throw left and bat left, grip the bat with their non-dominant hand against the knob. The same knob compression that induces thrown bats is responsible for the broken hamate bone. In rare cases, players can break both of their hamate bones if they switch hit – like Pablo Sandoval did.
The day I started setting up the video for this project, Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox, broke his hamate swinging on a 2 & 2 fastball in a game against the Washington Nationals. Below is a link to the video of that swing. He just had surgery and is out for 6 to 8 weeks and will return about the same time this project will be in full swing. I would like to know how much that injury cost his team, his career and how it might impact his performance in the future.
Below is a partial list of players who have broken their hamate bone swinging a baseball bat, either in batting practice or in a game.
Albert Almora - Cubs
Yonder Alonso - Reds
Pedro Alvarez - Pirates
Willy Aybar - Rays
Keon Barnum - White Sox
Jose Bautista - Blue Jays
Gordon Beckham - WhiteSox
Joe Benson - Twins
Domonic Brown - Phillies
Jose & Ozzie Canseco - Athletics
Chris Dickerson - Reds
Danny Espinosa - Nationals
Eric Farris - Twins
Adonis Garcia - Yankees
Nomar Garciaparra - Red Sox
Carlos Gomez - Mets
Ken Griffey Jr. - Mariners
Robbie Grossman - Pirates
Tony Gwynn, Jr. - Dodgers
Eric Hinske - Blue Jays
Brandon Jacobs - Red Sox
Ryan Kalish - Red Sox
Andrew Lambo - Pirates
Jed Lowrie - Red Sox
Zack Lutz - Mets
Nick Markakis - Orioles
J.D. Martinez - Astros
Joe Mather - Cardinals
Derrick May - Cardinals
Arron Miles - Cardinals
John Nelson - Cardinals
Derek Norris - Nationals
David Ortiz - Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia - Red Sox
Wily Mo Peña - Red Sox
Nick Ramirez - Brewers
Scott Rolen - Phillies
Pablo Sandoval (double trouble) - Giants
Gary Sheffield - Yankees
Jim Thome - Indians
Troy Tulowitzki - Rockies
Tim Wheeler - Rockies
Ryan Zimmerman - Brewers
NCAA Players (I could use some help with this list please)
Troy Channing - Saint Mary’s
Kyle Farmer - Georgia Bulldogs
Jason Grove - Washington State
Javi Herrera - University of Tennessee
Noah Jackson - Cal
Jake Mahon - University of Evansville
Warren Morris - LSU
Jared Norris - Oregon State
Jake Rodriguez - Oregon State
Dante Rosenberg - Gamecocks
Andrew Susac - Oregon State
Josh Tobias - Gators
This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you’re an MLB or NCAA player who has broken his hamate swinging a baseball bat, let me know and I’ll include your name on this list.
Not A Tool Handle
A typical question I am asked when players first see ProXR is ‘“Isn’t this just like a tool handle, like a hammer or ax?” No, looks are deceiving. We experimented with various tool handle shapes early in the development of the ProXR design. What we quickly learned was that any tool handle like a hatchet, sledge hammer or ax with an oval shape, is wrong for a baseball bat handle and knob – round is the only solution.
Every swing of a tool ends at contact with the object targeted by the swing. The oval shape of a tool handle helps drive the hands to the point of contact. The oval keeps the wrists “locked” in alignment with the swing. That “locked” position is perfect for chopping wood, but an oval shape is not good for a baseball swing. Anyone who has swung a baseball bat knows that a baseball swing is rotational, which mandates the wrists to roll over the handle after swinging through the contact zone. That can’t easily happen with wrists “locked”.
ProXR is specifically round in orientation to allow the wrists to roll smoothly through the swing, without hitting the speed bump effect you would get if you swung a hatchet, ax or conventional bat around your body.
In contrast to the swing of an oval handled tool, a baseball swing requires follow through and wrist roll to complete the swing. Watch how the bottom wrist un-naturally flexes as the batter's hands roll over the knob after contact – that’s where compression maxes out. (Sorry for the music, not my video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZp8llPXa80
Risks and challenges
The Kick – Without funding to produce ProXR bats and perform the testing, the ProXR technology will continue to struggle to make it past the gate-keepers of baseball. Even while players consistently praise the feel and performance of ProXR when they try it, there is little chance of getting ProXR onto the bats players use. Testing is the key to kicking open the doors for ProXR and propelling it into the market.
Testing Cost – Unlike other Kickstarter design projects, the product being supported, ProXR bats, isn’t the focus of this project – the testing of bats is the project. The margin from the contributions can’t be rolled into making more bats and t-shirts, it all goes to the testing, which is pure cost. The testing results will be a valuable asset which will help prove the protection and performance benefits of ProXR and ultimately bring about advancements in bat protection and performance.
–Testing equipment rental, high-speed video, bats, balls, tees, insurance, and travel total $17,770
–The balance of the funding required, $26,727, covers the minimums on the bats, cost of rewards and fulfillment of the rewards, plus fees and taxes – remember, the testing goal of this project is pure cost
– Manufacturers require minimums for the billets and bat finishing which are far greater than the 36 bats required for testing
Testing With MLB – I’ve had good luck in the past meeting with individual pro players at the MLB level to show them the ProXR bat. But getting in to groups of players to do testing at the MLB level will be difficult if not impossible. If we’re able to get a groundswell of support for this project from MLB players we may have a chance of testing with a team or two. It will take players who are interested in learning about the problems with conventional bats who are also willing to try new bat technology. The best bet for ProXR is to test with minor league teams and NCAA teams first. If you have influence with any MLB team, NCAA team, player or organization, please let them know about this project.
Bat Production – Producing a quantity of bats for testing is a custom process requiring minimums that exceed the number of bats required so the cost is very high. The bat maker is forced to break out of their standard operation and dedicate time, equipment and resources to produce ProXR bats – a ProXR bat takes two steps to shape compared to one for conventional bats. Forecasting the number of bats we will need to produce for testing, plus the additional number of bats needed for rewards makes forecasting our initial run of bats difficult. Lead times will be difficult to forecast in the short term given that fitting a run of ProXR bats into the workflow can be hit and miss.
MLB Game Video – We don’t want to actually induce thrown bats during testing. We only want to understand the forces at this point, not cause them. We would like to get access to high-quality slow-motion video of players throwing bats in games. This can only happen if MLB grants us access to footage from broadcasts. Any assistance you can provide to make this happen is most appreciated.
The "Single Up the Middle" Contribution – Contributors at this level will receive the final report with test results, emailed in PDF form, soon after testing data has been compiled and the report has been finalized and produced.
The "Stand-Up Double" Contribution – Contributors at the $25 level and up, will receive a PDF copy of the final field test report and have their name included in the “Stand-Up Double” section at the end of the final field-testing report.
The "Designated Hitter" Contribution – This heather-gray T-shirt shouts to the world that you helped support this ProXR testing project on Kickstarter. “I helped Kickstart ProXR” gray athletic T-shirt – see the shirt below. Sizes are S, M, L, XL, XXL. In addition to this shirt, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the “Designated Hitter” section at the end of the report.
The "Power-Hitter" Contribution – The ProXR "Power 2 The Hitter" baseball shirt with 3/4 length red sleeves and heather-gray body – see the shirt pictured below. Probably the coolest looking baseball shirt in all of baseball, but that's just our humble opinion. Sizes in S, M, L, XL, XXL. In addition to the baseball shirt. Contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "Power-Hitter" section at the end of the report.
The "Batter Up!" Contribution – A ProXR ergonomic baseball bat of your choice, initialed and numbered by Grady Phelan, the inventor. There are three styles of ProXR bat, XR-271, XR-110 and XR-243. You will have your choice of 32", 33" and 34" lengths. All bats are -3 weight to length ratio. All ProXR bats for this project are made with pro-grade, straight-grain ash. In addition to the bat, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "Batter Up!" section at the end of the report. In the event we attain our stretch goal, we will produce a second run of 200 ProXR bats for this contribution level.
The "Squeeze Play" Contribution – This industry-level reward is an in-depth, detailed printed and PDF version of the final report including all in-depth data, performance specs and video excerpts with synced data from the field testing, including a personal cover letter of gratitude from Grady Phelan thanking you for this generous contribution. In addition to the industry-level report, your name will be featured in a special "Squeeze Play" section at the end of the final field testing report.
The "Walk-Off Home Run" Contribution – This collectors edition ProXR bat, 34" ash XR-110 in black, signed by Mike Hessman – the first MLB player to ever use and get a hit with the ProXR Technology in a game while he played for the New York Mets. Mike’s bats from that first at-bat were accepted into The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The bats will be numbered and also signed by Grady Phelan, the inventor. Mike currently plays in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He is distinguished as the current active home run leader in Minor League Baseball. In addition to the signed bat, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "Walk Off Home Run" section at the end of the report.
The "That's A Winner!" Contribution – One of four ProXR test bats (32", XR-110) signed by all players who participate in the field testing - MLB, NCAA, minor league and amateurs. A signed letter of authenticity will accompany each bat. The number of players estimated to participate is 60 to 80. In addition to this very special bat, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "That's A Winner!" section at the end of the report.
The "Mr. October" Contribution – This single contributor will receive the very first ProXR production metal bat to come out of the assembly process. This first production ProXR metal bat will be laser engraved with their name, autograph and date on the barrel. A letter of authenticity signed by Grady Phelan, the inventor, will accompany this first-of-its-kind, metal baseball bat. In addition to this very special bat, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "Mr. October" section at the end of the report.This reward dependent on reaching our $20,000 stretch goal.
The "Holy-Cow!" Contribution – We’ll bring our team to your team's home town (continental US only) with our field testing equipment for one day and test with the players from your team – players must be 18 years or older to participate. The contributor for this reward must provide the outdoor field location with an indoor back-up in case of inclement weather. Team permission is required and all players are required to sign a waiver in order to participate in the testing with the bats.
• Each player who participates will get a bat of their choice, size (32”, 33” or 34”) and style (XR-110, XR-271 or XR-243) delivered in August.
• 1 high-speed video clip (digital) of each player during testing, posted online for download.
• Data from the testing will be included in our final report
• Players get to sign the four test bats featured in reward #7
• Scheduling for this reward will be determined based on distance, previously scheduled testing and date-of-contribution priority.
In addition, contributors will also receive a PDF copy of the final field test report with their name included in the "Holy Cow!" section at the end of the report.