To understand the history of DeMarini, you need to know the man behind the brand.
“I don’t do anything halfway. I’m either not interested or I’m obsessed. I’m just a freak.”
Ray DeMarini was one-of-a-kind. At the age of 40, playing on his company softball team quickly turned into a full-blown obsession with the sport. To become a competitive tournament softball player at 5’6” and 185 lbs., Ray knew he had to train smarter to hold his own amongst other hulking players. His scientific approach to training, a 96 mph batting speed and a bombastic attitude quickly earned him the reputation of a savage competitor among the biggest guys in his league.
Once on the pro circuit, it wasn’t long before Ray was discovered by ESPN producer Erich Lytle. Impressed by his knowledge and technique, Lytle tapped Ray to host a series of instructional softball videos called “Ray DeMarini’s Reflex Hitting System,”—still the most successful home video in ESPN’s history.
“The top bat manufacturers weren’t innovating. I realized there was a great opportunity to create a technical bat for the sophisticated ball player.”
Leveraging his name recognition and earnings from the videos, Ray turned his attention to creating an earth-shattering high-performance bat. He had the gumption but he needed an engineer—or as Ray put it—“a boot-strapping rocket scientist who could build an empire with pocket change.”
Ray’s friend Mike Eggiman, a Freightliner engineer, was adept at making something out of nothing. He seemed like the perfect person to help Ray build his empire on a shoestring budget. Soon DeMarini Sports would begin operating out of a dirt-floored barn. “There was no heat,” Ray recalled, “but every once in a while we’d feel the hot breath of a cow standing behind us.”
The two had great success with their tag-team operation, and as the company grew their collaborative dynamic stayed the same. With Ray at the helm and Mike as Chief Engineer, DeMarini Sports went on to deliver a series of industry firsts: the first high-performance youth bat, the first multi-wall bat and the first high-performance bat for massive players.
“Business is like sports. You’d better be ready to compete or you’re going to get your head handed to you. ”
While competitors’ corporate executives kicked their feet up in fancy corner offices, Ray split his time between a windowless office next to a batting cage and out on the field—hitting balls for up to 6 hours a day.
Ray was the personification of insane dedication. Even after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 1998, Ray kept working. When the cancer eventually claimed his eye, he was still out at the field—hitting in an eyepatch.
Ray’s intensity and drive remains at the core of the company today. From a dirt-floored shack to today’s 80,000 sq. ft. industrial complex, DeMarini keeps checks checking off milestones at a clip that would make Ray proud.