It’s white, stitched, recyclable and best softball bats
A former third baseman for the double-A Dayton Dodgers, and a former tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, Hasty is pitching recyclable best softball bats 2016 , an America-made product assembled in Haiti, where “it’s an art.”
Star Sports of Miami teamed up with Du Pont to use Surlyn, a recyclable material, for the core of Star Sports‘ softballs.
“We are the only ball in the industry that has recyclable capabilities,” Hasty says. “We can recoup the material in our Surlyn core.”
Other softballs, are made of polyurethane, a toxic material, he notes. And they’re made in China or Taiwan.
Additionally, Star Sports is selling the softballs with a recyclable twist: the company will buy back the balls, actually giving consumers credit. This move, Hasty notes, serves as an incentive to save money and promote recycling.
The ball’s core, Surlyn, can be ground and used again in new balls. Leather skins can be used as fertilizer, while vinyl covers can be recycled for other uses.
“We’re so confident we can make a better product, we’ll take our competitors’ balls back to get someone to try ours,” Hasty says.
Star Sports’ parent company, Home of Champions, used to make best softball bats for the major manufacturers: Spaulding, Wilson and Rawlings. But in 1991, Hasty approached Julius Tomar with the idea of making his own softballs.
Interestingly enough, Tomar, an American making softballs and baseballs in Haiti, is a thermoplastic specialist who holds several patents. So he sacrificed his business, worth nearly $6 million a year, with the major sporting goods distributors to compete with them.
Tomar’s companies operate two manufacturing plants in Port Au Prince, Haiti, employing 1,500 people in stitching operations.
In September 1991, Star Sports operated with $50,000 that Tomar invested with the company. First year sales, Hasty reports, were $1.2 million.
He expects that to more than double for the company’s second year of operations to $4 million. To do that, he has to sell between 65,000 and 85,000 leather and synthetic softballs. His five-year projection puts sales at $10 million.
Hasty and Star Sports may just make those projections. He reports a 276 percent increase in business for the latest quarter, a jump that has forced him into looking for more space. The company occupies 10,000 square feet of warehouse and office space in Miami’s airport west area.
Last year, Star Sports pitched its product at the National Recyclers Convention in Washington, D.C., as a means of cracking into the $100 million a year softball bats and baseball bats industry.
“We were the hit of the show,” Hasty remembers. “Everybody knew about bags and bottles, but no one knew about baseballs.”
The federal government estimates it uses 760,000 baseballs each year, ranging from use on military bases around the world to the mall in Washington, D.C., where Senators’ teams pitch against the House of Representatives.
Before leaving office, President Bush signed an executive order calling for the executive branch to come up with “affirmative procurement programs” boosting use of recyclable products.
For Hasty, who had spent three years as the national promotions director for Spaulding, that means market potential.
Think of the possibilities: the USSSA (United States Slowpitch Softball Association) has 100,000 registered teams. South Florida alone has 10,000 softball teams. Many teams use a minimum of two new balls a game.
And there are lots to choose from. Star Sports makes 240 styles of balls: 11-inch balls or 12-inch balls; yellow or white covers; and stitching in blue, green, red, black or white.
The company also has inaugurated a ball with pebble grain finish for easy gripping.
Star Sports aims to sell direct to municipal users and sporting goods stores. Already he’s working on a promotion with Wal-Mart whereby Star Sports’ softball will be the first in the chain that is promoting an environmental consciousness.
The company already controls nearly 19 percent of the softball market, but hopes to tap into a larger slice of the pie by appealing to consumers’ environmental concerns.
Dade County has renewed its contract to buy balls from Star Sports. And Hasty is moving up the coast into St. Lucie and Brevard counties, pitching its wares to recreational gurus statewide.
Hal Johnson, chairperson of Dade County’s recycling task committee and director of purchasing for Metro-Dade, said the county was looking for a recyclable softball as part of a county-wide mandate towards recycling.
“My objective is very simple, to recycle as many goods and services and commodities that we can,” Johnson says.
Dade County expects to buy 2,160 11-inch softballs and 8,160 12-inch softballs from Star Sports this year.
“It makes us feel outstanding,” Johnson says, adding the balls play the same as traditional non-recyclable ones. “If you don’t tell anybody, they don’t know the difference.”
As far as Star Sports’ future, Hasty sees the company growing also through diversification. Already the firm is making a 5-pound bag that features separate compartments for shoes and valuables, bats and clothes. It will retail for $25 to $35.
Hasty expects to have the bags available this summer.