Archive for  February 28th 2018

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AMES, Iowa  —  Spring training is well underway in Florida and Arizona, and it won’t be long before the season begins. For a group of baseball from Ames, though, opening night is already here. After years of product development, their invention is ready to be presented to the open market.

“We all want it to just work so that kids hit and hit better.”

It does, and they do–so far.

Meet the Magic Tee, the brainchild of local baseball dads tired of the same old, same old.

“You can make a good swing and the tee falls over. Well, what kind of feedback is that?”

Pick it up, put it back, isn’t there a better way? Ryan McGuire vented to his friend, Rob 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,'” Kibbe said.

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 wondered.

“He had this crazy contraption on an engine hoist and then a shop vac all hooked up and it worked.”

But the journey from that 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? It’s hard! It took, like, six months and 18 tries,” he said.

Her it is, though, 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.”

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.

“People are looking for things like this all the time,” said Schill.

Schill and Haila are 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,'” said Haila.

The pair then shot a slick video featuring McGuire, which 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. 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,” said Schill.

For decades, hitting tools have come and gone. The ones that have stuck have been the ones that kept working.

“We want them to drag it to the field and use it, take it home, charge it up, and be able to use it the next day.”

In an age when many parents are spending small fortunes on their 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. 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. If that happens, the Magic Tee should be ready to ship next January.

PERRY, Iowa  —  “When this bill was passed in 2013, the legislature made a promise to cities, counties, and school districts that they would make those backfill payments in a standing appropriation,” said Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson. “And for them to, only five years later, go back on that promise is really disheartening.”

Peterson says cities throughout Iowa need that backfill money.

“The cities rely on their tax base, the state cut their tax base, so we rely on that backfill,” said Peterson. “And our citizens rely on us to provide services to them.”

But without backfill payments from the state, those services may be forced to cut back.

“In Perry, we’d be looking at about an $80,000 cut to our revenues,” said Peterson. “About $41,000 of that would be in our general fund, which would either have to be made up in cuts and over the years with other things that have gone on, we’ve cut to the point where right now, it’s gonna be either services, jobs, or the possibility of increase in fees.”

Perry Police Chief Eric Vaughn is concerned about the impact the loss in revenues could have on his department.

“It could affect all kinds of things from maintenance on equipment to maintenance on vehicles to funds that we provide to personnel,” said Chief Vaughn. “Not only full time officers, but we do have part time positions, not only as police officers but as dispatchers, and that might cut that further and not allow us to give those persons as many hours, also.”

And the timing couldn’t be worse, as cities must have their Fiscal Year 2019 budgets certified by March 15th, which makes planning for the future difficult when it’s unclear what state lawmakers at the capitol are going to do.

“We’d have to go back and re-look at everything to figure out where we can make up those shortfalls,” said Chief Vaughn.

And for small communities like Perry, that’s no easy task.

“We don’t have, you know, a huge income with the city of Perry, you know, we’re not as big a department or a city as a Des Moines, West Des Moines,” said Chief Vaughn. “It’s going to be harder for us to make up those small amounts than maybe one of those other cities could.”

Alan Kemp, Executive Director of Iowa League of Cities, sent Channel 13 the following statement in regards to this issue:

“We are disappointed to see SF2081 pass out of subcommittee. In 2013 when the legislature enacted sweeping property tax reform, they made a commitment to local governments by backfilling revenue losses on commercial and industrial property. This legislation phases out these backfill payments over just a two year period beginning in FY2019 – a budget that many cities have just approved. While the impact will be unique in each city, this will result in forcing cities to make tough choices about cutting services valued by their citizens. Many cities are already struggling with declining revenues and populations. This will harm all cities and not help revitalize rural communities.”