Iowa Inventors Hoping for a Hit

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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.