Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - The baseball bat wars heated up this week when Marucci Sports announced the hiring of prominent former Louisville Slugger player relations representative Chuck Schupp to put its lumber in the hands of Major League Baseball players as the new season shifts into high gear.
The high-stakes battle of the baseball bat brands has been a news item over the past two years as Marucci matched and then surpassed longtime leader Louisville Slugger as the most popular bat used by big league players. Last month, Louisville Slugger announced it was being acquired by Wilson Sporting Goods with the intention of revitalizing the 131-year-old company.
Marucci, though, has counter-punched by bringing in Schupp, who was the face of Louisville Slugger for 35 years, signing hundreds of MLB players to equipment- usage contracts while leveraging tradition and his company's designation as the official bat of Major League Baseball. After joining his Kentucky hometown company in 1979, Schupp had retired last year and was advising players on post- playing career opportunities.
The brand of bat that influential star players use directly impacts the sale of bats and other baseball equipment across the entire sport, so millions of dollars are at stake as the two companies battle to win the favor of the best players at the professional level.
"I'm looking forward to getting back into the clubhouse with the players on behalf of Marucci," said Schupp, who was a pitcher at the University of Louisville and played briefly in the minor leagues. "It'll be interesting to see what Wilson intends to do with Louisville Slugger going forward."
At the MLB All-Star Game last July in Minneapolis, Marucci bats were used by 18 players, while Louisville Slugger (and other brands) had no more than six. One of Marucci's advantages is its involvement with top players like Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who is a member of the Marucci board of directors, and David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox), Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels), Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies) and Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), who are members of the advisory board. All are investors in the 12-year-old company.