Former baseball pro from Bellevue teaming with 'Science Guy' on inventions | Community sports feature
By JOSH SUMAN
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
July 19, 2012 · Updated 9:59 AM
Steve Goucher needed to find a way to stay upright.
The continued stress on his back from repeatedly reaching down, up to one thousand times per session, to pick up baseballs while he put players through workouts was becoming too much to bear and the former professional baseball player and Bellevue resident for the past decade knew there had to be a better way.
But as he searched the marketplace for a device that would alleviate the wear on his back while hitting grounders and fly balls, Goucher couldn't find a single piece of equipment that suited his needs.
So he created his own.
"It's a pain in the neck to pick up balls all the time," Goucher said. "I went to McClendon Hardware and found a plumbing fitting with an open end and it kind of went from there."
With that simple plumbing fitting, Goucher created the prototype for the Skipper Stick, a modified fungo bat (specifically designed for baseball coaches to more easily hit grounders and fly balls during practice) that can grab a ball off the ground with an easy jab and has already sold more than 1000 units online.
Goucher said the process was relatively simple, but got a drastic improvement when former television personality and avid baseball fan Billy Nye, the "Science Guy" added his touch.
"He took out his pocket knife and basically cut some grooves into it," Goucher said. "It worked a lot better."
Nye, who met Goucher through a mutual acquaintance and trained with him in preparation for a fantasy baseball camp run by the Mariners, has since partnered with Goucher on another invention designed to foster proper throwing technique and has informal plans for several more inventions tied to teaching the game to youngsters more efficiently.
After obtaining a patent for the Skipper Stick's signature baseball-grabbing fitting, Goucher began traveling to industry trade shows around the country and said there is never a shortage of interest.
"Once people see it and use it, it is kind of a no-brainer," he said. "It's so easy and so simple."
Using those connections as well as some he established during his time in the Atlanta Braves farm system, Goucher has got the Skipper Stick in the hands of Major League coaches from the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees. He has also received positive reviews from Hall of Fame players George Brett and Gary Carter, only adding to the legitimacy of a product he hopes can become a mainstay similar to the batting donut.
"If you get a guy like George Brett or Gary Carter to say they like it, it will take off sooner or later," Goucher said.
That process could accelerate soon, with the Skipper Stick already available on Amazon.com, JustBats.com and Sears.com and a handful of companies already in production of the product (the patented fitting is produced in Renton and attached to a bat company's own fungo), the days of coaches needing a player to stand by he or she with a glove or bend down to retrieve fielded balls could be numbered.
"We have a patent on a softball one too," Goucher said, adding that coaches have shown great interest from that side as well. "The piece on the end will last longer than the bat."
Goucher grabs a ball with the Skipper Stick at a local baseball field. Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
A close up view of the Skipper Stick, showing the flex of the cup. Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
Goucher has got the Skipper Stick in the hands of MLB coaches from several franchises. Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
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