The swing of things
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 10, 2006
Invention by local doctor catching on
in baseball, softball communities
By George L. Jones
The Selma Times-Journal
Practicing baseball in the back yard has a bit of a new twist thanks to a local man.
Donald Buster, D.V.M., is a veterinarian at Selma Animal Hospital with an interesting side job. He is the creator of SwingBuster, a hands-back hitting device that defies the traditional “stride and swing” approach.
“The machine helps control the nature of the swing,” Buster said. “It puts the player in a position where his foot’s already down so he can’t stride during the swing. You want to establish a positive base and rotate around it.
“The physics are completely different.”
Buster said he got the idea after reading a book on hitting by Tony Gwynn. A lot of the concepts seemed very practical to Buster, and he began thinking of ways he could apply them.
The machine basically consists of a cord underneath a crossbar that is attached to a propulsion device. When a hitter steps on the cord, it triggers the device to release a ball into the air, putting it into proper hitting height. It is designed to keep a hitter’s head still and increase bat tip speed.
Not only is the SwingBuster an improvement on an old-school hitting concept, it is an effective way to keep players active in the offseason.
“When kids are playing ball on the Playstation and then going out and hitting 100 to 200 balls in the back yard, there’s no comparison,” Buster said. “It’s not like it used to be years ago when kids would just go out back and hit rocks all day. It’s a modern-day ‘hitting rocks with a stick’ baseball machine.
“If you want to be a better hitter, you’ve got to hit.”
After the initial prototype was created, it was taken to the industrial design department at Auburn University. After modifications were made there, an independent firm molded the final model.
According to Buster’s business partner, Cindy Mosley, the machine has gone from an idea that lost money after its first year into a business that has grown more than fourfold.
“I’m not surprised by it,” Mosley said of the growth. “We started out with a good product and a good group of buyers – people in the baseball and softball community – and expanded from there. I handle the business side of it, so on my end, I expected it to grow this much. On Donald’s end, he didn’t really expect it. He’s the idea man; he thinks up the concepts and finds ways to market them. But from a business end, this is totally on track for what I expected.”
Mosley said the product got a boost from good word of mouth as well as some credible promoters.
Mike Epstein, a former nine-year major league veteran, was one of the original users of the machine. According to Mosley, he began using it in his hitting clinics, and that made it more popular among high school and college coaches.
Buster said the biggest market is among 8 to 14-year-olds, but they are also selling to more and more college coaches.
With the recent addition of a Youth model – which uses a smaller, plastic ball – the company will be able to market to a bigger range of customers.
The SwingBuster has been sold to sports retail companies like Eastbay, Baseball Express and Anaconda Sports. The company ships out of warehouses in California and St. Louis.
Mosley and Buster operate the business by themselves now, but as it continues to grow that could change.
“We’re going to try to keep it just us as long as we can,” Mosley said. “We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. As the product is growing, the business is getting more and more intricate. If you follow the trends of growth, it will be off the chart in six years. Of course, you don’t always know about the economy.
“We’re definitely going forward and not backward.”
More information about the SwingBuster can be obtained on the Web at www.swingbuster.com.