Necessity truly is the mother of invention. In 2013, Dr. Gary Long was coaching a 16U baseball team. There was a player on his team, Jake, who was an excellent fielder and pitcher, but he was really struggling at the plate.
Coach Long watched him in the batting cages at practice, and noticed that his swing was really disconnected. He clearly had some bad habits that were preventing him from executing a connected swing.
Coach Long began working with Jake to improve his swing, and after three hitting sessions, he wasn’t making any progress. The traditional hitting drills that he had used in coaching kids in the past just weren’t working.
Despite both of their best efforts, Jake just couldn’t get the slack or disconnectedness out of his swing. After their third hitting session together, Coach Long went home and sat on his back porch, bothered by his inability to help Jake fix his swing.
Coach Long was suddenly struck by the idea of the Rope Bat. Swinging with a flexible bat (like a rope) would force Jake to get the slack out of his swing.
He felt excited, hopeful and extremely motivated to test his theory.
The following morning, Coach Long immediately started bringing his idea of the Rope Bat® to life.
He purchased some supplies from Walmart and Lowes and developed the first Rope Bat® prototype on his kitchen table.
It wasn’t pretty, but his 30+ years of coaching experience told him that it was exactly what Jake needed to connect his swing.
THE FIRST SWING
That evening, he brought the Rope Bat® to hitting practice and asked Jake to try it out.
He put a Wiffle ball on a tee and watched Jake swing. And miss. And miss. And miss.
On his fourth swing, he nicked the ball. On his sixth swing, he made good contact.
On his tenth swing, he smoked the ball.
Jake looked at Coach Long with shock, amazement and pride in his eyes and said, “Wow.”
BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Coach Long gradually improved the design of the Rope Bat® and began using it with more and more of his players.
The Rope Bat® helped players in more ways than he initially intended.
Not only did it force a connected swing, but it eliminated multiple swing flaws with players of all ages and levels.
About a year later, Coach R.J. Thomas from Southwestern University saw some players training with the Rope Bat®, and he approached Coach Long about buying some Rope Bats for his own players.
This was the catalyst for turning the Rope Bat® into a swing trainer that he was using with his own players into a swing trainer that would be available to players worldwide.
GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
The Rope Bat® is now a patented swing trainer used by many youth, high school, college and professional teams around the world. The development of the Rope Bat® has come a long way from its early stages. It is now more durable and secure, and it includes a 12 inch grip with a choke up marker to simulate any bat size from 26 to 34 inches. It also includes a complete Rope Bat® Hitting Course that is chock full of valuable drills that can elevate your training with the Rope Bat®. However, teaching hitting should not be over complicated. Players are often so worried about the specific mechanics of hitting that they lose sight of what really matters in a good swing. You can measure how good your swing is by what happens to the ball after you hit it. The Rope Bat® is designed in such a way that a player can just pick it up, start swinging and will quickly see results. The Rope Bat® is the only product on the market that focuses on the entire swing – not just one component of the swing. In order to hit the ball, the player is forced to swing the bat correctly.
After many successful and satisfying years of developing the Rope Bat® business, Coach Long decided to take a step back from the daily operations. In 2021, Coach Long sold the Rope Bat® to a husband and wife team. Colleen Dahlgren, his long-time business consultant, and Eric Dahlgren, a baseball enthusiast, former youth baseball coach and active baseball dad, took over the business with plans to get the Rope Bat® into as many players’ and coaches’ hands as possible. The Dahlgren’s saw how the Rope Bat® transformed their own son’s swing and how it improved his confidence at the plate. They want other players to experience this type of success and confidence boost, and they are eager to make that happen. Gary Long is still actively involved in the Rope Bat® business, but he is also taking time to pursue other opportunities to help develop young hitters. He is planning to offer hitting workshops to coaches across the country in the near future. Jake, his inspiration for the Rope Bat®, has attended college on a baseball scholarship.