Team Canada outfielder Jeff Ellsworth headed home from the 2008 Pan Am Games in Mexico with a silver medal and a desire to do better.
He started working out in his barn using an old bat with a towel duct-taped to the end of it.
“My production went up and up and up,” he described his progress.
“As a good coach once told me: ‘It’s not your job to get a hit.’ It’s my job to hit the ball as far as I can and to make it as difficult as possible for the defender.”
He said the training aid has helped him achieve that.
Ellsworth and his business partner Jeff Keough recently took the modern version of his invention, Exit Speed Swing, to a Charlottetown audition for the CBC hit television show, Dragons’ Den. They’ve already received their invitation to appear before the show’s dragons in CBC’s Toronto Studios on May 7.
“It was a game-changer for me,” Ellsworth said in describing the impact of his homemade invention.
Ellsworth played outfield for Team Canada from 2005 to 2015, the final ones as captain, and he is on Team Canada’s 2018 athletes pool roster. He’s eligible to attend a development camp in Ontario in June. He is also coach of Canada’s Junior Men’s team and, after a two-year hiatus, is returning to the roster of one of Canada’s top men’s softball teams, Hill United Chiefs.
A world all-star hitter, Ellsworth said he and Keough started updating his Exit Speed Swing training aid in 2013 and they finished the prototype in the fall of 2017.
“Parents loved it, kids loved it,” he said in describing the response following its introduction at clinics. “It’s a training aid to strengthen the muscles to increase exit speed,” he said.
“It helps athletes hit the ball harder and further.”
Their invention earned them a $25,000 grant last year from the provincial Ignition Fund which assisted them with development costs.
The components for the patented training aid - a neoprene sleeve with a metal ring encased at the end, and a durable towel - were manufactured in China. The rings are designed to fit over the knob of both softball and baseball bats. The towel component comes in three sizes, Mach I for ages 12 and under, Mach II for 16 and under and Mach III for adults. He expects the aid to retail for $49.99 (US). He says both baseball and softball players will benefit from the training aid.
For the Toronto appearance before the Dragons, Ellsworth and Keough plan to bring along one of the world’s top softball hitters, Ellsworth’s good friend Nick Shailes and Keough’s seven-year-old son, Max who has been hitting the ball well. They hope to include a member of Canada’s 2020 Olympics-bound women’s softball team and a baseball player in their pitch.
But the business partners are not sitting back waiting for an audition; they are making contact with sporting goods stores and Ellsworth is reaching out to his broad network of softball contacts to get a start on marketing.
He knows awareness about exit speed swing is exploding. He recently saw a video on social media of ball players in Argentina using a towel duct-taped to their bats.