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The players gotta get their bats somewhere. Some get them from Michelle Ismaj.

Mar 5, 2013, 12:38 PM EDT

Phoenix Bats

This is Michelle Ismaj, the pro player rep for the Phoenix Bat Company. That fella next to her is Yoenis something. I didn’t write it down.

Michelle’s job: set up a table with her company’s wares outside of teams’ clubhouses, trying to get them to order Phoenix bats. Watching her work for a while and then talking to her, I have decided that her job is both fun and impossible.

The fun part: talking to ballplayers, trying to convince them that the wood from the Plain City, Ohio-based company is simply better than that noise from Louisville and other companies. There’s fun attitude to it all. Like sales reps in any business, Michelle hands out swag. The best: t-shirts with the company’s logo which say “Singles Suck” (which is also the company’s slogan, based on the web page) and “Walk me and save the embarrassment.”  The former of which ruffled the feathers of former MLB’er and current Team Israel hitting coach Mark Loretta, who told Michelle that he made his living hitting singles, so don’t knock ’em. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

The impossible part: trying to get players, coaches, clubhouse attendants and the other folks who make equipment decisions to go with a different company when there are so many other options and when baseball players are, by their very nature, creatures of habit. It’s an additional challenge when Louisville is an official MLB partner and gets to set up inside the clubhouses instead of outside.

But Michelle has a couple of advantages. For one, she’s been in this business for a while, previously repping for a different company, so she knows the competition. Second: her parents are from Mexico City and she grew up with Spanish as her first language, so she has an edge with players whose English isn’t strong. I tried to use my rusty college-level Spanish to hear what she and Cespedes were talking about but lost the thread within ten seconds. The key part, though: Cespedes ordered some Phoenix Bats, so I guess it all worked out.

Michelle gets to the park at 6:30 AM and she’ gone by 11:30, off to a minor league facility or to go pick up sample bats she let someone test drive for a previous day’s game. The next day she’s at a different park. When the major leaguers break camp she hits the extended spring season and the Arizona League and then the Arizona Fall League. We all take mini-vacations to the Cactus League. For her it’s a full time job.

I like talking to people like Michelle. There are so many people who make baseball run besides the conspicuous players, coaches and media. They’re all over Arizona and Florida right now, helping teams get ready. Selling stuff. Buying stuff. Playing some part in an increasingly big and complex industry, most of which we never see.

  1. amartland - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    “Singles Suck”: either the very best, or the very worst Valentine’s Day promotion of all time.

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      “Walk me and save the embarrassment.”

      My dogs need this shirt, rambunctious as they can be if not walked daily.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      Hold out for the “Small Ball” t-shirt.

      • paperlions - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        Yeah, I’m sure that’ll go over big. Would actually be pretty funny if say….Lance Armstrong was wearing it.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        Try it and let me know how it goes.

      • louhudson23 - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:19 AM

        Barry Bonds Model….

  2. psunick - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    She looks pretty hot, Craig. Is she?

  3. Jason @ IIATMS - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I want one of those WALK ME tee shirts, please.

  4. ajcardsfan - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    How about something like, “Phoenix Bats – Keeping players above the Mendoza line since 2000”

  5. historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    But, has she fallen in a fountain at a winter meeting?

  6. sjhaack - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Mark Loretta singlehandedly delivered my fantasy team to Not Last Place one season by hitting more singles than expected, so I will honor his request to not knock them.

  7. phillysteak24 - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    If you cannot remember the baseball player thats standing next to this chick then i dont wanna hear about this article. Btw its Yoenis Cespedes, players make the product.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Dude, I know who it is.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        I’m telling you, the last couple of days the HBT crowds’ funny bones have been in spring training.

      • thebadguyswon - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Sarcasm font needed.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM

        @historio, I got whacked on something innocuous earlier. Maybe it’s sequester stress.

    • shaggylocks - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      “There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.”
      -Yogi Something-or-other

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      if you cannot remember the baseball player thats standing next to this chick then i dont wanna hear about this article

      Of course he knows who it is you dufus. He clearly mentions him by name later in the article. He was being nonchalant about the meeting.

    • cur68 - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Is there any chance this comment is meant in jest? C’mon, lie to me, even. I know Craig didn’t write this in my patented Sarcasm Font™ (yours for a low, low $69.69) but there’s a minimum humour bar a person gets over to even appreciate baseball, right?

      Even that scourge to baseball humour, Tim McCarver, can be a little funny. He once equated a ball hit into Brian Wilson’s beard as a ground ruled double. I actually laughed with Tim on that one. Still, as my mom says “even a blind chicken will find corn once in awhile”, so maybe Tim was swinging with his eyes closed? I really don’t want to try and get too far in the mind of McCarver.

      Nevertheless, its a pretty poor show if the commenter gallery isn’t funnier than McCarver.

      So . . . you were kidding, right? Or. . . is that YOU, Tim?

    • ryanrockzzz - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      If I take everything literally then wouldn’t I say the bat company makes the product?

  8. ch0psuey - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Cool Chick. I was thinking of one of the many jokes one could make with her holding Cespedes’s Bat but I think I will try to stay above that level.

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Great! Now I am imagining all the possible jokes. You basically put them in my head without saying them aloud.

  9. hockeyflow33 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Curious why you wouldn’t have someone who played the game as your sales rep.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      One of their other sales reps is former minor leaguer Doug Deeds.

    • albertmn - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Women can sell to men. I know that will sound sexist, and likely is, but it is also true. Unfortunately, it is why a female server in a restaurant will likely get a better tip from me male server. I can know it is wrong, but it is still what is going to happen.

      Even if she is not a 10, she can likely at least get guys to talk to her and try to make a sales pitch. She will seem less threatening and annoying. A former player will seem like every other schlub trying to get your money, or worse will seem like a sad cautionary tale of where the player might end up if their career doesn’t take off.

    • hockeyflow33 - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      Nah, I get that women sell products. Product reps that I had to deal with in hockey were always male and had always played the game at some level.
      Maybe I’m naive but having a product rep who has demoed the product and can talk specifics was always a bonus in my eyes.

      • louhudson23 - Mar 6, 2013 at 7:21 AM

        Who says she can’t ? Who says she didn’t play?

      • hockeyflow33 - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        I don’t think there are many female baseball players. It’s not a sexist remark, just a fact.

  10. royhobbs39 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    I will be honest, I have never heard of this company. But I went on the website and I saw the bat models and some of the names associated with the company. Jeter, Cabrera, Pujols, Utley. My favorite comments was that a Phoenix bat is one of the two bats that Cabrera used. This meads to the questions – What factors go into deciding which bat he wants to use? Is he contractually obligated to use one a certain amount? How do the two bat companies feel about sharing his slugging duties? I have never won a Triple Crown, thus I do not feel as if I have the capabilities to answer these questions.

    • zzalapski - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Since it’s not time-efficient to harvest bats from trees properly struck by lightning, your curiosity is warranted.

    • sethpbc - Mar 5, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      To answer your questions — Cabrera started swinging Phoenix when he was introduced to us through another bat company that left the business (that was about 3 years ago). He is not contractually obligated to swing us, but presumably does so because we’ve provided him with quality bats. Do you want a guy to swing you solely? Of course! But, we’re still very proud to be one of Miguel’s two bats. Some ballplayers swing one bat, some two, some a number. As you can imagine when they get in a slump, the bat gets the Some players get contracts (you would cringe to hear how much a certain bat company paid guys to swing their bat in the home run derby), some swing it because of the results–it runs the gambit. For clarity and fairness, while the other players referenced are bats that we offer (all bat manufacturers copy each other), they are not Phoenix users…yet. One of the guys we’re real excited about is Adam Eaton of the D-backs, who has the potential to be a rookie of the year candidate. Hope this helps. Seth — GM, Phoenix Bats

  11. coryfor3 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Another informative post from spring training. Yawn.

  12. anxovies - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Craig, no disrespect intended for Michelle and her company, but I can’t wait until opening day when all of this stuff goes away. I bet you can’t wait either. It’s always harder to pretend you are working than to really do it.

  13. randygnyc - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Roy- these players purchase these bats. They aren’t normally sponsors. With that said, these companies have no say over what equipment these players use. They are just happy to get these players to give a good testimonial.

  14. stairwayto7 - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    When is she coming to Peoria?

  15. cggarb - Mar 6, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    Craig, have you been on the tour? It’s a tiny little place – the whole tour comprises maybe 30 yards of walking – but it’s informative and the people are very nice. I took my boys over the holidays and the staff dialed the info down to the 4 year old’s level.

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