Grady Phelan innovated a product that hasn’t changed much in 130 years.
Grady, a graphic designer and baseball enthusiast, created the ProXR bat, which has an ergonomic knob designed to improve a batter’s grip, reduce compression and improve performance. The innovative knob is slanted, which prevents the batter’s hands from rubbing against the conventional bat knob. It reduces the compression forces that cause hand and wrist injuries and it provides a more stable grip for the batter, meaning fewer thrown bats, according to Grady. It also improves performance, giving hitters quicker hands and more power transfer to the ball, says Grady.
Grady won a $25,000 grant as one of five grand prize winners in the Wells Fargo Works Project contest and six months’ of professional business consulting. That timing came at a pivotal moment in Grady’s life.
The same week Grady learned he’d won the prize, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He says that he had dedicated most of the past decade and his personal savings to his company, ProXR, LLC.
“Winning (the contest) was probably most beneficial in solidifying our future as a company,” says Grady. “The door was opened by Wells Fargo for us. We are launching a new product for hockey called the TORCHTM. This product innovation for hockey would have never seen the light of day without the help of Wells Fargo.”
“As America’s leading small business lender, we are committed to doing more to help these businesses, and are thrilled that the Wells Fargo Works Project contest was able to engage, inspire, and most importantly, help hard-working small business owners across the country,” says Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo head of Small Business.
Grady hatched the bat idea in 2003, soon after hitting hickory nuts in the back yard with his son. His bat slipped and flew precariously close to his son’s head. Grady researched rules for bats and patents, realized that he was onto something, hand-created and tested his new bat, and then reached out to Major League Baseball and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
He learned his new knob was legal, but he had difficulty selling the idea to large bat manufacturers. Grady persevered, creating the bats by hand because it’s not possible on conventional machines like a lathe.
A breakthrough came in 2010, when the New York Mets’ Mike Hessman became the first player to use the ProXR in a regular-season game. Hessman, playing at Wrigley Field in Chicago, hit a double with the bat. Grady’s innovative ProXR bat earned a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, for being the first angled knob bat ever used in a regular season Major League game.
Grady, who sells his bats online to high school, college, professional, and senior players, says he will use the Wells Fargo grant to grow his selection of wood bats, expand his offering to metal bats, and develop new grip technologies based on his patented bat designs.
“We’re relaunching ProXR from a bat company into a sports-grip technology company,” says Grady. “With help of the grant from Wells Fargo, our advisors, and investors we’re taking a huge leap forward to improve athletic performance in baseball, hockey, and beyond. Not bad considering all this started with an accidentally thrown bat in the back yard.”