Riverton’s Zane Gresback is pictured here at the University of Texas’ Disch-Falk Field during bat and product testing in 2012.
(Baton Rouge, LA) – Baseball is as American as is apple pie, so it makes sense that a relatively young American firm is now the leading supplier of bats to Major League players. When the World Series was on this last week, Riverton native Zane Gresback watched every swing of the bat, and they were mostly bats made by the company he now works for. Gresback is a product category manager – soft goods for Marucci Sports. He’s in charge of such items as batting gloves, sports bags and protective apparel. But the pride he showed in his company came through loud and clear in a County10.com interview on Wednesday.
Gresback noted that in game three of the World Series at St. Louis, 13 of 19 hitters were swinging Marucci bats, and after the deciding game, MVP Big Papi David Ortiz, who hit for .688 in the series, the second highest average in a single fall classic, gave his Marucci bat to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oddly, the St. Louis Cardinals chose not to pitch to Ortiz in that game. He gained three walks and scored twice.
Gresback calls his job at Marucci the dream of a lifetime. “Our company was founded by and owned by major league players and our reputation in the league is very good,” he said. “Our bats are handcrafted here in Baton Rouge. We know the wood, mostly maple and ash, and we produce bats based on what players like and feel.” Gresback said the company was started by Jack Marucci, the head athletic trainer at LSU, in 2002, from a shed in his back yard.
Gresback was a star player in Riverton for his Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion teams. “Zane got started playing T-Ball, and he just kept going up the line, playing for an Iowa Junior College and then on to the Division I program at Tennessee Martin,” said proud father Steve Gresback, the principal at St. Margarets Catholic School. “He’s even designed some gloves for major leaguers.”
Zane said his career at Indian Hills College in Iowa “was like playing in a major league system, we had an International team that won two National Junior College World Series titles and we had nine players drafted into the majors in two years,” he said. “For a kid from Wyoming, it was a really unique time for me. In Wyoming, we’re a little behind the game,” he said, noting that the players who came in from other countries were really skilled. Gresback said he also had a fascination with the south, since he is a Civil War buff himself, and he said he wanted to play in the south where the weather was good and you could play baseball all year. And he chose Tennessee Martin, whose schedule is loaded with teams from the Southeastern Conference. “I wanted to play against SEC caliber players.”
After graduation, Gresback said he wanted to utilize his baseball background to stay in the game, and he said that he admired Japanese products because they were top quality and clean in design. “That part of the game was always fascinating to me. My major in college was public relations with a minor in marketing and I found product marketing to be interesting,” he said.
While looking for a sports job after college, he interned with the Vermont Lake Monsters, a farm team with the Washington Nationals but had a near fatal collision with the team’s center fielder one day. “I was almost killed, I had a brain hemorrhage and had to have multiple face reconstructive surgeries.” With his internship over, he moved to St. Louis and tried his hand in the financial marketing arena, but he said he had no passion for it. Instead, he went to work for Rawlings sporting goods, which had its headquarters there. He began as a team sales service rep. “I learned that I was a really good fit in sporting goods, and was soon promoted to be a product manager for batting gloves, equipment bags and baseball training aids for the next two years.”
The experience that Gresback learned in Riverton turned out to be quite valuable. “My dad was a coach and I learned practically everything in Riverton from how to order uniforms and equipment. I knew the suppliers and the products.” He was again promoted to be the head of Rawlings gloves in May of 2012. “Those were the high end, professional gloves that cost $300 and up,” he said. Because of the sports shows and exhibitions that he traveled to, Gresback said he slowly “fell in love with Marucci’s sports brand.”
Gresback’s latest break came when the head bat engineer left Rawlings for Marucci in Novermber of 2011. “He was hired because they needed to expand. The business was growing. With my expertise in foreign manufacturers, I left Rawlings and signed on with Marucci for the launch of their soft goods. “Marucci is a young and growing brand and this was my opportunity to put my stamp on things,” he said.
For more information on Marucci Sports, click here.