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Maker of pitching machines growing into export markets

Rob Sabo

Penetration into foreign markets and introduction of a new product line has led to a 25 percent increase in revenues for Verdi’s Sports Attack, a manufacturer of pitching machines and similar sports-training devices.

And the introduction of training machines for soccer and cricket players set for the first quarter of 2012 could potentially double the company’s sales in the coming year, says Kurt Brenner, vice president of sales.

Sports Attack recently began selling its Hack Attack pitching machine to professional baseball teams in Japan, an important piece of business that came about through existing sales within Major League Baseball. Japanese-born players who use the company’s pitching machine praised the benefits of Sports Attack’s equipment when they returned home during the offseason, says Amanda Pratt, vice president of marketing, which led to a partnership with a Japanese sports-equipment distributor.

Japanese business executives flew to the United States, toured Sport’s Attack’s Verdi manufacturing facility and used interpreters to forge a contract.

Sports Attack’s initial contract was for a container load of pitching machines, which led to some lessons in international business as well the small Verdi company’s business model formerly was to sell and drop ship one or two machines at a time to professional or collegiate baseball teams in the U.S. It also sells a volleyball-training simulator.

Early this year the company introduced a football kicking and passing machine, the Snap Attack, and so far has made sales to half of the teams in the National Football League, Brenner says.

Other new machines that could help the company continue its growth are training machines for cricket and soccer, and a computer-controlled baseball pitching machine capable of throwing a sequence of pitches, such a fastballs, curveballs and change-ups from either right- or left-handed pitchers.

The cricket and soccer machines are set to hit the market in the first quarter of 2012, while the e-Hack Attack computerized pitching machine is still in development and testing stages.

“I think we are on the road to double our sales in the next two years with these products,” says Brenner.

Future training simulators could larger target sports such as hockey, or niche sports like lacrosse or even water polo. The new product lines especially those catering to sports with wide international appeal most likely will change the face of the company, Pratt says.

“Three years from now we will probably be known as a soccer company, as we are now known as a baseball company.”

Sports Attack operates out of 12,800-square feet of manufacturing and office space in East Verdi. Seeing growth in its future, the company expanded its facility and hired new staff, including an engineer and full-time marketing representative.

“We sacrificed a profit line to invest in overhead,” Pratt says. “We doubled our size and brought on three or four new people. We could probably double our sales in the next couple of years with the people we have.”