By Brian Duryea
The anticipated release of the baseball CF7 and Voodoo Overlord FT from DeMarini reminds me of the first time I heard Bryce Harper’s name. Someone was showing me a video of a 16 year old high school kid from Las Vegas hitting baseballs farther at Tropicana Field than anyone ever had. Sure, he was using a pre-regulation juiced metal bat, but it’s not like others didn’t have plenty of chances to hit round trippers at Tropicana Field with another type of juice. And none of them had ever hit a ball 502 feet. Harper’s shot would become the most talked about high school home run in history.
I would read somewhere later that around the time Harper was born a 5 foot 6 inch 40-something year old firecracker of a man, named Ray DeMarini, was selling juiced softball bats into the amateur ranks of Oregon. He owned a small bat company and was the lone salesman. He could demonstrate his bat’s ability as he air-mailed softballs into orbit. Ray’s bat could turn line-outs into ground-rule doubles and fly-outs into base-clearing jacks. How else could you explain, those listening to the sales pitch must have thought, how this Napoleon-sized man could hit softballs skyward to sink with the sun somewhere in the Pacific Ocean? Clearly, the rumor was, the bat can hit like that on its own.
The bat was a revolutionary double-walled shtick, called the DeMarini Doublewall Distance, and you could buy the bat he sold only after you convinced him you were good enough to swing it. If you qualified, you could, for cash, buy these bats on the spot, right now or never. To say the bat had great pop would be an understatement. The original Demarini Doublewall Distance was so revolutionary it was soon banned in leagues all around the country. Talk about a compliment if I ever heard one.
Ray’s vision was to revolutionize the bat space again by producing the first ever hybrid bat with a composite handle and aluminum barrel. Sadly, Ray would never see his vision a reality. In 2001, at the young age of 55, Ray DeMarini would succumb to cancer. He would leave a vision and dedication to the craft of metal bats that his employees, many of whom still make bats for DeMarini outside of Portland, would inherit and dedicate much of their lives to.
Seven years after Ray’s passing Bryce Harper would stand at the plate in Tropicana Field wielding none other than the reality of Ray DeMarini’s vision: a composite handle and aluminum barrel two-piece bat called the DeMarini Voodoo. Harper’s 502 foot shot heard round the world with the gun that Ray built would travel a field record–a full 30 feet further than Jose Conseco’s record set in 2000.
So as DeMarini comes out with a much anticipated line of their 2015 hybrid and two-piece bats, I can’t help but think how the vision of a Napoleon-sized bomb-dropping firecracker of a man has now found its way into the hands of a new generation of stars.
The good news is those who are interested in buying DeMarini’s 2015 releases no longer need to track down some guy in Oregon selling bats out of his trunk. Also, you need not convince him you have the requisite ball crushing skills to prove worthy of the purchase because, as some say, the bat can hit like that on its own.