Each year, the American Baseball Coaches Association holds the “world’s largest baseball convention” at the beginning of January, rotating locations.
Four years ago in 2016, it was held in Nashville, TN at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Four years ago, Rapsodo made a name for itself at this very convention where it launched its first diamond sport product still in beta stages.
Seth Daniels, Director of Diamond Sports, was the only U.S.-based employee at the time for the Singapore-based company. Daniels was introduced to the company because of his background in the tech industry. He also was a closer for Anderson University’s baseball team.
Anderson University is a small Division III school. D-III schools often come with limited resources and a limited budget.
“I knew about baseball, but I didn’t know about any tech baseball products, so when I first heard about it, I had never been exposed to any of the data points we have, except for velocity,” Daniels said.
In order to perform successfully with the company, Daniels took it upon himself to learn the physics of baseball to know exactly what the numbers meant.
After 6 months with Rapsodo, and Daniels throwing thousands of pitches, the small company of four felt the product was ready to launch at the show.
“ABCA was dicey to say the least. I had seen it work, but I hadn’t seen it work in that type of environment,” Daniels said.
However, things came together.
The booth setup was basic with a white backdrop decorated with posters and a few monitors. They borrowed a pitching machine from another vendor and had a batting cage that could have ruined the entire effort. At the 2016 ABCA Show, Rapsodo’s batting cage was 30 ft., which is not typically enough room for ball flight.
Even better, the cage was built by Daniels and his dad, Rolland. Who even made a guest appearance at the show as a “temporary” Rapsodo employee.
With Rapsodo being based out of Asia, the employees they had at the time did not exactly know baseball. They were experts in camera and radar technology and knew the product, but did not know the market.
Rapsodo’s booth had a marketing director, Sonia Spring, who previously marketed high-end watches; the founder Batuhan Okur; the lead engineer and algorithm expert; and Daniels.
Daniels solved the lack of baseball knowledge issue by adding Rolland to the team, who coached his son growing up and played college ball himself.
“That day he was not my dad, he was Rolland, an employee of Rapsodo,” Daniels said. “No one to this day, I don’t think, knew he was my father.”
Rolland talked the game to booth visitors and ushered them over to take a look at the data and his son took the lead on talking about the new product. So that was the ground-breaking team. The team that launched the now 70+ employee company that creates industry leading technology in baseball, softball and golf.
The 72ndABCA Convention was a hit for Rapsodo. The product was tested and approved by industry influencers, like Driveline’s Kyle Boddy and the Reds’ Caleb Cotham. Cotham threw and they quickly realized the numbers all checked out. Rapsodo was legit and people like Cotham and Boddy validated this fact.
In fact, Boddy was adamant on buying that very beta unit. Daniels refused, but promised to let Boddy be the first purchaser when the unit was totally ready to go.
And thus, the Driveline and Rapsodo partnership that still lives on today was born.
“They were a big validation partner for us. They did a lot of testing, they had the arms that we needed and a lot of the expertise from the industry to do that before we really built out our staff,” Daniels confirmed.
Rapsodo – the company nobody knew about, was now beginning to gain recognition by industry leaders, including MLB teams.
“This was literally our ‘hey look at us’ sort of moment, and it was the right move to do there because of the people we ended up meeting,” Daniels expressed.
Rapsodo filled a void by creating a practice and player development tool for professionals and amateurs alike.
“We felt we had a spot in the market. We didn’t know it would turn out to be what it is,” Daniels said.
Originally, the company believed their target market would be catered to the amateur market and specifically colleges, high schools and academies.
ABCA proved them wrong. The Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs were two teams that established an early relationship with Rapsodo. These teams provided a gateway for Rapsodo into the MLB market.
After this first show, it was clear to Daniels that education was needed around the subject of data analytics.
“I felt like most of the people, 90% or more, that stopped by the booth had no clue what in the world the data was that we were talking about because they had never seen it. They were excited by it, but they had no clue what it was,” Daniels said.
When hiring staff after this, Daniels told employees half of their job is selling units. The other half was to educate the market on what it is, why they need it, and how to use it.
That first product officially made it to the market in August of 2016. Over 70 monitors were sold in 2016, and orders continued coming in.
Now four years later, the team is heading back to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center with a much larger team and product line up.
Rapsodo is still dedicated to educating the market on data analytics and improving player development.
For ABCA 2020, Rapsodo’s focus will be on their new Certified program. The Certified program enable coaches to fully understand the data collected by Rapsodo and will help them use the data to its fullest potential.
“(Four years ago) from a U.S.-standpoint, we had just me. And now, we are so outrageously more than just me. I transitioned from being a person, to being one of many that do so much more than what I could just do, so it’s really cool to go back to that place with our team,” Daniels expressed.
In 2016, Rapsodo was off to the side, hard to pronounce, and hard to see.
Now in 2020, Rapsodo, an official partner of the ABCA, will no longer be off to the side.
“When the show opens, you walk in and there’s Rapsodo. It’s a pretty cool transformation from where we were four years ago, to where we are now,” Daniels said.
Find out more information on Rapsodo’s presence at the 2020 ABCA Show on our website.