VERDI, Nev. (KOLO) -- A Verdi company is attracting attention from major league teams across the United States, including the World Champion Chicago Cubs. The business is called Sports Attack and it makes pitching machines.
Douglas Boehner played for the Wenatchee Chiefs in 1955. The team was a part of the PCL, "Pacific Coast League". PCL was equivalent to the MLB division today.
The inventor and founder is Douglas Boehner. He calls the pitching equipment he designed the Cadillac of the industry and says you'll likely see three to 15 machines with each major league baseball team.
"Joe Maddon (baseball manager for the Chicago Cubs) had a say a little bit in the design. I know Joe. I've known him for many years and I made preliminary drawings and sent them to him and asked for comments and he had a hand in it," Boehner said. "I think we dominate major leagues. I just don't see other machines in major league complexes or in their spring training," he continued.
So how did this elite pitching equipment find its manufacturing home in Verdi? To answer this question we need to rewind the clock to tell Boehner's story.
"I can't take credit for everything, but essentially I hold all the patients," he said.
Boehner started playing street ball when he was only 9 years old in the 1940s. He also played in high school, college, and professionally for the Wenatchee Chiefs in 1955 in the Pacific Coast League, which is the equivalent of today's MLB division.
In the 1960s he coached high school baseball in the San Jose area for more than a decade. Boehner was not happy with the pitching machines on the market and decided he could make a better model.
"So I got involved with an inventor and one thing led to another and I'm here now," he said.
In 1997 Boehner moved to Nevada to launch Sports Attack. His son Kurt Brenner is the Vice President of Sales.
"The business climate was really good to start up a small new business. All of our vendors are 15 to 20 minutes away," Brenner said.
Production Pattern & Foundry is about 10 miles east of Carson City in Mound House. It produces parts for Sports Attack machines.
Vice President of Production Steve Cochran says he has worked directly with Boehner on his machines. "He'd come in with a sketch of something on a cocktail napkin where you could see the rings from his cocktails on his drawings," he said.
Sports Attack pulled ahead with Boehner's innovations and now it's defending its position as one of the best pitching machine makers in the world by focusing on quality.
"All of our parts are either aluminum- or powder-coated. The motors are designed with extra horsepower in mind to meet the daily rigorous standards of daily practice needs," said Brenner.
The machines are precise, powerful and quiet, and have the biggest ball-throwing wheel in the business.
"It's the reason the machine can throw a 100-mile-per-hour fast ball or a 78-mile-per-hour curve ball, slider or knuckle ball," Brenner said.
"We're very concerned with quality. We try to keep the view of the coach and the user, and having lived through all that, something you don't have to walk around with a wrench in your pocket to walk around and it works," said Brenner.
Now major league teams don't want to leave their home city without their Sport Attack equipment.
"They ask us to make a crate for a machine so that it can travel with the team," said Sports Attack President Amanda Pratt.
Sports Attack sold about 3,000 machines last year. The average sale price is between and $2,200 and $3,000.
The company employs 27 full-time workers. "We're not employees. We're not owners. We're just a family. The greatest part of it," said Sports Attack employee Leonardo Rosas.
Fathers and son work side-by-side to make Sports Attack equipment.
Damonte Ranch High School has its own Sports Attack machine. During one practice a coach used the Sports Attack machine to launch footballs 50 yards with ease.
The future is computerization. Sports Attack has a machine on the market that can simulate any major league pitcher.
"You dial in the pitch that you want. You like it. You can save it. Then you can recall it from a menu of pitches that you've already created and saved and you can create sequences," Brenner said.
The machine can throw a curve ball followed by a fast ball high and to the side, but this machine can randomly pick the pitches to prepare batters for a specific pitcher. This newer machine was released in 2017.