Southsiders develop device to revolutionize training of batters
By Al Stilley
A training device that will revolutionize baseball and softball training for all ages and skill levels is announced today by a group of Southside entrepreneurs.
The patented device, now owned by BU Technologies and rebranded Perfect Swing, improves the hitter’s acceleration of his or her swing at the “point of impact,” according to officials of newly incorporated BU Technologies.
“There is nothing out there like this,” exclaimed Joe Gilliland, president and CEO of Sheet Metal Models Machine & Tool Co., Inc., and vice president of BU Technologies “The final prototype is good enough to go to market. There is a lot that goes into this mechanism, but everybody associated with this project has everything on the right key, the right chord, and the right song.”
The Perfect Swing is a practice device “to help further develop the feel and muscle memory of a proper swing,” according to its U.S. patent. Essentially, the swing training device features a specific sport handle, a shaft, and a slidable weight that moves to a distal end that contacts a stop, creating an audible “snap” giving the swinger tactile and audible feedback to the success of the swing.
Area coaches and athletes are praising the Perfect Swing (see comments by Bobby Plump and Scott Fleming).
The device’s inventor is Michael “Mick” Davenport of Pomeroy, Ohio, who came up with the concept and made a workable prototype. He has a degree in exercise physiology from Ohio University where he became involved with the university’s mechanics program that tests various sports products. He also has coached baseball players from T-ball through American Legion.
“I was looking for something that a multitude of players could use to teach them the proper timing, proper swing mechanics, and improve their velocity at the point of impact,” Davenport recalled in an exclusive interview with The Southsider Voice. “And that’s what this (Perfect Swing) does with a resistance tube and a slide at the end. It’s all of your muscle groups and sequence that causes that weight to slide and hit the end of the shaft. When that happens, you will be at the full velocity and proper timing of your swing.”
Davenport continued, “That’s what produces power – velocity at the point of impact. People think it’s only swing velocity that matters, but it’s the point of impact that matters.”
About 12 years ago, Davenport realized the potential of his idea but did not have the where-with-all to manufacture a prototype or market a final device. He continued to be dissatisfied with his talks with other suitors.
Then Davenport recalled a meeting that took place in southern Ohio in 2002 with Beech Grove entrepreneur Joe Wolfla. At the time, Davenport was a Meigs County Commissioner and Wolfla was representing a group that wanted to develop a residential project. He recognized Wolfla for his ability to introduce and complete a project.
“I like to tinker with stuff and invent things, but it doesn’t do any good unless someone can take it and run with it, and Joe has that ability,” Davenport said. “We both have a sports background. He knows how to move a business along.”
After talking with Davenport, Wolfla reached out to Gilliland, a former NCAA and IHSAA basketball referee, to see if SMM would have any interest in the project. After some urging, Gilliland agreed and went to work on “reverse engineering” of the Perfect Swing because there were no blueprints for the device that was originally called Power Snap.
The name was changed with a comment from SMM machinist Mike Pope. The name stuck, and Wolfla came up with a tagline, “It’s a winner – be a winner.” After testing by coaches and sports notables, the fifth prototype was approved.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Wolfla, who is a familiar sports enthusiast in and around Beech Grove. “I had never obtained a patent, either.”
Then in his familiar laugh, Wolfla commented, “I can’t even spell entrepreneur and I am one.”
Wolfla formed BU Technologies officers, a board, and an advisory board of mostly Southsiders. BU Technologies was recently incorporated by the state.
Wolfla is the corporation’s president with vice presidents Gilliland, chairman of the board William T. Kelsey, Greg Cox, and David Mayfield (secretary).
“We have the prototype and it’s good enough to go to market,” Wolfla said. “The ones who have tried it out, think it’s great. It’s a winner, so you can be a winner, too.”
Different units can be made for specific training for golf, tennis, and ice hockey. For now, the emphasis by BU Technologies is on the production and marketing of the Perfect Swing.
SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTO BY AL STILLEY)
Beech Grove businessman Joe Wolfla tries out the Perfect Swing in his office. Wolfla also is president of the newly incorporated BU Technologies that involves several Southside members and officers. The Perfect Swing also is to be produced and manufactured locally.
Joe Wolfla is a Beech Grove businessman and sports enthusiast who is no stranger when it comes to taking products to the market.
Wolfla, a former owner of the Continental Football League 1969 champions, the Indianapolis Capitols, has always approached his successes by out-of-the-box thinking and living by the personal mantra “listen before you talk.”
Wolfla was key in the revival of the beloved drink Choc-Ola, getting it into stores such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and Martin Super-Markets (a Northern Indiana and Michigan chain) before leaving the company to pursue other endeavors.
Having owned a very successful printing company, Industrial Litho Inc., Wolfla created Good Morning Publishing Co., Inc. which published the world renowned book Bobby Plump: Last of the Small Town Heroes which is about to receive a special edition re-release in the coming months.
In addition to the Special Edition of Bobby Plump: Last of the Small Town Heroes, Wolfla and Good Morning Publishing Co. Inc. are in the process of writing a new book on the Indianapolis Capitols and their championship season.
Well-known Southside company to manufacture Perfect Swing
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTO BY AL STILLEY)
Lifetime Southsider Joe Gilliland is CEO and president of Sheet Metal Models Machine & Tool Co. Inc., 2720 National Ave. The company was founded in 1956 in Beech Grove.
By Al Stilley
A well-known Southside company, Sheet Metal Models, is ideally suited for the manufacturing and production of The Perfect Swing.
Under Joe Gilliland’s 30-plus years of ownership, the machine and tool facility has the machinery, personnel, and capabilities to produce items from prototypes to full productions.
“We combine old-school theory with today’s technology,” said Gilliland, a lifelong Southsider. “It takes modeling ingenuity to re-design a product that doesn’t have a blueprint with it. Now they call it re-engineering.”
Gilliland’s company previously has produced and manufactured parts for aerospace, electrical, retail, telecommunications, vehicular, medical, defense, automotive, and rail industries.
When Gilliland was approached about the Perfect Swing, he told longtime Beech Grove entrepreneur Joe Wolfla that he could do a prototype without any blueprint of the revolutionary training apparatus. The COVID-19 pandemic lengthened the time to develop prototypes; the fifth one turned out to be the one to prepare for mass production.
“If we could produce the items we have manufactured for airplanes and submarines, I figured we could do this, too.” Gilliland said. “So, we reversed engineering. It was a tricky combination, but when you have the opportunity to put a new product on the market like this, then you’ve done something.”
So, Sheet Metal Models Machine and Tool Co.(SMM) became the perfect manufacturer for The Perfect Swing through newly incorporated BU Technologies with Gilliland as one of its vice presidents.
“We’ve had a background of the hard-to-do things that other machine and tool companies did not want to do,” Gilliland said. “We have employees with more than 100 years (combined) in the trade. They have been schooled by experience in hard tooling and stamped-out production parts. I can tool any job you want on a turret press and add a laser to it. I call it tricky technology.”
The Perfect Swing has multiple pieces, big and small, that SMM will produce and manufacture the Perfect Swing for coaches and players of all ages and abilities.
“I’m sure lots of people will wonder how this (Perfect Swing) came from somewhere in Ohio to Beech Grove to a sheet metal company on the Southside and to land in stores everywhere,” smiled Gilliland.
Gilliland is a graduate of Beech Grove High School and is a lifelong Southsider. The son of a New York Central railroader (Joe Gilliland, Sr.), he did not want a railroad career.
After graduation, he eventually accepted a sheet metal apprenticeship at SMM that led to a fulltime job. Founded in 1956 by Alonzo Stratton, SMM is in its fourth location after originating in Beech Grove. Gilliland became the owner of SMM in the mid-1970s, shortly after a recession because the owner wanted to move it to Denver, Colorado. Gilliland didn’t want to go.
“I really didn’t know anything about being a business owner, but I figured if I bought and it didn’t work that I could go work for someone else,” Gilliland said.
He never had to.
In the mid- ‘80s, he invested two million dollars in CNC equipment to stay competitive in the industry. Since then, SMM has continuously grown and prospered.
Gilliland’s interest in sports never waned. He began officiating recreational basketball games in the late ‘70s, advanced to high school games, and refereed IHSAA state championship games in 1984, 1985, and 1988. Then he moved up to the college level, including games of teams in major conferences in the Midwest and East. He refereed NCAA D1 and D2 tournament games, but the travel and time away from SMM led to his retirement.
And now with the Perfect Swing, BU Technologies Co. is positioned to revolutionize the training of baseball and softball training.
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