Brooke Isbell says it was a “moment of sheer insanity” that compelled her and her husband to form a kindergarten T-ball team three years ago.
Perhaps insanity breeds invention.
The couple’s Burbank Heroes began as 15 random names plucked from a hat at the parks and recreation department. John Isbell would take the reins as coach for the spring league team; his wife, Brooke, the supporting role of manager. Together they had a team for their son, Isaak, and the other boys who would eventually become friends.
“I told John, ‘We may have the Bad News Bears here,’” Brooke said.
Some time into her tenure as a baseball mom, Brooke noticed the dugout of the Burbank Heroes needed a mother’s touch.
I remember what it was like being 7 years old and playing baseball — the last thing on my mind was keeping track of my bat and helmet in the unlikely event that, yes Bryan, you’ll be up to bat later in the game. This was true of the Heroes: water bottles were strewn about; bats lay askew; hats went lost.
Thomas Edison said that to invent, all you need is imagination and a pile of junk. Brooke had both. The inspiration (or desire) to clean that dugout once and for all led to an invention, The Dugout Hero, now being sold at www.dugouthero.com for $29.99.
Recently, I watched the Heroes take on the Mustangs in a nail-biting playoff game. There in the Mustangs dugout, a familiar scene: kids cheering on their teammates with the fierce squeaks of youth, urging that batter to “SWING batta batta Suh-WING…” Though the equipment was largely kept in place, an occasional hat lay on the bench; bats could be found in several odd areas. Overall, much like I remembered from my T-ball days.
But then I traveled to the Heroes’ side. Each player has his own Dugout Hero hanging from hooks along the fence. Each mesh bag has separate pockets for a helmet, water bottle, glove, and possibly that foil-lined pack of Big League Chew. The floor of the dugout was immaculate.
“The first year, the dugout was such a mess,” said Brooke.
She created the first Dugout Hero on a sewing machine at home, using materials from Jo-Ann Fabrics. A fellow team mom and event coordinator, Michele Gott, connected Brooke with a company in Los Angeles that could design a working prototype, then the final product.
“My son’s the most disorganized one of the bunch,” Michele said. “Now everything has its place.”
Another team mom designed the product’s website, and Brooke hopes her homegrown invention will be picked up by a national sporting goods retailer.
I watched the game a bit longer, and saw what Brooke meant when she said the Dugout Hero makes the kids feel like big-leaguers. There was a careful reverence in the way they put away their equipment — or as much reverence as you muster in third grade.
The action started to pick up. After watching four balls zing by him, the tee was brought out for Michele’s son, Gabe. With a couple careful practice swings he blasted the ball over the pitcher’s head and past the shortstop covering second base to knock in two runs.
The action was swift, and short lived. Moments later the outfield umpire called time.
“Time out — we have another shoe-tier.”
The left fielder, glove on the ground, finished his tying after another player spontaneously reached for his shoes. With the equipment checks over, it was back to business.
“We’re tied, we’re good!” exclaimed the home plate ump. “OK — PLAY BALL!”
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant to Burbank. When he’s not whiffing at the batting cages, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.