Hayley Young. PICTURED: Baden Sports CEO Michael Schindler, far right, with family.
GOLD AWARD Baden Sports Location: Renton
Innovation is key to Baden Sports’ 37-year history. It rolled out the first smaller sized women’s basketball and game balls. In 2011, it introduced the Axe Bat, a baseball bat featuring an axe-handle shape that follows the natural contours of wrist and palm. About 30 major league players use the new design, among them All-Stars Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. The Axe Bat design lessens strain while supporting swing biomechanics, says Baden Sports CEO Michael Schindler. “I think it’s becoming the hot bat of Major League Baseball.” Schindler’s dad started the company, which began with tennis products, then shifted to high-end college basketballs and footballs. Its patented ball technology brought softness and better bounce to more than 80 percent of balls worldwide. The company has 75 employees. Ideas are collaborative, sometimes discussed at family gatherings. Patti, Michael’s wife, heads human resources. Son Casey is director of operations and his wife, Kristen, handles product forecasting and inventory. Daughter Annie-Rose Licht serves as marketing manager and husband, Jake Licht, is COO. Baden acquired a factory in the Dominican Republic, enabling the company to control quality manufacturing. It also advocates for youth sports and causes, with 10,000 to 20,000 balls donated annually.