DUNEDIN, Fla. - The Tour de France is a long way from the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training clubhouse. But a Utah-based company has managed to find a home in both places for its products.
Lizard Skins started selling cycling accessories such as handlebar grip tape back in 1993 and now distributes to 84 countries. Seven years ago it developed a special tape for road bikes and took the technology to baseball in 2012 by offering its DSP (DuraSoft Polymer) bat wrap.
The company says its bat grip tape combines softness and tackiness while reducing vibration. And with 18 colours, including nine versions of camo, there is an element of style.
"It's gone like gangbusters," said Canadian Brad Barker, who is Lizard Skins general manager and has 19 years with the company.
Barker grew up playing hockey and baseball in the St. Catharines, Ont., area and had his own preference when it came to taping sticks and bats. After he moved to Utah, he kept playing the two sports and began using the handlebar grip tape.
That led him to transferring the technology to baseball.
They went to the American Baseball Coaches Association conference in January 2012 and won a "Best of Show" award. That helped them connect with distributors and dealers but things really took off when catcher John Buck took the tape to spring training in 2013.
All 30 major league teams now order the product and Barker said 175 major leaguers, including Toronto's Russell Martin, San Francisco's Hunter Pence, Seattle's Robinson Cano, Detroit's Yoenis Cespedes, the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo and the Mets' David Wright, used it last season.
Boston slugger David Ortiz was sent the lime green tape by mistake and fell in love with it because it matched his batting gloves. He used it during the 2013 World Series, prompting a flood of calls to Barker's company for the same tape.
Some 300 minor leaguers also use it.
"We couldn't have written a script better than how it's gone the last three years," said Barker, who was showing off his products to the Jays on Tuesday.
Jays second baseman Ryan Goins is a convert.
"I like the grip because I don't like using a lot of sticky stuff," said Goins.
The tape comes in three thicknesses — 0.5, 1.1 and 1.8 millimetres. Barker says the pros prefer the thinnest tape, so it doesn't increase the thickness of the handle.
The only baseball rule is that the grip can't extend more than 18 inches (45 centimetres).
A roll costs US$10, with $12 for the popular camo colours.
Based in Oram, Utah, Lizard Skins has also branched into lacrosse and is getting into field hockey, ice hockey and racket sports.
In cycling, the company sponsors teams like Movistar and Lotto Soudal. Canadian mountain biker Geoff Kabush also uses Lizard Skins products.
Despite its patents on the tape itself, Lizard Skins has competition. Rawlings has now introduced its own grip tape.
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