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Updated: December 11, 2023

On the Record: Meet the Portland baseball player whose invention is getting a thumbs-up

Photo / Jim Neuger Finger on the pulse: Portland-based entrepreneur Chris Cohen has invented a protective thumb guard for baseball players called Launchpad.

Chris Cohen, founder of Eclipse Sports LLC, is a Portland-based entrepreneur and inventor of a protective thumb guard for baseball players called Launchpad. Mainebiz caught up with Cohen, a ball player himself, to get the lowdown on Launchpad.

Mainebiz: You’ve had many jobs over the years. What are some career highlights?

Chris Cohen: If there’s a boat involved, I’m there. I tried lobstering and working on tugboats, realized my skills are elsewhere, but still couldn’t let go of the ocean.

After I finished my master’s degree in international transportation management at State University of New York Maritime College, I held a series of positions in supply chain management at Unilever, and then at Bath Iron Works. My work with composites at Southern Maine Community College and Harbor Technologies in Brunswick [later dissolved and acquired by another company] opened my mind to the possibility of inventing and product design.

MB: What sparked you to invent a new thumb guard?

CC: About six years ago, I joined a wood-bat men’s league that plays baseball in southern Maine. Wood bats are much heavier and thus harder to handle than the light aluminum bats I used in high school. I found it difficult to keep my bat out in my fingers through my swing without over-tensing my grip, and I felt I wasn’t swinging at my best. I also felt more bat sting in my hand when I got jammed by a pitch off my handle.

At that time there was only one widely used thumb guard on the market, worn by the Major League Baseball pros. I tried my best to use it, but I never got used to how it felt, and soon after, I started to tinker and imagine a reinvented thumb guard. As I worked, I could feel the incremental improvement, and it just kept me going, even as new competitors entered the market, until I was finally ready to get into the market myself.

MB: What sets your innovation apart from the competition?

CC: Launchpad is the only thumb guard on the market that’s asymmetrical and hand-specific; there’s a left and right model, just like gloves. Other thumb guards are symmetrical and can be worn on either hand, which doesn’t create the fit and comfort I was looking for. Launchpad is also shaped to fit optimally against the curved profile of your bat, as well as your hand, for a seamless fit that you almost don’t feel, yet it still offers protection. It feels less bulky and squishy than other thumb guards, giving you a better connection with your bat.

Finally, Launchpad has a unique channel that rocks and cradles your bat so it stays loose and fast in your hand. We’ve received lots of feedback about how good and different from other options it feels, and we currently have players using our product from high school up to MLB.

MB: How are you marketing your product?

CC: Since launching in July, we’ve advertised via social media, Google Ads, and with a couple of baseball organizations. There’s been some organic growth from that and some luck — we went from opening our store to seeing a Launchpad thumb guard on a Major League player’s hand on TV within 10 weeks. We sell from an online store, and I’m now working with Park Street, a local marketing agency, and we’re getting ready to start a campaign.

MB: What arrangements have you made for manufacturing and distribution?

CC: I have a U.S. manufacturer that created my mold and produces Launchpad at my direction. I work with a third-party logistics company that handles warehousing, order processing and shipping directly from my online store.

MB: What’s next for Eclipse Sports and Launchpad?

CC: Apart from ramping up our marketing, I’m attending several baseball conventions as an exhibitor in January where baseball equipment manufacturers demonstrate their latest and greatest. At the same time, I’d like to reach out to local teams in the off-season. There’s a lot to do, but it feels like we’re at the start of something big.

Man holding up two hands with protective thumb guards on each finger, displayed like rings.
Photo / Jim Neuger
Entrepreneur Chris Cohen displays his thumb guard innovation.

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