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Updated May 25, 2023
By Brian Duryea | @BatDigest
The 2024 Hype Fire drops this week.
Or is it next?
Or was it last?
We can’t keep track as the buzz around this bat is at fever-pitch levels.
Easton’s Instagram said June 1st direct and June 6/7th at select retailers. But outlets have Harry Potter book 7-type parties this Friday, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are aflame, many players have already been using the bat, and much of the in-crowd on YouTube has been flattering. And everyone who is anyone seems to have this bat already. Why not you! Come on! Get with the program already!
But before we get our wallets and step into this tornado straight out of Kansas, let’s ensure we are talking about the same bat. This 2024 Hype Fire is a mid-year release with predecessors almost everywhere in stock. The most recent predecessor (checks notes) was released six months ago to a faint ho and a raspy hum.
Yes, that’s the bat.
And we’re all supposed to be losing our minds.
So, uh, what did we miss?
Let’s back up a bit.
Easton has considerable ground to make up in youth baseball batdom. That’s not us poking fun; just observing what we’ve all seen.
For all the talk about USA baseball being a boon to ‘Big Bat,’ where tens of thousands of units were fought for off the shelf, Easton lost its dominance by a margin. Slugger, and the Solo, likely made the most ground. But Easton lost, we’ll say it, considerably.
Pre USA Bat, when USSSA 2 1/4 barrels were the mandate, The Easton MAKO was the only game in town. Aside from the Combat B2 and the Anderson Techzilla, most can’t even name a bat from that era besides the MAKO. It was the creme de la creme, the sultan of swat. It was the great bambino. And, when the Annals of History of little league baseball are compiled and handed over to the god of baseball during the millennium, the 2 1/4 Easton Mako may go down as the most fabulous bat line in the industry’s history.
Call that hyperbole all you want, but the bat was a stick of dynamite attached to a handle. Other companies stopped trying to compete. <puts on tinfoil hat>They just lobbied to change the rules…</puts on tinfoil hat>.
With that backdrop, consider Easton’s situation now. If they’re first place in USA bats, it’s only by a hair. And that’s accomplished by spending more than anyone else with their Little League World Series partnership. Easton still dominates, but more kids swing non-Eatson brands than years previous, even after being given a free Easton and a sales pitch at the Series. It’s nothing like it once was.
Consider USSSA, too. Does Easton even make a USSSA bat?
That, of course, is a joke.
The 2023 Easton Hype Comp (the black and yellow one released six months ago) is an excellent bat. It swings a tidge heavier than a bat like the CF, but it can hit the ball hard enough. We sat at an 11U USSSA tournament last weekend and saw it at the plate a dozen times. One of them was our kid, who likes to rotate between that bat and the CAT X Composite because, well, he’s 11. But, to be sure, there are more than a few bats people think of before the 2022/23 Hype Comp. To name them: DeMarini’s CF, DeMarini’s ZOA, Slugger’s META, and Marucci’s CAT X Composite.
If Easton is synonymous with youth baseball, it’s at least mildly ironic that they don’t dominate in the featured product of the sport. And not to twist the knife here, but many young players might not even realize Easton participates seriously in the bat business at all. We don’t have data, but we’d bet money the average kid on the average team in the average city in America thinks of DeMarini and Marucci before Easton. They might even think of Slugger or Rawlings before Easton. Boombah? Maybe. They at least own a Boombah bat bag. But nothing from Easton. (After the kid checks the brand of his belt, he shrugs at the idea that he does, in fact, own something from Easton.)
The point here is obvious enough. Unless Easton wants to be relegated to Schutt Helmet level coolness (nonexistent), Easton needs a breakthrough in the feature product space of their sport. And if the plan here is to be cool, then there’s no time like the present.
We consider this time of year to be off the release peak. Summer ball is rarely a time to add a new bat to the bag unless you’re a committed player. In late February, anything resembling a bat and a new paint job is hard to find in stock. But by June, who cares anymore about a new bat?
But that might be just the brilliance Easton needs to make the right splash. Since sales are generally down while market interest in youth baseball is usually still high, the waters are calm enough to be noticed. It’s the perfect time for the fence rattlers to start up another chant because they’ve run out of things to say. (Ironic that we’re writing this, too. That’s not lost on us).
We’d guess, by design, this is precisely what Easton is doing. We’ve never seen them (or almost anyone) go for a major release at the beginning of June—especially in USSSA.
Something is swirling in the water here.
And, of course, this story is only brilliant if the bat is too. As cynical as we are about this business some days, we believe the narrative of bat performance arcs towards the truth. Once the waters calm, and kids, coaches, and parents aren’t crushed by trending feeds, they know when a bat performs well enough to be recommended to a teammate or repurchased again in a bigger size.
If it’s a dud, well, we can put it in the ever-growing list of marketing magic that outpaced tech. Sure, they’ll move a few bats in the short run, and then in early 2024 look at you with a straight face when they tell you about their new and improved 2025 ~Hyper Hype~.
The good news for Easton is that they are no strangers to dominating a market and know that winners ebb and flow. They took over the 2 1/4 space some years ago, as we said, but what is often missed on the baseball side is their current sheer and utter dominance in Fastpitch over the last couple of years. They hardly made a serious fastpitch bat in 2018. But by 2023, the Easton Ghost is THE big fish in a massive fastpitch pond. (Not 2018 2.25 Mako big, but big enough).
They made a hot out-of-the-wrapper bat that suffered in durability, much like the USSSA DeMarini CF of 2017/18. But, as DeMarini learned too, people like homers more than they like $400.
Is the Hype destined for the same fate? Time can only tell. No, really. That’s the only way. We need hundreds of kids and hundreds of pitches to see if it’s the bat early reports claim it to be.
We’d argue this is the single biggest bat drop of the 2023 year (even though its a 2024 bat). As the Hype Fire makes its way into the hands of young ballplayers, it carries with it the hopes and aspirations of Easton. It may signify a new chapter for the brand, a chance to reignite its legacy and shape the landscape of youth baseball bats. The stage is set, the timing is right, and we will see if the Hype Fire lives up to its name.
Updated May 25, 2023
May 25, 2023
By Brian Duryea | @BatDigest