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Bat Wizard Ray DeMarini, 55, Dies

Jan. 1, 2002 – Special to the News

Portland, Oregon˜Softball legend Ray DeMarini died here of cancer at age 55 after developing bat technology that set the standard for an entire sport.

A cult hero among avid players, DeMarini emerged on the professional softball scene at the age of 40, a veritable geriatric among younger players. With a scientific approach to training, a batting speed of 96 miles-per-hour and a bombastic attitude, DeMarini fast earned a reputation as a savage competitor.

In 1989, having garnered national recognition as the star of ESPN's best-selling instructional video, Ray DeMarini's Reflex Hitting System, DeMarini turned his efforts toward designing a high-performance bat for the masses.

"People thought I was crazy," recalled DeMarini last May. "I'd left a well-paying cubicle job to make softball bats in a crusty old barn. At that point in my life, all I could afford was a nasty apartment with even nastier furniture˜the kind of stuff thrift stores won't take. But I was passionate. And passion has always been my competitive edge."

DeMarini focused on making one line of high-performance bats for pros and amateurs alike. With $10,000 in seed money, an engineer for a partner, and a lifetime of pent-up passion, DeMarini took the softball industry by storm.

He delivered a series of industry firsts: the first multi-wall bat (Doublewall Distance), the first high-performance bat for huge players (Fatboy), the first high-performance youth bat (Black Coyote) and the first technology to yield virtually indestructible bats (FLi).

These innovations defined DeMarini as the driving force in softball technology, fostering a cult-like following of softball zealots never before seen in the industry.

"I'm not surprised that players form relationships with my bats," said DeMarini. "A DeMarini bat has always been more than a hunk of metal and carbon fiber˜it's an extension of a player's dreams."

By 1999, DeMarini's annual sales nudged $20 million.

In 2000, DeMarini Sports joined forces with Wilson Sporting Goods to develop the next generation of high-performance bats and take the brand to new heights. DeMarini was happy with the fit, saying both companies shared a vision of developing professional-grade, game-enhancing equipment for average players.

Those who knew Ray knew him as a warrior. He battled players in the ballpark and corporate giants in the sporting goods industry. His last battle was cancer. After fighting lung and brain cancer for two years, DeMarini would likely claim victory today, having passed to the next level.

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