Meet Trevor Stocking, Axe Bat’s New Product Marketing Director
A couple weeks ago, we announced Trevor Stocking as our new Director of Product Marketing. Trevor comes to Axe Bat from sports sensor startup Zepp Labs, where he helped develop a new category of data-driven training products and worked with some of the biggest names in pro baseball.
He’s going to be a big part of all we do at Axe Bat, and you’re going to start seeing his name frequently on this blog.
We tracked him down between World Series games in his hometown of Chicago recently to find out more about his background and why he decided to switch to Axe Bat.
Q: First things first: Welcome to Axe Bat! How have things been your first couple of weeks?
A: Thanks. Yeah, it’s great to be on board, and things have been good so far. I had the chance to visit headquarters earlier. I got to see the lab and some of the things in development, and spend some time getting to know people. It was a good trip.
Q: You grew up outside Chicago and I understand you come from a baseball family? Tell us more about that.
A: That’s right. I grew up a coach’s son. My dad, Kent Stocking, coached varsity baseball for 25 years at Lake Zurich High School, which is in the Northwest suburbs. I was a bat boy by the time I was 3. From that moment, I was hooked. You couldn’t get a bat out of my hands.
Q: What was your experience as a player?
A: I was a shortstop and pitcher. I played through high school and was fortunate enough to get Division I scholarships to play baseball at Northern Illinois and the University of Evansville. I was a Freshman All-American and had some incredible teammates and experiences. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit during my junior year. I had a few surgeries and that was the end of my playing days.
Q: Bummer. What happened?
A: I was sliding into home and there was a play at the plate. It was a bad throw from the outfield. The catcher dove for the ball and he landed on me. My arm got stuck in the ground and the collision just blew up my arm and shoulder. I had to have about four or five different surgeries – Tommy John, rotator cuff, labrum, you name it. It was a freak accident, but that was the end of playing for me. Fortunately, it led me to learn about biomechanics, high-speed cameras, sensors, and most importantly, coaching. I coached high school baseball for five years and ended up enjoying coaching even more than playing.
Q: You worked at Zepp Labs before coming to Axe Bat. Their sensor is an amazing tool and is endorsed by a number of pros. Who were some of the players you got to work with during development?
A: Wow, everybody we worked with at Zepp was an All-Star. We had Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Altuve, Giancarlo Stanton, David Ortiz – the list goes on – just an insane amount of talent. It was crazy.
Q: What was it like working with those guys?
A: I was Zepp’s baseball guy, so when we first signed all the pros, I got to spend about six weeks on the road going park to park working with all of these different players. I’d get an hour on the field hitting and collecting data with them, then another long session in the cage where I could ask them anything I wanted to about hitting. It was full access to the best players on Earth. Going from Fenway, to Minute Maid, to Wrigley — it was absolutely amazing. To be able to collect data on their swings in real time, then talk with them about it just accelerated everything we had ever thought we knew about the swing. It was really the first time swing data like that was ever collected from the best players. I’m really proud to have helped get the data out there.
Q: What were some of the things all of those players had in common?
A: One thing that jumped out right away was that there was very little difference between their tee swings and their live swings. When you look at most players – even the average major leaguer – there’s a difference in their swing data; typically, everything decreases or gets worse when they face live pitching. With these guys, though, it was all very similar.
All of them had this uncanny ability to control their barrels, even at maximum effort. What normally happens, especially with young players, is when you try to swing faster, you lose control of your barrel. I didn’t see that happening with the elite pros. And this is one of the areas where I think the Axe Bat can really help at all levels because the Axe handle gives you so much more control than a round handle. It allows you to focus on gaining bat speed and you don’t lose the barrel control that’s necessary to square up the pitch.
Q: You must have some good stories from your travels. Mind if we ask about a few of the players?
A: Sure, go ahead.
Q: Mike Trout?
A: First, he’s probably the nicest human being you’re ever going to meet. Just a genuine, humble guy that treats you with respect. Mike has a really short swing. That is one of his key swing talking points, along with an upward swing plane. When we were hitting, he would take a swing and he’d know before getting the sensor reading if it was faster or slower. He’d say, “Yep, that was faster than the last one,” or, ‘”Nope, that was longer,” and the swings would be between something like .132 and .128 seconds. The blink of an eye is like .15 seconds. So that was incredible to watch. He was literally as good as his own sensor.
Q: We watch a lot of Red Sox games around here with Mookie Betts being on Team Axe. What was it like hitting with Big Papi at Fenway Park?
A: He swings a tree trunk, but his bat speed is still higher than a lot of guys. And his exit speeds are through the roof. The big thing that stood out with him was his time to impact. At 40 years old, he still had as short a swing as guys who were 24 or 25. He’s also one of the smartest hitters around, a real student of the game.
Q: What about Giancarlo Stanton?
A: I’ve never experienced anything like hitting with him. It’s like an explosion every time he hits the ball. We were doing batting practice and the pitcher was throwing about 50 mph and Stanton’s still pulling off 110 mph exit speeds. At the end of our session, his last hit was a missile off the fence and I said, “All right, we’re good to go.” He’s like, “No, I need one more. I got something better.” Next swing, he hits it off the Jumbotron in left field at Marlins Park and breaks one of the LED panels. Perfect.
Q: Last one. Josh Donaldson?
A: He is a hitting coach. Straight up. He’s brilliant. He spends more time than anybody analyzing swings and understanding them. Before we even got into the details about Zepp, he was already talking data. He’s a golfer and takes the same approach with his golf swing. If he ever decides to be a hitting coach, he’ll be one of the best in baseball, mark my words.
Q: So now you’re at Axe Bat. How’d you hear about the bat and what was your first experience with it?
A: Well, I’d heard about it for a long time. I’d even coached a kid who had an Axe Bat. But my first personal experience was at the ABCA (American Baseball Coaches Association) convention earlier this year. I got an Axe Bat put in my hand and – being the Zepp person that I was – I threw a sensor on it. Right away, my swing data were better.
Q: What did you think?
A: Honestly, I didn’t believe it at first. But I took some more swings, asked for another bat, and took even more swings. Then I started giving the bat to other people and the same thing kept happening. The data were better with the Axe Bat.
Q: Was there a specific swing metric that stood out?
A: For me, it was time to impact. I’d taken at least 30,000 swings – and looked at more than 120 million swings – with a Zepp sensor on a round-handled bat, so I had a large data set to compare against. With the Axe Bat, I had a shorter swing time by about 10 percent. That means from the time I started my swing forward to the time I impacted the ball, it was about 10 percent quicker with the Axe Bat.
Q: What would be the in-game benefit of that?
A: A shorter swing time means you have more ability to track the pitch and decide whether you want to swing at it or not. Knowing your zone, swinging only at good pitches, is probably the most important thing any hitter can learn. The other benefit of a shorter swing would be that it allows you to catch up to faster pitching.
Q: What other benefits of the Axe Bat were coming through in the data?
A: With my swing, I was seeing increased bat speed and more consistent swing planes, in addition to shorter swing times. It was the same for a lot of players I tested. I also was able to look at the raw data of the swings where each swing has 1,000 data points. We’re talking big data. And the raw data was even more surprising when I looked at a larger pool of Axe data sets.
Q: Do you think these benefits are applicable to players at all levels?
A: Without a doubt. I saw it with my own eyes working with players at all levels with an Axe Bat. It’s why I came to Axe Bat. It really works. We are going to be doing a lot more to demonstrate and explain that in the months ahead. We’ll be putting a lot of it on the blog, so stay tuned.
Q: What are a few of the things you’re most looking forward to in your new role?
A: It’s exciting to think about applying all of the different things I’ve learned about the swing at Zepp to bat design, and to help people better understand how they can improve their swing and performance with Axe technology. I want to be able to say our focus is on a better bat and a better swing.
I’m also looking forward to telling more stories about the success our pro players are having with Axe. We had more than 30 players swinging bats with Axe handles in the MLB this season – in addition to Mookie Betts – and there are some great success stories to be told. Along those same lines, I’m eager to expand our reach in the big leagues. There are a lot of MLB teams that I’ve worked with that are excited to try the Axe Bat and start using it within their organizations. So we’re going to be bringing more information to those teams and building our network at the highest level of baseball. It’s going to be fun.