Hugh Tompkins designs and develops innovative sports equipment for athletes at all levels of competition, from rec leagues to the pros, including Baden's AXE baseball bat.

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What do you do? I’m director of research and development for Baden Sports and AXE bat. Essentially, it is my job to design and develop innovative sports equipment for athletes at all levels of competition, from rec leagues to the pros. That requires me to spend a lot of time understanding the different sports I design for and doing a lot of field testing with those athletes.

How did you get started in that field? My education is in industrial design and mechanical engineering, but my dream since I was a little kid was to be an inventor. That is essentially what I get to do. When you work for a company like Baden and AXE that puts tremendous importance on innovation, it makes it really fun to come up with new ideas and see them turn into products.

What’s a typical day like? What I do from day to day changes a lot. I could be in my lab building a prototype or at a retailer doing market research or on a baseball field doing product testing. Every day is something different.

What’s the best part of the job? Probably the product testing. My friends get pretty jealous when I tell them I spent the afternoon throwing football prototypes with an ex-NFL quarterback. I also really enjoy the creative problem solving. It’s rewarding to look at the flaws in a piece of sports equipment and think of a completely new way to improve it.

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What surprises people about your work? The amount of technology that goes into our products. We just launched a new football that we feel is the best ball on the planet. We’ve been working on this thing for five years using wind tunnels, 3D scanners, mass spectrometers and 3D printers, but the player never sees that. All they know is that the ball feels good and performs great.