When David Kanner was 11, he was a shy kid from New York moving to Malibu because his parents thought it best for the family.
Kanner started playing baseball in the Malibu Little League to make friends, but because he started the sport late, he had some trouble fitting in right away.
“I got teased by all my friends because here they had been playing for years and I didn’t know how to play,” Kanner said. “I was like 10, 11 years old. It was quite an emotional thing for me, I
Kanner’s father, Hal, who played AAA baseball in the 1940s for the then-New York Giants, felt responsible for his son being teased, Kanner said. He was injured in Kanner’s youth and could not introduce baseball to him at an earlier age.
So Hal vowed to make Kanner into an exceptional hitter, and came across a product called Johnny Bench Batter Up. The product was a base with a ball attached to a stem that, when hit, would whip around and return to the batter so it could be hit again.
When Kanner started using the batting aid, his hitting improved dramatically, and he was considered one of the best players in the minor league at the time.
Kanner stopped playing baseball at 20, but returned to the sport in a different way by inventing the Vortex Swing Trainer, which was inspired by the product purchased by his dad in his youth.
“This is my way of keeping these memories alive with my father,” Kanner said. “Everything I learned, I learned from him. I really do owe all of this, this company and everything, and my motivation to do this, I owe it all to my father.”
Kanner’s company, Repetitive Batting Instructor, or R.B.I., sells the Vortex and other products centered around teaching budding baseball players how to hone their crafts. Their highest-selling product is called Pro Tee, which is best suited for players up to the age of 16, Kanner said.
Kanner was approached with the idea by his sister, who’s son, Adam, started playing baseball but was on the verge of quitting due to his difficulty batting. She wanted Kanner to make something similar to what his dad bought him when he was
After he made it, his nephew’s batting also dramatically improved — just like his did when he was young — and Kanner felt he was on to something.
“A light went off in my head going, ‘Wow this thing really works. It wasn’t just a freak thing with me,’” Kanner
Kanner’s fondest memories of playing baseball were when he played little league in Malibu, and his involvement in the sport helped him grow as a person.
“It’s funny how that works because I was really shy, and I have to give all the credit to baseball for bringing me out of my shell,” Kanner said.
Even though Kanner didn’t pursue professional baseball like this father hoped he would, it is now a big part of his life through the development of his products and company. He feels his father, who died of cancer in 1993, would approve of the work he’s doing.
“I wound up in my 20s and all and getting interested in other things, so I think my dad’s dream of me going on and playing was kind of broken in that respect,” Kanner said. “But I think if he was still alive and saw I’m still involved somewhat in baseball, he would be very happy about it.”
Kanner feels his products are making an impact with younger baseball players, and seems proud to be a part of their development.
“I see and I remember what the sport did for me as far as helping me with my shyness and other things, and how it helped my nephew, and I see how it helps other kids,” Kanner said. “That makes me feel good that I can help other kids.”
Kanner said much of his family still lives in the Malibu area, and he visits the city frequently. He moved to San Diego because his company is based there, but said he would move back to Malibu.
The Vortex Swing Trainer has been endorsed by several current and former professional baseball players, Kanner said, including Mark Trumbo, first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
R.B.I.’s products are available at retailers such as Sports Chalet, Dick’s Sporting Goods and on its website, www.rbivortex.com.