Dave Payton knows when most states start their high school baseball seasons.
He didn't always know that Florida began their season in January, or Mississippi and Arkansas tend to follow the sunshine state. Payton quickly learned those schedules as demand boomed for the baseball products his company, BaseballRacks.com, produces.
At first Payton only needed to build baseball helmet racks for one local team. From there, a few more ordered. Today, Payton is shipping those racks and other baseball accessories all over the country.
"We're probably in 48 states," Payton, who, along with his partner Rob LeVan, own BaseballRacks.com. Based out of Evergreen Park, the business began in 2005 after Payton was asked to build some racks for Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein.
While LeVan, who lives in Dyer, In., supervises the building the business builds all its products in, Payton focuses more on organizing orders, producing assembly instructions and keeping things running smoothly. He also frequently interacts with the teenagers the business employs from nearby schools like Brother Rice.
He said he enjoys hearing their ideas for improvement. "With the kids, we always tell them, 'If you get an idea, let us know," Payton said, adding that one of his worker's mistakes actually turned into a positive when they found out it was easier to paint over a caulked piece of furniture, rather than caulking over paint.
"The kid was painting and it was a lot easier with caulk on the seam," said Payton. "It not only gives its more strength but it looks better. ...It's a group effort."
When Payton initially began the business, he knew it would expand as demand grew, but he never expected it to be where it is today. In addition to selling to high schools across the nation, he also provides services to college teams. Payton said colleges began showing interest in his products after he had a booth at what he thought was an exhibition for high school coaches, but turned out to be for college ones.
"I made a little pre-fab dugout for display," Payton said. "I had a little helmet rack, a water cooler rack, a bat rack and ... I brought a little bench along for fun. The West Virginia coach was looking at them, and the Cal-State Fullerton coach, he didn't really talk to me, but a month later ordered them."
About two weeks ago, Payton received a call from a potential customer in Hawaii. The order didn't work out due to shipping costs, but, "It's pretty wild we're all over the country," he said. "We've shipped to Alaska. It's light all the time there, so a lot of college players go out there."
Payton also receives inquiries from, and works with, architects and construction firms. The company has also begun personalizing products with decals--an idea Payton credits his printer with--and have recently been focusing on making their way onto the bean bag scene.
"We do a lot of bean bag details," he said. ""We do them with a big decal. That took a while and a lot of experimenting." In fact, while Payton's primary focus is keeping the baseball equipment part of the business growing, he said he would really like to see the bean bag division expand.
The company is also branching out into other sports, as they now are able to make items such as football goalposts and scoreboards.
When Payton isn't focusing on BaseballRacks.com, he is volunteering as a coach with the baseball team. While Payton said he has a lot to learn from the official coaches, he is able to bring experience from his business to the table.
"It's fun. It's a fun thing to do," he said.
Those interested in learning more about Payton and LeVan's products can visit their website, www.baseballracks.com, or call (708) 636-1047 for more information.