From those modest beginnings came the demand for all types of baseball equipment, and Robinson’s business expanded to meet that demand over the next several years, graduating from a side project to an online catalogue and, finally, to an independent storefront.
Today, Robinson is the CEO of Better Baseball, a baseball and softball warehouse that has called Carruth Drive in Marietta its home since May 2009.
“We literally went from a basement operation four years ago to this beautiful 10,000-square-foot building that we built from the ground up,” said marketing director Adam Kopley.
With help from the committed customer base provided by the nearby East Cobb Baseball program, Better Baseball has gained traction as a one-stop shop for local baseball players and coaches, ending last year with more than $5 million in sales.
Rows of aluminum and wood bats line the store’s longest continuous wall, arranged by material under spray-painted signs cleverly demarcating “Batlanta” from “Woodstock.” Life-sized cutouts of major-leaguers overlook aisles of baseballs, racks of team apparel and a pair of mesh batting cages available for rental.
Even the store’s phone line has a baseball twist — callers placed on hold are serenaded with such baseball-linked songs as John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” while they wait.
From pitching machines to L-screens to training mechanisms, the store strives to supply everything a baseball player or coach could possibly need in one place.
“And when something new comes out, we try to go out and get that, too,” Kopley said.
A leader in the revamping of the Better Baseball website and online store, which has grown organically to represent around 15 percent of the company’s sales, Kopley believes the in-store service benefits from its staff of young employees with baseball in their backgrounds.
“We’ve built a team of guys who love the game and love what they do,” Kopley said. “You come in and really get a professional opinion — guys who really know their stuff — and that’s what separates us from the bigger chain stores.”
The store has also welcomed its fair share of celebrity patrons. A young Jason Heyward — a product of the East Cobb system — visited the store before his days as an Atlanta Brave, but the more frequent customers include such former stars as Cecil Fielder, Marquis Grissom and Mike Cameron.
“A lot of them still coach Little League and travel ball, so they’re in here getting stuff for their teams,” Kopley said.
From custom requests in the early days to marketing campaigns and a growing online presence in the retail store’s fourth year of operation, Better Baseball’s success has taken the business far beyond the expectations of its founder, who surrounded himself with people who knew the sport well enough to counteract his inexperience.
“He kind of had to trust the specifications the suppliers were giving him at first,” Kopley said of Robinson. “Now he’s got kind of a squad here of guys who do the work for him.”