Urethane focuses on baseball safety

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:17 pm

Swing and a ground ball to third… the runner sprints toward first, while the first baseman rushes to beat him to the bag.

The runner slides into an orange base, while the first baseman tags a tandem white base at the same time. It’s a hard slide, so the base dislodges from its anchor to slide along with the runner and reduce impact.

The safety aspects of this scenario are the focus of polyurethane parts manufacturer Urethane Systems in Waukesha.

About 90 percent of Urethane’s business is devoted to its Soft Touch Bases line. It’s the only progressive release base company that makes the whole product in the United States, said Luis Hernandez Jr., owner.

“It would absorb some energy, and if there’s enough force behind the slide, it would pop off,” he said.

Urethane distributes its bases individually and in sets through sporting goods stores nationwide. It makes up to 6,000 per year.

The company has five different base models: the A series, with a box in-ground mount, the C-series, with an adapter for older stake mounting systems, the S-series, with a spike down mounting system for non-permanent mounting, the IN-series, with suction cups for indoor use and the T-series, for turf play.

Hernandez recently developed the T-series, which has spikes to insert in the synthetic dirt and a heavier body. He is also introducing a new neon anchor plug that makes it easier to find the anchor in the dirt for removal.

“There’s always issues with finding these anchors, digging them out,” he said.

The company’s busy season is November to May, when Urethane hires four to six more employees to handle the rush of orders ahead of the spring season.

“I cater to the recreational market. I do nothing in the professional venue,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez purchased the Soft Touch business in 2006 from AFP Co. Inc. Since then, he has made some changes to the design and developed the double base, which includes a base for both the runner and the first baseman. It’s made using reaction injection molding, so the two different colored halves are firmly molded together.

“It really has minimized the accidents that were happening at first base,” he said.

The company is housed in a 13,500-square-foot facility in Waukesha that it has leased since 2011, Hernandez said. Urethane invested about $350,000 in improvements at the building after it moved in.

Urethane’s products are made with liquid polyurethane, to which it can add pigment for different colors.

The company also completes polyurethane parts orders for other industries, such as boat bumpers for piers.

“As a contract manufacturer, the gamut of what you can manufacture is basically anything,” he said.

Urethane’s annual revenue is about $2 million. Hernandez sees a lot of potential in the baseball industry, since high school and college teams are still using traditional bases and safety concerns could steer them toward progressive release bases.

He plans to expand the company’s footprint in the next three to five years and hire one to two people before the end of the year.

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