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"Inventive Approach to Pitching Prowess"
The Star-Ledger
The Star-Ledger Archive
COPYRIGHT The Star-Ledger 1999

Date: 1999/05/06 Thursday Page: 001 Section: IN THE TOWNS Edition: ESSEX Size: 819 words

Inventive approach to pitching prowess

W. Caldwell man's throwbag allows indoor workouts
By Carmen Juri
Star-Ledger Staff

Who would have guessed that a mesh bag used to wash pantyhose would inspire a man to invent a device that baseball players can use to practice pitching?

That's what happened for Jose Inclan, a West Caldwell resident who hopes that his business know- how, perseverance and overactive imagination will make his product a commercial success.

Inclan is the creator of the Hozer Throwbag, a device that pitchers can use to work their arms. Here's how it works: A softball or baseball is held in the throwing hand, then the bag is secured to the wrist with Velcro. The pitcher throws the ball, which is then retained by the bag. The bag is knotted at the end - the "ball feeder" - to return the ball into the player's hand for another throw.

The draw, said Inclan, is that players can practice even in inclement weather. And they don't have to drive somewhere to find a gym or ballfield. They can do it in their own living rooms. Since the device prevents the ball from traveling a great distance, it can be used within the home, yet generate the same feel as throwing to a partner at a ballfield, he said.
''I don't have to chase balls over my head," said Inclan, referring to practice sessions with his 7- year-old son, Joseph.

As a member of an amateur men's senior baseball league, Inclan knows full well the challenges of practicing his pitching arm during the winter months. His team participates in competitions in Puerto Rico, sometimes in mid-winter.

''We play six to 10 games a week. If you're not in decent shape, your arm is going to hurt," he said. "And you can't throw the ball with authority."

That's when the veritable bolt of lightning struck: Why not put something around his hand to throw the ball and have it come back. ''I came running in the room with a pillowcase and some duct tape, stuck a ball into the open end, and closed it around my wrist," Inclan recalls. "I thought, 'My God, this actually works.'" But the contained area was too large. That's where the hosiery bag came in. Inclan remembered seeing something in his home that would be ideal for his idea. ''I said, 'Joanne, I know I've seen something that belongs to you,'" he recalls. Then he spotted his wife's hosiery bag hanging in the bedroom, and his creative juices began to flow.

That's when the work began. Designing a prototype, going to the library to research patents and suppliers and manufacturers of synthetic mesh materials, staying up until 3 a.m. sewing prototype after prototype with mesh, Velcro and foam. Inclan designed labels and logos for his new product. He came up with a business plan, invested $25,000, wrote a marketing and distribution proposal, and set the retail price at $29.95.

He came up with Hozer, Inc., as a means to market and distribute the training device. Inclan said he thought Hozer the perfect name - a marriage of Jose and hosiery (and baseball jargon for "good arm", having a good "hose").

When the time came, he took his product to sports trade shows around the country, including Atlanta's SuperShow, the largest retail sporting goods show around. He developed a Web site where the product can be ordered (www.hozer.bigstep.com). And he marketed the bag with a vengeance.

It looks like retailers are biting. So far, the Hozer Throwbag is available at several shops in Essex County, including the Fairfield Batting Cages, Sports Express at the Livingston Mall and Caldwell Sport Shop.

''It's an excellent idea, but people need to know about it," said Ron Kurtzwell, proprietor of Sports Express. "It's a great way for people to loosen up. You can practice by yourself." Modell's, the national sports chain store, has carried the product in select stores, said Inclan.

Inclan, who has managed shopping malls around the country for 20 years, said he lost his position as manager of the Livingston Mall in October of 1998 after Simon DeBartolo bought Corporate Property Investors. Prior to that, he had already been working on the Hozer Throwbag. But time off from work has made it possible for him to devote full-time attention to this venture. All along, Joanne has been supportive of the venture, working as vice president and production manager.

Inclan plans to target little leagues and high school ballplayers, reasoning that coaches can train without having to chase wandering balls. Even though players in college, semi-pro, minor and major league baseball have state-of-the-art facilities at their disposal, Inclan believes it can be useful for those players who want to do some extra throwing and do not have access to the facilities during the off-season.

''So far, it's been a success," said Chris Miele, co-owner of the Caldwell Sport Shop. "Something so simple ends up being a great idea. I wish I had thought of it."


   
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