1999/05/06 Thursday Page: 001 Section: IN THE TOWNS Edition: ESSEX Size:
Inventive approach to pitching prowess
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?
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,
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
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
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
''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."