"He taught the youth of America to play baseball."
You've seen the grainy video of a kid throwing a ball from center field into a garbage can. You might recall Fred McGriff's iconic athlete endorsement. And, if you watched ESPN in the late hours from 1997 to 2006, you have probably heard the name.
In 1982, Emanski, a baseball scout and youth baseball instructor, took years of research he had done on the baseball swing and established the Central Florida Baseball School. Like a number of things Emanski did, the school was different, because it was innovative.
Kids were videotaped on VHS from the moment they arrived at camp. This allowed Emanski and his staff to breakdown each youth player's swing mechanics and deliver a personalized, video-centric instruction that no one else could offer.
In essence, Emanski was the first to use video as a training device, which is now commonplace in every baseball lockerroom. With his Baseball School established, Emanski's fundamentals and swing mechanics (weight, balance, and timing) became popular among youth in Florida. But, the next step was credibility.
That came in 1990, when Emanski's underdog Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Championship team from central Florida defeated more talented teams from Oklahoma, Utah, and Minnesota to capture the AAU championship. An accomplishment Emanski would repeat in 1991 and 1992 with different aged teams. You might recall the "back-to-back-to-back AAU National Championship teams" line from the promos. Credibility achieved.
The Baseball School was doing well, Emanski's instructional videos were selling fine, and AAU championships had been collected. Then came the commercial success.
In 1997, Emanski used a contact at ESPN to negotiate a "per inquiry" deal; a deal a TV network would never agree to today. Basically, ESPN would air Emanski's commercials for his instructional videos and in return ESPN would receive a cut of each video sold.
The commercials were first seen during an Oscar de la Hoya fight, then during the 1997 Home Run Derby. In fact, ESPN would air the commercial in the late night to fill time and Emanski's name, Fred McGriff's endorsement, and the grainy videos quickly became part of the pop culture fabric. ESPN estimates the commercial aired more than 50,000 times in less than 10 years.
ESPN aired the commercial for the last time in January 2007. The Baseball School is now closed and has been for years. The commercial only lives in memories and on YouTube. Emanski's tutelage is still relevant, even if VHS tapes are not.
Tom Emanski lives in Orlando, Florida, but has turned down interview requests and--by all accounts--leads a very private life. From his ground-breaking train-by-video techniques to his innovative TV advertising campaign, Tom Emanski helped make baseball a better game for countless youths.
The Pros at JustBats salute Tom Emanski. If you have any questions on the baseball bat or softball bat that can help you achieve the Emanski perfect swing, give us a call at 866-321-2287 . What do you remember most about Emanski's instructional videos?