LOCAL NEWS

How a new Utah company aims to change pickleball with a ‘mini’ product

Feb 17, 2024, 8:20 PM

Ed Beazer, co-founder of the Utah-based Bzer Sports, holds the company's invention, a miniature war...

Ed Beazer, co-founder of the Utah-based Bzer Sports, holds the company's invention, a miniature warmup ball, during an event at Club Pickleball USA in Sandy on Friday. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

(Carter Williams, KSL.com)

SANDY — Ed Beazer says he took up pickleball about four years ago as the game began to sweep over the country and Utah.

“I got the bug,” the Murray resident said, recalling his origin in the sport. “(I) started playing more and more.”

He’s certainly not alone there. One pickleball paddle company, using an analysis of Google Trends, released a report last year naming Utah as the top pickleball state. Cities continue to build new courts as available public options fill up quickly.

But the more Beazer played, the more he wanted to improve his skills, so he eventually searched for a coach to help improve his game. His journey took him to Jake Ralphs, a professional pickleball player who started to teach the game in 2021 to a growing number of people interested in the sport.

How the ‘mini’ product got started

During one of their sessions about two years ago, Ralphs brought a ball smaller than the traditional nearly 3-inch diameter pickleball people are used to playing with. They practiced with it before returning to the regulation ball and the difference was noticeable — like hitting a beach ball, Beazer said.

The idea of developing a miniature pickleball training product instantly clicked. Beazer, a businessman who is perhaps best known for helping bring Starbucks to Utah, searched around to see if there was anything on the market like it. While there are some novelty items on the market, there weren’t any products they could find like what the two had in mind.

Now, after more than a year of development, Beazer and Ralphs have a product on the market that does just that. The two co-founded Bzer Sports and launched their first innovation they’re calling the “Warm-Up Ball.” It’s 1.75 inches in diameter.

“This is the first mini pickleball in the pickleball industry and we developed it right here in Utah,” he said, following a launch event at Club Pickleball USA on Friday. “We’re one of the top states for pickleball, so we thought if we could get this developed and introduced in the Utah market, and help the people of Utah get better, that’s what we wanted to do.”

Bzer unveiled its product on a pickleball court as “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project blared over the speakers. The event was followed by a tutorial featuring 11-time Professional Pickleball Association tour champion Callie Jo Smith and a range of notable local pickleball enthusiasts, including former congressman Ben McAdams, ex-Utah Jazzman Ron Boone and composer Kurt Bestor.

The ball they played with took more than a year to develop, which went through different prototypes about every month before Bzer settled on the final product late last year, Beazer explained. It’s made out of rubber instead of the standard plastic ball, giving it weight that aims to help with follow-through form.

Pickleball pro and coach Callie Jo Smith, left, and former Utah congressman Ben McAdams, right, play pickleball in front of a miniature Bzer pickleball on display at Club Pickleball USA in Sandy on Friday. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Smith, also a coach, said she was introduced to the miniature ball as it was being developed last year. She also got a shot at testing the final product a few weeks ago and was impressed by the experience.

“This end product has been fabulous,” she said. “I’ve used it the last couple of weeks and I’ve been amazed with how it really works, how it’s changed my game and focus on the court.”

Bzer’s operations are fairly simple at this point, a family-only operation out of a garage for the moment. The three-pack sleeve is available on the company’s website, though Beazer said he and Ralphs will keep some on them to sell in person.

However, the company has big plans on the horizon as it looks to focus specifically on pickleball training items. Beazer said the company is working to get the ball on Amazon to expand its marketplace. At the same time, the company plans to release other products like a smaller paddle and a moveable target in the coming months.

“There’s going to be more to come. We want Bzer Sports to specialize in training devices for pickleball players to improve their game,” he said. “We’re hoping that just becomes our niche in the industry.”

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How a new Utah company aims to change pickleball with a ‘mini’ product