Club News: Virginia Unity – Johnson/Ross partners with Rawlings and Easton
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Nationally recognized 16U team Virginia Unity – Johnson/Ross has partnered with Rawlings and Easton, becoming the first team to enter into such a deal with two brands at once.
“Usually you go for one brand or the other,” said Jay Ross, co-trainer of Unity. “But we were able to come to a verbal agreement that we could have the Rawlings Hiding Heart gloves and swing the Easton bats. Then fill in the catcher’s gear because obviously Easton’s catcher’s gear, Jen Schro’s stuff, is their top of the line, and then, of course, the bags and the bat helmets and the other stuff.
In December 2021, at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) convention in Las Vegas, Ross and his co-head coach Unity Josh Johnson sat down with representatives from Rawlings and Easton, as well as representatives from other brands, to eventually work out a deal.
In the end, the coaches reached a deal with Rawlings and Easton, a deal they believe really benefits both parties.
“I would say it’s a partnership,” Johnson said, “because they partner with us in putting their mark on quality kids, and we partner with them in giving them feedback and giving them market share.”
The Unity – Johnson/Ross 16U team is not the only team to benefit from this partnership: other teams in the Unity organization also benefit from discounted rates on equipment.
But in addition to benefiting the Unity organization and the Rawlings and Easton brands, this agreement also helps individual Unity Johnson/Ross team athletes.
“When they go off to college and come on campus, every university has a manufacturer platform, whether it’s Easton or Rawlings or Nike or whatever it is,” Ross said. “So it gives them the feeling of what it’s going to be like. They’ll already know what it’s like to come in and have a product available to them, to be able to come in and have a glove made to their specs. They’ll know what kinds of questions to ask and things of that nature, so it’ll be like they’re walking around campus I guess so to speak.
Ultimately, club leaders are confident this is a partnership that could potentially influence the world of softball for years to come.
“I hope colleges see this and want to do things like this in the future and we’re a reason for that,” Johnson said. “Or other organizations can benefit from the relationship we start with [Rawlings and Easton].”
Ross agrees and thinks deals like the one they were able to strike could eventually be sought by other manufacturers in the future. This could help athletes, organizations and brands for years to come.
“I think teams will be looking for those kinds of opportunities,” Ross said. “And maybe other manufacturers could look to help spread the word and get their name out there and, from a sponsorship perspective, look for the quality of the team that we have.”
— grace white, corresponding to Extra Inning Softball