The Tater Kong represents what Tater stands for. The trials and tribulations experienced from starting a baseball brand in a very competitive industry has not only motivated us as a company but has allowed us to relate to players of all levels. The Tater Kong has something to prove - baseball culture is changing and it represents the new school, the new identity of baseball.
Miah: What's up Tater Gang! Thank you everyone who's been tuning in to our last two episodes of our podcast, whether it's Spotify or YouTube. The engagement has been great, we love hearing that you guys are enjoying the stories that we're talking about. Episode 3, Tater Kong episode, is our favorite episode so far. We had some technical difficulties with the video portion of it for YouTube, but we're gonna give you guys some exclusive content that we haven't put out on Instagram, Twitter, or anything before, about the Tater Kong and some of the stuff we talk about. If you guys like what we're doing, feel free to share, subscribe, send it to someone who wants to hear the story or should hear the story. And let us know what you guys want us to talk about next, we're excited to keep bringing more content for you guys, enjoy!
I'm Sky Ellazar, and I'm Tater
I'm Matt Donlan, and I'm Tater
I'm Nick Raposo, and I'm Tater
Miah: Welcome back everyone to the We Are Tater podcast. I'm here alongside my brother, Freddie. This is your host Jeremiah, and today we're going to talk about the Tater Kong. I'm super juiced up about this episode, it's going to be a fun one. So I'm going to ask Freddie quickly, why we started Tater Kong. Just go right into it, let's go.
Freddie: So this this one means a lot to me, and I'm glad this is episode three. Again, before I jump into it honestly, if you guys love the stuff that we do. Share it to your friends, share it to people that need to hear the story, because this one is going to be legendary. So 2015 right, we talked a little bit about that in episode one but I was working at a company called Foley. I was a marketing analyst there, doing a lot of like, the dog days, yeah those were, those days were terrible. I loved the people I worked with though. They still support, they love me. It's just the job was not it. You know, and me being naïve, I told everybody what I was doing. I'm like yeah I'm starting this company with my family. If I could sell you know sell so many bats, I can get out of this place. I used to find any excuse to play ping-pong with anybody who would be down to play, just so I wouldn't have to work there. As the company started to grow, there was a couple people that were little, you know haters, and obviously you know we've had a lot of haters throughout the years and this was like a building block of like, I'm sitting next to someone and they just hate on me, and they snitch on me, or whatever and it was like a blessing because them not wanting me to succeed made it so easy for us to, you know, water off a duck's back. Like it doesn't matter, now if a competitor or anything that happens, people bite our stuff like we just know we're going to get better and you know what, like competition is healthy and people who hate on your stuff is just because they're jealous. So long story short, I would sit in the office, and I was sitting next to a gentleman who was a like crazy, crazy guy, like drawing. His work was crazy. I was never artistic, so this was the first artist we ever collab with. I said hey man, I'll pay you to do like a design for me. We have this logo, it's a TB with a with a home plate around it. We're gonna drop it here, check it out. I actually asked one of the marketing girls that worked there, her name was Abby, she could make it for us. It was a TB, you'll see it on the screen, it'll pop up. Cursive script, home plate, super thin. People used to hate on that design they used to call it J3 instead of TB because it just, whatever. You know, people knew, it was just some people just want to be heartless about it. The guy that sat next to me was drawing a bunch of stuff for different people at the office and I said you know what, I would love for you to make a gorilla holding a big banana and the home plate would be the TB logo. He took like a week or so, a couple days, I don't even remember the timeline but he made that. And I had it on my wall and that was like the first semblance of the Tater Kong. Like it had a little bit of an attitude, you know. I gave him a little direction, I wanted some attitude, some swag, some crazy swag. Like the I don't care what you say I'm gonna beat you or you know like that confidence level like, we're gonna play, you're gonna throw this pitch, I'm gonna hit a bomb off you. It was kind of like the underlying feeling I was having at the office when, you know, people would be like oh where's Freddie? My manager would come in and be like oh where's Freddie? I asked my co-workers and instead of a couple of them like having my back, I mean there was a couple that had my back, some someone would say oh he's just wasting his time selling bats during his lunch.
Miah: So let's talk about this, right. So Freddie was working his 9 to 5 like everyone else fresh out of college. You were 23 at the time and at his lunch break, that was his opportunity to sell bats because after that we would go home and we'd produce. We'd be making bats in the garage, in the lab. So you used to go straight from lunch, I'm sure those first three hours of work would go by super slow because you're just ready to set up and get to this meeting. So talk about what that was like, the anticipation of the meeting and then getting back hoping you weren't gonna get in trouble.
Freddie: Literally, I would try to plan out my day where I would say okay if I can get all my stuff done today, even if I came back a little late, my boy Jason who ended up becoming our first sales rep, who would help me out all the time would cover my back. So my boss literally only came on like a single day of the week, was like Fridays or Wednesdays, I can't remember but he drove all the way from Boston. He was the man, like I have nothing bad to say, he really hooked it up. But where I'm at now, I understand why he was on me because obviously it was a real job. But you know there was other people, other managers from different departments would like try to point out like this guy is not, you know he shows up late, or he's leaving, or he's taking an hour lunch, or taking an hour and 20. Not focused on what he's got to do. Yeah and you know what it was is that I was finishing my work in like two or three hours and I was like oh I'm good for the day. I can focus on making the website, you know stuff like that. You know I would research facilities and we were talking nobody knew who I was. What Tater was. I have been out of the game for like five or six years. So there would be times where I would leave, I'd run to my, not every time was to sell bats. Like there was times where I would actually have to drive somewhere to get bats engraved with people's names on them and I would have to coordinate times where I could drop off the bats or sit there and wait to make sure they do it right because we've had issues where the person who was engraving the bats, because we didn't even have the equipment yet, would spell the person's name wrong and then I'd have to eat it so I'd be the bad guy when I didn't mess up, the order was in somebody else's hands. But I would go to these facilities and there was only, you know, there was a couple in Hartford area, the capital Connecticut, and not all of them but there was a handful of them, that would just be like, oh why buy your stuff like, oh I don't, you know, thanks for coming but we don't need you here, and it was just kind of like an underlying sense of like you're not gonna make it. And there was times where people would be like hey you're pretty smart, you want to work for me, like how much should I pay you to work at Tater and I'm like no bro this is my company. Not only did I have to battle those issues where people didn't believe in the branding which now they're, you know, some of them, some of those facilities are dying to work with us, right. They want us to do everything for them and they want us to rebrand our whole facility which is crazy. I don't even remember if it's the same people or if it went through new management or whatever but it's just kind of ironic and the thing of the matter was not only was I battling prospective clients not believing in a brand but I was also having co-workers who thought that I was killing it or making money and they were just trying to make it harder for me on my regular job.
Miah: Yeah that's that hustler's mentality man. You're just trying to trying to hustle and that's something that we haven't stopped with since we started. You know, we're seven years into this and I feel like every day we still have that same mentality that when we started we're gonna hustle and get this done. We're gonna do anything we can to be the best company out there.
Freddie: Yeah and that's really what the Tater Kong really embodies today. So it's, and this is why a lot of players and a lot of people relate to it because it's like not only do we have to prove ourselves day in and day out. Not only do we have to innovate. But even throughout that, even though we put up the number, like a player, even though he puts up the numbers, even though, you know, they show out, they're constantly in people's faces doing the right thing, people still want to doubt, right. It's just, it's okay. But it's the chip on our shoulder, that's why the Kong has his hat turned backwards. He has that little smirk. He has the sunglasses on. He's coming to play. He's coming to show out. He doesn't care what you got to say, we're going to go in and do the job and we know we're going to do it right and we're going to do it well and nobody can take that away. So the first Tater Kong is not what it is today.
Miah: Right, so we're going to talk about next how that first Tater Kong evolved into this one and what's to come. So that first Tater Kong was obviously instrumental to our growth, but then about two years after that, we met a good friend, who's close to us now, who still works with us, his name is Chuck. And Chuck is a beast, graphic design. That's the goat. And Chuck was referred to us by our great friend, J.C. who was working at Tater every day with us, grinding it out. So we said the Chuck, you're a graphic designer, we have this, let's make this one-dimensional and swaggy to fit the tone of what Tater is and what it will be for years to come. So talk about that conversation you had with Chuck, when you wanted him to create the new Tater Kong.
Freddie: Chuck Nasty, I love that guy man. I love you Chuck and J.C. So this is how it kind of went down. So bootstrapping the company, we didn't have a lot of money. And it was constant people bombarding me with hey I want to do this, hey sponsor my team, hey sponsor me I'm a pro player even though they may not have been a pro player, uh sponsor my baseball team, you should donate blah blah blah, and it's like while those are great things to do, you know, this is this is 2017, we're bare you know we're still operating out of our garage, and people like capital, like I'm still working at Foley. I think I actually was in the process of transitioning to my next my next job because it was just getting so tense there. Where there was, you know, I was just under a microscope everywhere I went. So J.C. who you know knew the grind, he actually was my right hand man for a long time. And I know if I call him today he'll be right there with us. He was like hey my boy Chuck or I call him Chuck Nasty, wants to do some graphic design work and I was already like hey J.C. I've gone through like five different graphic designers, nobody gets it. They don't play baseball, they don't understand the environment, the vibe.
Miah: Because everyone knows, you're a baseball player, you're in baseball, some things just don't hit. So it's like the vision for baseball type, you know logos or anything, typography, it just has to flow with what baseball is. It can't be eyewash, for people who don't know eyewashes look it up. Chuck just knew what he was doing because he was a baseball guy, and he was still playing at the time.
Freddie: Yeah, it was kind of like, it was like hey prove yourself to me type of conversation. And I wish, you know, I wish you called him today to ask him exactly what I said because I'm gonna paraphrase it but I said something to the effect of, because you know I was really tired of, it was always constantly like people like, Tater, two years in, a little bit success, people were saying like, I've had multiple instances where people were saying oh I own Tater, but like I've never even met the person before. Or people were trying to make copies of the bats or people were trying to say that they knew me very well or whatever and I didn't even know who they were, and they've never even they never even bought product from us before saying that they owned a company or whatever. Or that they did stuff for us, or they made our website. Just people just trying to bite, right. And I said Chuck, I need you to prove it to me that you can do the graphic. I don't doubt you. But can you take this gorilla and make it into an actual logo that we can use and then from there, you know, we'll contract you to do stuff because I had multiple graphic designers where I would pay them and then we would get some bs. I was like, well I just grinded to sell you know bats for two or three weeks and it all went down the drain because the design that we needed or whatever we needed you know wasn't it. Chuck came back, and we had some like ideas, and he came back and he had like I don't know like 15 different logos with the gorilla. We even did a lion. We've done a couple different things where it was just like, you know, and I was like Chuck I want something that says I'm gonna body you. Like we're gonna play and you're not gonna win like I'm sorry but we're too good for you.
Miah: Yeah because literally in the baseball industry you will see other brands that don't have a secondary or third logo or even a mascot. So this was another differentiator for us to not only give something that encompasses the brand, but gives something for people to resonate with, right. Versus just a normal corporate logo.
Freddie: Right, and it's like that's really what we wanted. We had the Tater logo at this time we transitioned from the TB to the Tater with the oval, the one on his hat. The one on Miah's head and on the Tater Kong's head. It was something that you know we need to hit all aspects. We need to be corporate, we also need to be edgy. A lot of the companies out there are very very corporate and nobody's edgy. Everybody's afraid to be edgy, so us being a small, nimble company we can kind of do what we want, innovate. Don't worry about what people have to think or say because at the end of the day, we're doing what we like to do. So if people like it, that's great. People don't like it, that's fine too because at the, you know, this is this is our project. This is our company. We can end up, if we wanted to to make a camouflage whatever, we could do it. So the Tater Kong really is something that people can, an identity for the company that they can resonate with. And what's ironic, is a lot of companies have tried to now incorporate a gorilla with a hat on with some sunglasses but they, you know, it's just not it and they had to stop doing it.
Miah: I think something that we have to touch on now is not only what the Kong means to us but what it means to baseball because what everyone is noticing now and at least we notice it because we're we're in the game every day is that baseball culture is changing. Similar to the Kong, it represents culture, right.
Freddie: Yeah new school man. This is, baseball has been such like a legacy sport. America's past time, right. Loved the game, but it's gotten to a point where no one was really pushing the envelope.
Miah: Yeah like if someone bat flips, people are getting mad, but we all know that, that type of stuff is here to stay.
Freddie: Yeah I mean, look at all the other sports. Everybody's edgy, doing cool stuff, you know celebrations, doing flips, whatever it may be, cool cleats. You still have it. So the Tater Kong really embodies that movement like that's the new identity of baseball. The new culture. The culture Kong, we want to call it. And that's owned by Tater so anything that we do that's edgy, has a Kong on it, right. And anything that's very corporate, very, you know, minimalist, is going to be the TB or the Tater logo. Recently we came out with the Tater Kong alternate bat and that like was a hit because no one has ever seen something where it has, okay there's literally five colors on this bat. Splatter all over the place, in a crazy design and there's a huge Tater Kong on it. But if you rotate the bat, it looks like a traditional bat. What is your take on like the Tater Kong and like culture and baseball and how we're gonna change the game?
Miah: So the Kong, like I was saying before, goes right along with the movement but it's so universal that you can use with anything, and the new players that are coming up whether it's a 15 year old or 16 year old or a guy who's in single a who's starting up. It gives them that thing that okay, these guys are trendy and edgy, I can feel confident that doing the same thing when I play. That's what I see it like. Something to prove. And then on top of that, you know, something that we've been working on for the last year and a half you, guys probably seen on Instagram is is incorporating the Kong with new styles, right. So we have the shades, we give the the shades a perspective of you know ballparks around the world that are synonymous with you know culture. So talk about that.
Freddie: So one cool idea that we, you know, baseball culture is so, it's changing so quickly. We have a big part of it, whether we believe it or not. I know in my heart that we are the ones that innovate in the industry. So Mark Martinez, he helps us all the time, we met him what about like this time about last year, right maybe two years ago. He's been helping up at the shop. He's become like a brother to me and he was like, yo, you know would be sick in the shades of the gorilla, is the like uh layout or like parts of the city of where baseball stadiums are. Yankee Stadium, City Field, PNC Park.
Miah: Yeah, you got the Roberto Clemente bridge. You got those icons or those specific landmarks in those respective cities that are associated with the teams.
Freddie: Or in you know a fan's identity, even like a player's identity because you know I'm a big fan of the Pirates. Whenever I see, like what I care most about that stadium is the Clemente on the bridge. That's the first thing I want to go see and that's honestly one of the only things I want to go see when I go down there. Just because of the feeling that I get when I'm there. It's crazy because, even overseas, the Tater Kong is making an influence on baseball. In the Asian markets.
Miah: Yeah you got guys wearing the Tater Kong underneath their hat, whether it's in Japan or in Taiwan. You got guys in the big leagues, you know, everyone's wearing headbands underneath our hat. We came out with the Tater Kong headband. Guys are wearing it on field in the stadium, they're sliding, they're hitting double, the helmets falling off, what do you see? You see the Tater Kong.
Freddie: Yeah and it's one thing that I'm glad you bring it up because not only did we do a Tater Kong with the shades with all the different cities and stuff but we also did it to represent people's countries. A lot of folks don't get an opportunity to express themselves because obviously baseball is very clean cut. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with it, but it's very hard to, you know, identify yourself. What we ended up doing was, we put like the Venezuelan flag, the Dominican flag, Puerto Rican flag, American flag, and the Mexican flag and a couple other countries in the Tater Kong in the silhouette. So not only are people resonating with hey I got something to prove, I'm going to play in the big leagues for more than this year. I'm going to because it's one thing to make it, it's the other thing to stay. So guys that wanted to you know guys that want to show that they have something to prove, that they're willing to put into work, that they can do it, they can grind it out, and they have the capability. They're the first ones that take, that's what I see is like the guys take the jump and wear the Tater Kong. There's Tater guys that don't necessarily use the Tater Kong but those other guys are necessarily are more reserved, but there's nothing wrong with that.
Miah: Yeah, and we even have guys who have the tat, like they tattooed Tater Kong on their arm. Shout out Chris. We met Chris in 2020, you know great guy, one of my best friends now because of baseball if it wasn't for Tater or baseball I would have never met him. But he instantly resonated with the Kong, like this is a perfect example. Chris is playing pro ball, he goes yo, I'm gonna get the Kong tatted on my arm. I'm like yo, relax. We don't even have it on our body like I don't have any tattoos you're gonna get it, we thought he was joking. Sure enough, what was it like three or four months later?
Freddie: I literally said if you do it, I'll pay for it because I didn't even believe he was gonna do it.
Miah: Yeah, there's no thought on our head that he was going to do it. So was it three, four months later? I'm trying to remember, it was around the summer.
Freddie: Like three months later he said hey I got a tattoo artist is gonna come down to the shop and we're gonna do it right in the right in the factory. So we waited and ended up like, the tattoo artist ended up bailing but then literally the next day he found some other tattoo artist to do it and they banged it out in a day.
Miah: And he's got it big, right on his tricep, and he's the first one with it but there's gonna be more guys, for sure.
Freddie: We've literally have like five guys that said they're going to do it. Out of their own free, like once we said we brought up you're like yo you know it's funny I've been thinking about that.
Miah: Yeah we got guys with the Puerto Rican Kong that they're gonna put, you know the Kong with the Puerto Rico flag inside of it on their leg. You got guys who are ready to do anything like, they love it.
Freddie: And you know what, and I'm glad you say that it's multiple people because one thing that I feel very strongly about is that it's one thing when you go somewhere or you start something new and you do it by yourself and you can get somewhere very quickly. But you won't go very far. Like if I started Tater, and I didn't have all this help and I didn't have you, or mom, or pop, J.C., Chuck, you know anybody, Chris, or any of the players or the people who used to come to the house to buy the bats like literally knock on our front door, come to a basement and then spread the word. If it wasn't for those folks, we wouldn't have gone so far. I almost forgot about this, yeah the what gorillas do, is this is where you're gonna talk, they're like the family, right. So when you see a gorilla, they're always in packs. And this was one of the big principles of why I wanted a gorilla to embody the company is that not only are they strong, not only can they fight on their own, but they work as a family and protect each other. And that's when it comes down to community. I'm so big on community now because I look at it all the people that I really really care about. Everybody that I talk to on a daily basis. All the people that have our backs, are because they're part of our Tater family. Not necessarily saying like you know people from before Tater I don't care about, it's more like there's a different feeling of being in this community that we have created because it's like I know I can call a person, and someone from Tater, and they'll be at our front door before maybe somebody I grew up with or even family. They're ready to go because it's that underlying sense of what Tater, the Tater Kong, really stands for.
Miah: Yeah definitely, I mean we know that so many people have helped us along the way and it's just gonna keep happening that way, right, this is the Tater community, the Tater family, what we say all the time you know, we are Tater, Tater fam. It's everyone who is with us now and everyone who's going to help us propel and keep going forward. The Kong and gorillas in general, that whole pack idea, without it, you know, it's the core of what Tater is.
Freddie: I really do, I was actually talking to an agent today and he goes how do you pick the players that you give a contract to, or or how do you pick the guys that you want to support or market? And I said literally, you know, you can walk up to somebody say hey I'm going to give you a bunch of free stuff and they'll take it, right, but it takes a special type of person and this is not only for pro players but high school players, college guys, parents so on and so forth. It takes a very special type of person to support because they actually want to support you. Guys that show loyalty to us because obviously, you know, that's a big part of it, when you know somebody has your back and you have their back it's just a different type of relationship than just hey here's a contract sign this, you're here with us for a year. A lot of these guys that that we have relationships with, whether they continue to play baseball, whether they're done with baseball, whether they decide to do a career change, we still talk to them.
Miah: We're helping them, they're calling us to help make their life decisions. It's that that whole commodity, that brotherhood, and that's why it's so different the relationship that we have with everyone, not only pro players like you just said. Because these guys, we trust them that they're going to showcase our stuff at the highest level or even we have you know the guys who are showing showcasing our stuff in college or high school. It's that same thing and that there's a trust that no matter what happens, you know these guys will be honest with us and we're honest with them and there's that undoubted trust that is automatically associated with it.
Freddie: Yeah and I mean there's a lot of people who've become family just because of the time spent together. It's kind of like the band of brothers where you you're like fighting a war or you're you're trying to show out because you know if we wanted to just mass produce a product and just try to make money, and we can flood the market, we can make bats cheaper, or and use cheaper wood, and just flood the market. But that's not what we want to do. The same investment the players making in us, we're making in them. High school, college, even youth, MLB, minor league, independent, whatever the case may be is that we truly put our hearts and our sweat and tears into these bats because we want our family members, our brothers, our sisters, whatever you want to call it, to succeed because we actually do care about their careers.
Miah: I think that's this is a good spot to leave it at. I mean we covered a lot of information in this episode. You know I enjoyed talking about the Kong with everyone and it's a question that we get all the time, like I said the beginning of the episode. So for those who know the story, you know a little more now. For those who have always wondered what the Kong really embodies, share it with someone who, you know, might ask you in the future because the Kong is here to stay.