Jack Marucci is a fixture at LSU these days, where he currently serves in the role of Director of Performance Innovation. Prior to his promotion to the position last year, the Pennsylvania native was the school’s Director of Athletic Training for a quarter-century.
“I take nothing for granted,” he told me. On this Tuesday afternoon he was running between a myriad of responsibilities on the Baton Rouge campus. With eight wins and two losses, the football team consumes a lot of his attention this time of year.
“I’m always looking at the analytics,” he says, before pausing, then laughing. “It’s really just data, but calling them analytics makes you sound smarter than you really are.”
Only Jack Marucci is very smart – and a guy who seems to thrive juggling a wide array of tasks and ventures.
At LSU, Marucci loves working with and studying the players, especially those on the football team. “I learn so much from them,” he says. “I listen to them. That’s important.”
But the staff veteran is more interested in making sure his players succeed as adults off the field. In his online bio, it notes his mission is to make sure LSU athletes “have a meaningful and sustainable life beyond sport.”
What does that mean to him?
“We all learn differently,” he tells me. “Everyone can learn, but we learn differently.”
But then he goes much deeper.
“I always tell the players, there are guarantees in life. You’re going to have to pay taxes. You’re going to die one day. And you need to prepare for life after football. How do you do that? Find your passions. Don’t let football define you. Use the game to help you advance in life.”
During his tenure at LSU, Marucci has studied every player and has identified common markers in the highest-producing athletes both on and off the gridiron.
“High character is number one. How do you treat people who can’t help you? People like the janitors, the cafeteria workers. And what do you do when people aren’t watching? How are you using the resources here to manage your life?”
Surprisingly, Jack Marucci says he doesn’t look all that much at a player’s GPA, though they obviously have to have passing marks.
“Do they go to class? Do they make their tutor appointments? Guys that got up, that have gumption and discipline, do well. Those that don’t – don’t.”
Mr. Marucci says a player’s “coachability” will also give a good indication of how well and how far they’re going to go in life.
“We study the interaction of players, especially players that don’t start or play much. How are they after a big win? Are they self-absorbed, pouting, or celebrating with the other players?”
Jack Marucci says LSU’s 2019 National Championship football team was overflowing with these types of players. In beating Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the Tigers capped their first undefeated season since 1958.
Talking with Jack, his passion for developing young men who one day grow up to make the most of their lives is clearly evident.
“You know,” he says, almost wistfully, “opportunity is the golden word. Everybody loves to talk about ‘opportunities.’ But you need to remember that relationships give you opportunities. The better the relationships, the better and more frequent are the opportunities.”
Jack should know.
It might surprise you to learn that in the midst of serving faithfully at LSU for over 25 years, Jack wound up starting a side business making wooden baseball bats – a company whose bats are now the most popular of all manufacturers in Major League Baseball. Marucci Bats have even dethroned Louisville Slugger, a legendary company that held the number one slot as bat provider for over a century.
And it all started with a relationship back in middle school in Laurel Highlands, Pa.
Jack was in the eighth grade. For an elective, he chose to take a woodworking class with Mr. Hess, who taught students how to use a lathe – a tool that cuts, sands, drills, and helps turn wood into a specifically desired shape.
Fast forward a few decades. Jack’s son, Gino, is eight years old and looking for a wooden baseball bat for Little League. But with aluminum bats being what all the kids use, they can’t find a bat small enough for him to swing.
“I knew how to use a lathe,” Jack remembers, thinking back to eighth grade. So, he decided to pick one up at Harbor Freight for $88, and take a stab at making a bat for young Gino in his backyard shed. He wasn’t satisfied with the first one, but the more he made, the better they turned out.
Major League players Kurt Ainsworth and Joe Lawrence happened to be rehabbing with Jack at LSU and felt and swung the bats. At the time, most MLB bats were made of ash, but Marucci was experimenting using maple. The players liked the density and the bounce of the ball off the wood. Over time, something of a legend began to grow as players told other players, and bats were traded around. Even Albert Pujols became a fan.
Ainsworth and Lawrence, along with Reed Evans, a former assistant press secretary with President George W. Bush, convinced Jack to form a company and buy the mill that provided the wood for the bats. Marucci Sports was launched in 2009.
It was during the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 that Marucci Sports agreed to sell to Compass, a Connecticut-based company. The sale price was $200 million. Kurt Ainsworth agreed to stay on as CEO.
“Everything’s not forever,” Jack said this past week. “It’s all very humbling. But the neatest thing is that this company created a lot of jobs and opened a lot of doors for people. I now get requests from former MLB players wanting bats for their sons.”
It all comes back to relationships with Jack Marucci. For several years, the trainer/entrepreneur spent time trying to track down Mr. Hess’ family, just to tell them how much his former shop teacher meant to him – and how grateful he was for him teaching him a skill, even one that had laid dormant for so long.
“Mr. Hess was old when I had him in class. But I finally found his daughter.” She lived in Morgantown, Pa., a small town in the southern part of the state. “She was very tearful. She couldn’t believe it when I told her how her dad’s class had inspired all of what happened.”
“Laissez les bon temps rouler” is an old and popular Cajun saying that means, “Let the good times roll.” For Jack Marucci, the best way to a good time is to invest in people and treat them like they’re the most important people you’ll ever meet.