Schindler’s legacy bounces along at Baden

CEO of Baden Sports died unexpectedly in February

Renton-founded Baden Sports leader and CEO Michael Schindler died unexpectedly in late February. After his passing, Renton Reporter sat down with members of the family business to talk about his legacy and the company’s history.

As Schindler’s son Casey Schindler was trying to remember the date the first basketballs were purchased for Baden, he paused.

“It’s so funny, my dad knew all the dates right off the top of his head,” he said.

It was April 1979 with 144 rubber basketballs. Before that, Baden was a not-so-successful tennis racket company. Michael Schindler’s love for basketball as an athlete gave him the foresight to know what was missing in the sport: quality balls. Many didn’t even properly bounce straight. And his father E.C. Schindler, the founder and an experienced manufacturer, had the tools to help create the best product at the time once they decided to pivot. Michael Schindler succeeded him as CEO in 2002.

The CEO’s son-in-law Jake Licht said the two made the perfect duo of experience and passion to bring high-quality basketballs to teams across the country, now selling about 4 million balls a year with a million in inventory at any given time.

Michael Schindler was boundlessly curious — his interest in other people’s needs and lives made him a natural salesperson for the company. He believed he was truly helping people’s lives by offering them a better ball, not just trying to sell a product. Licht said he was always connecting with coaches, customers and the like about basketball but also personal matters. The company partners with the Harlem Globetrotters and Worldvision.

“He truly looked for ways to help those who ultimately became our customers,” Licht said.

That curiosity and passion were also part of the reason why the company has been at the front of major changes in sports equipment. When women’s basketball was rising in popularity in the early 1980s, Schindler wanted to test a smaller ball for the average woman’s hand size, before the ruling on using a different basketball was established by the National Girls and Women in Sports Rules Committee in 1984. Because Baden was already “on the ball” as it were, their tested model was used as the official women’s basketball. That was a turning point in the company’s history.

Michael Schindler kept the unexpected coming in recent years, with Baden’s brand Axebat. The baseball bat offers a new handle style that is meant to improve natural swing and range of a batter’s motion.

“Baseball is probably the most traditional team sport we have in America. So I think some people look at this and think, ‘It’s a better design, but we’re fighting 150 years of baseball tradition. Should we pour a bunch of money, time and effort into this thing?’ And that (thinking) wasn’t in his DNA,” Casey Schindler said. “If it’s a better product, he’s on board.”

Licht and Casey Schindler both work for Baden, as do many immediate family members. There was no separation between work and the personal for him, Casey Schindler said. He would go to the sports games of his employees’ kids, walk with them and never saw retiring as part of his plan.

Licht said that Michael Schindler was Baden, and Baden was him, but that he also left his employees (and family) with the ability to move the company forward.

As a person, his sense of humor, larger than life personality and competitiveness in the business was always countered with his humility and gentle, comforting side, Casey Schindler said. He worked under his father for a little over eight years at Baden.

“Every year, every day he was giving us a little bit more. He was very intentional in including us, teaching us, mentoring us and setting us up for success,” Schindler said. “Of course he didn’t see this coming, nobody did, but I’m so thankful that I had those eight-and-a-half years.”

Schindler passed away while vacationing with his wife in Hawaii of an apparent heart attack.

“We find comfort in knowing he died in a place he loved so much, with the love of his life, Patti, by his side. Thank you for your prayers and support,” the family’s statement reads in a press release about his death.

Update on March 18: Since the publication of this article, Baden has announced Jake Licht as the company’s new CEO and President and Casey Schindler as the COO, replacing Licht in that position.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Photo from the scene of a drive-by shooting at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. Photo by David Nelson.
Drive-by shooting at Coulon Park Tuesday interrupted memorial

Two were shot, one with life threatening injuries. Renton Police Department is investigating.

Sound Transit gets $100 million federal grant for Federal Way light rail extension

Portion of $790 million payment toward $3.1 billion project

King County cases among younger adults drives increase in COVID-19 numbers

Over half of all new cases are among people ages 20-39

Public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs and similar schools and programs may resume general instruction, including in-person classes and lectures, starting Aug. 1. Pictured: The University of Washington-Bothell campus. File photo
Universities and colleges may reopen in fall, governor says

His order requires masks and physical distancing, among other measures, to help prevent infections.

A photo of the victim in a shooting at Cedar River, 24-year-old Nicholas Germer. Courtesy Photo/GoFundMe
Kent man killed in shooting at Cedar River, suspect arrested

34-year-old suspect is being held on bail for $1 million

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Renton collection agency sued over collection letters for unenforceable debts

Convergent Outsourcing sent over 75,000 deceptive letters asking for settlements on debts that were already past the statute of limitations for collection lawsuits

Most Read