By James Beaty
A barely 4-year-old McAlester youngster’s enthusiasm for a new invention has helped him hit a home run with its creators.
The inventors of The Hit Zone, an air suspension batting tee, were so impressed with young Hayden Harvison’s prowess on the device, that he’s been included in its national campaign.
He’s already featured on its Web site at www.hitzoneproshop.com and plans are in place to have Hayden’s photo included on the packaging for The Junior Hit Zone when it becomes widely available in stores, hopefully by early next year, according to his father.
Hayden, 4, is the son of McAlester News-Capital Photo Editor Kevin Harvison and Wilburton Public Schools kindergarten teacher Mindi Harvison.
Through working with The Hit Zone, Hayden’s already set a special goal for himself — hitting the ball over the fence at the Pittsburg County Little League Tee Ball field in Krebs.
So far, he’s hit 15 in the past few months while practicing with his dad.
How does it make him feel to blast one over the fence?
“Happy!” Hayden said, his eyes brimming with excitement.
Both The Hit Zone and The Junior Hit Zone use a small motor to send a stream of air up through a fabric sleeve to hold a ball aloft, floating and spinning in the air, while a batter swings at it.
Because the sleeve is fabric, as opposed to a hard plastic pipe, it springs back into place if it’s hit accidentally, while keeping the ball afloat in the air.
Young Hayden made the connection with the creators behind The Hit Zone earlier this year when his father contacted the company out of curiosity after he learned about plans for the device from the Internet.
Kevin Harvison communicated with Mark Schaffhausen, listed with Todd Kendall and Jamie Ogden as the creators of The Hit Zone.
Schaffhausen said at the time The Hit Zone was not yet ready to be marketed, but after seeing earlier videos of Hayden hitting a ball when the child was from 18 to 24 months-old, he decided to ship Hayden a demo model — in time for his third birthday.
“The first time we got it, I took him in the backyard and I shot a video of him using it,” Kevin Harvison said.
To say Hayden liked it would be understating the lad’s enthusiasm.
“When he hit the ball, he threw his arms up in the air, started jumping up and down and circling imaginary bases, like he’s just hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth,” Kevin Harvison said.
“It was a big hit with him.”
Kevin Harvison sent Schaffhausen some videos showing Hayden connecting with The Hit Zone.
“He asked me if they could use Hayden for an ad campaign to try and sell The Hit Zone to toy companies.” Kevin Harvison agreed and shot a photo of Hayden swinging at a ball held aloft by The Hit Zone, which ended up as part of the ad used by The Hit Zone at a toy exposition in Arizona.
“They decided they would create a Junior Hit Zone and asked if they could use Hayden on the box to be sold nationally and internationally, and we agreed,” Kevin Harvison said.
“I’m honored that they asked him.”
“The Hit Zone has been one of the best investments in Hayden’s baseball future,” he said. “It’s put the fun back in fundamentals.”
Mindi Harvison had an enthusiastic response when asked about Hayden’s connection with The Hit Zone.
“I think it’s helped him keep his eye on the ball. I think it’s improved his hand-eye coordination.”
“As a mamma, I’m very proud of him,” she said.
“He’s been blessed with a gift. I hope he continues to use it and have fun with it.”
Kevin Harvison also had some thoughts to share.
“God’s blessed him with an ability to play ball,” he said. “The Hit Zone’s helped him develop that.”
Before Hayden demonstrated his batting ability using The Junior Hit Zone, Kevin Harvison had warned the interviewer that his son might be a little quiet and shy before he talked to him.
Not to worry. Hayden not only talked enthusiastically about his Hit Zone, he also insisted on showing the interviewer his toys, his room and a small-scale Gotham City he created by putting together the pieces from several different play sets.
After the interview concluded, little Hayden wanted to make sure the interviewer got the point about the main focus of the discussion.
“I love my Hit Zone,” he said.
Then, he added, “Write that down!”
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.