The CEO of Baden Sports knows a thing or two about athletics
written by Sheila G. Miller | photos by James Harnois
Michael Schindler runs the kind of company that you have heard of, even if you think you haven’t. As CEO of Baden Sports, he’s responsible for many of the basketballs, volleyballs and other athletic equipment you see everywhere from county fairs to sporting events.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t know we’re local,” Schindler said from his Renton office.
Baden may be best known for its basketballs and volleyballs, though it also produces other sports implements as well as backyard games. It recently moved into the baseball bat market with its Axe Bat, a design with a new style of grip and handle shaped like … you guessed it, an axe.
The company originally produced tennis products. In 1978, Schindler got involved and the company moved away from tennis and toward balls. Baden’s big break came when women’s college basketball started testing a smaller ball. Unlike many of the other sports equipment companies at the time, Baden developed a prototype. When the rule change was made, Baden was the only company that could meet the demand.
As a kid, Schindler played basketball incessantly, and continued with that passion through high school and college.
“Back in my day there wasn’t barely even TV, so I played basketball for hours every day, from the time I was 5 or 6 years old. I just played basketball all the time,” he said.
Then in his late 40s, Schindler tore his meniscus and had to have arthroscopic surgery. When the surgery was over, his doctor had some bad news for him.
“He said if I wasn’t committed to playing basketball five days a week, I’d be in here and he’d be sewing up an Achilles tendon rupture,” Schindler said. “As busy as I was with my kids and my business, that was the end of my basketball career.”
Today, he dabbles in golf but mostly walks for its health benefits. Every day, Schindler is joined by colleagues as he walks about 2.5 miles on a trail that traipses through wetlands near Baden headquarters.
“When I first stopped playing basketball in my mid-20s, just getting out of shape a little, that’s when I turned my first ankle,” Schindler said. “It’s a commitment, it’s tough to stay in shape.”
When Schindler plays golf, he skips the cart so he’s forced to walk the eighteen holes.
“The only reason I continue to play golf is for the exercise because I’m sure not doing it to be a better golfer,” Schindler said. “I haven’t gotten any better since the first month I played.”
There’s also a ping pong table in the office, and frequent tournaments take place down the hall from Schindler’s office.
“They kick my butt,” he said, laughing, about his employees. “Like anything you have to play it a lot.”
Schindler chooses to get his walking in during the afternoon, because there’s limited daylight in the Seattle area, especially in winter. He’s preparing to return to personal training and free weights, because he’s noticed that age means a loss of muscle mass and he worries about that.
“It’s really the weightlifting to keep you toned, it’s critical,” he said. “I used to really think I was very coordinated. You go hiking and you go across the river jumping from one rock to another. But now I crawl across or I’ll fall in the drink.”
While Schindler is a regular on his walks, his Boston terrier, Lulu, no longer joins him after she was stung by bees. “I think she thinks I’m the one who stung her.”
As he ages, Schindler is all right with letting his activity fall by the wayside a bit and letting the younger people he works with be the athletic ones.
“I’ve never been injured drinking coffee,” he said.
CEO, Baden Sports
Born: Portland, Oregon
• Walks daily, about 2.5 miles
• Hikes on occasion at parks and
trails in the area
• Golfs on occasion (no cart)
Fresh foods, not processed (he hasn’t eaten a meal from a fast food restaurant since his oldest child, who is now in his 20s, was 12 years old)
• Yogurt and cottage cheese
• Seasonal berries
• Roasted or baked chicken
Schindler is driven by a passion to make the very best product in every category Baden enters. He said the Axe Bat is a perfect example. He sees it as a product that improves the game for the player and helps hitters perform better.
He’s also inspired by his longtime employees, and in wanting to make a difference in athletes’ lives.