Tuesday evening, after Michael Morse continued his mashing ways by going 2-for-5 with a double, two runs and an RBI, I noticed that his postgame outfit included a “Beast Mode” t-shirt.
Wednesday afternoon, I posted an image of said shirt, which seemed appropriate for a hitter currently leading Nats regulars in batting average, home runs, RBI, slugging and on-base percentage. (Yes, I’m not counting Ryan Zimmerman here.)
By Thursday afternoon, I had gotten a call from Kip Simon, the 28-year old founder and president of 22Fresh , the “baseball lifestyle” company that produced the shirt. 22Fresh
And, wouldn’t you know, it turns out that Simon’s Regina, Saskatchewan-based company has made its biggest marketing inroads in the D.C. sports market.
For one thing, Simon is lifelong best friends with Caps forward Boyd Gordon, with whom he played hockey for a decade. Gordon has long worn the shirts around the Caps practice facility.
For another, Simon has been pals with Bryce Harper for several years, after the phenom began using the 22Fresh Facebook app to track his own statistics in high school. Simon reached out to Harper and wound up becoming friendly with the entire family. Older brother (and new Nats draft pick) Bryan Harper has worn the gear, as has Harper’s father, and Bryce was once photographed at a Chili’s wearing the company’s “Trending” tee.
“Kip’s the man,” Harper recently e-mailed the Regina Leader-Post. “He’s always helping me out. 22Fresh has sick style...These guys are legit.”
And then there’s the Nats clubhouse.
The shirts made their way to South Capital Street by way of the minor leagues, with outfield prospect Boomer Whiting the first pro ballplayer the company ever outfitted. Whiting introduced the gear to then-teammate Ian Desmond, who continued wearing the stuff when he came to the big leagues.
Desmond became out of five or six players who receives virtually every new 22Fresh product as soon as it’s released, and so last month Simon sent a care package to the shortstop. This was around the time of Morse’s early-season slump, and so Desmond asked for another Beast Mode shirt.
“He said ‘My friend Mike’s in kind of a bad mood, and I thought it would cheer him up,’ ” Simon recalled. “I know he’s been on a roll since he got it.”
Now, I don’t have the exact date the shirt arrived, but I can say that from April 15 to May 15, Morse had two homers in 56 at-bats and an OPS of .740. From May 15 to June 15, on the other hand, he has 10 homers in 103 at-bats and an OPS of 1.167. Since May 21, Morse is slugging .774, which is third in the majors, behind just Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder. No one has more homers than Morse in that span.
“Literally, since the day he got that from Desmond, he’s been in Beast Mode and hitting the [stuffing] out of the ball,” Simon told me.
So, why “Beast Mode?” Simon – who played college baseball at Evansville – has tried to make shirts that reflected the language of baseball clubhouses, giving ballplayers something casual to wear that reflected their sport and not snowboarding or fishing or whatever else.
“As corny as it sounds, we’re a lifestyle brand,” he told me. “It starts with conversations in the clubhouse. There’s a bit of slang, and we’re using words like dirty and fresh and beast mixed, with good design and my baseball knowledge. Fifty percent of our clientele probably doesn’t even know that it’s a baseball brand. They just see a really cool shirt.”
Clubhouse observers tell me that Morse has indeed been outfitted in his Beast Mode gear for much of the past few weeks, and Desmond was spotted wearing Beast Mode in the clubhouse on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just kind of cool that this is all surfacing in Washington,” said Simon, whose company got a burst of orders from D.C. and Virginia addresses this week. “It’s like anything: one guy walks into the clubhouse and his friend says, ‘Where’d you get that shirt?’ Since day 1 that’s what we’ve noticed: the first order comes in from the Bronx, and two weeks after delivery there’s five more orders. It’s just the same effect that’s taken place in the Nats clubhouse.”