"Science Guy" Bill Nye, a well-documented M's fan, was training for a Mariner Fantasy Camp when he observed one of his trainers' ad hoc inventions, a bat with a piece of PVC pipe attached to the end for scooping up baseballs to hit during fielding practice. Steve Goucher, Nye's trainer at the time and a Seattle baseball instructor for 15 years, explained that Nye took one look at it and started seeing ways to make it better. "He took out his pocketknife on the spot, and started to cut grooves into it," Goucher says. Nye, a former Boeing engineer who already holds patents for nifty inventions like a water-filled magnifying glass and modified ballet slippers, decided that a baseball grabber might be marketable and partnered with Goucher to develop a product around the idea. Goucher, who operates baseballjazz.com, had grown tired of stooping all the time to pick up balls to hit to his players. His sore back convinced him to do something about it. So he visited McLendon Hardware in White Center for a piece of PVC pipe, which he attached to the end of his bat. It turned out to be reasonably effective at snatching up baseballs for hitting practice, but it wasn't until Goucher met Nye that they had the idea to market it to the masses. The two shopped for manufacturers and settled on a rubber version of the grabber, produced by Auburn-based GlobalTech Plastics. They call it the Fango, after the colloquial fungo, a lightweight bat used by coaches for hitting practice.
Bill Nye (left) and Steve Goucher pose with their bat-tastic invention, the Fango.