A company that allows fans to drink from baseball bats is using its success to benefit families of fallen and disabled military members.
Florida-based Dugout Mugs is a multi-million-dollar company that crafts customized mugs derived from baseball bats.
“People can buy a cool thing in a lot of places,” said Dugout Mugs CEO and co-founder Kris Dehnert. “We’ve built a tribe. We have 400,00 customers. We’ve sold $33 million worth of Dugout Mugs … It’s one of these things that it’s fun, it’s unique, it’s different, it’s quality, it’s North American made … personalized.”
Dugout Mugs, officially the Thompson Mug Company, was founded by former pitcher Randall Thompson. Thompson played at the collegiate and professional levels before embarking on a life filled with a fun and spirited way to deliver liquids to the human body. He came up with the idea while coaching at Florida Tech, overhearing the team’s hitting coach instruct players to “focus on the hands” and witnessed him remove the top of a bat, discarding the barrel on a bench. Another’s action inspired a novel thought. Thompson realized he could drink from a bat.
Thompson found Dehnert, who told the former pitcher he could grow and scale up the company, but Thompson needed to be all-in. Dehnert had been a part of running eight companies. Thompson went for it. In 2021, Dugout Mugs did $13.5 million in sales and plans to expand their already vast product line.
Dugout Mugs originally used broken bats or cracked bats, but the volume dictated they seek a supplier. Now they import hollowed-out bats from a company in Quebec City, Canada. The remaining manufacturing is done in Winter Haven, Florida. The most popular item in their lineup is the 12-ounce Dugout wood mug.
“It’s hand-sanded, laser-engraved, hand-cleaned … it’s all done right out of our warehouse,” Dehnert said.
The mug maker has also developed a relationship with all things baseball, the most prominent Major League Baseball. MLB recently placed a sizable order of Dugout Mugs stainless steel “mugs” or tumblers.
“All of our stuff is licensed by MLB,” Dehnert said. “So I’m licensed with Major League, Minor League, Hall of Fame, (MLB) Players Association and a handful of NCAA schools as well. And then individual players like Jackie Robinson, (Roberto) Clemente and Mariano (Rivera) and Pudge (Rodriguez) and all these guys … ‘Sandlot,’ ‘Field of Dreams.’ We positioned ourselves. We’re not going to be beat.”
But Dugout Mugs isn’t just about the bottom line and sales volume. Dehnert, Thompson and company exist to give back as well. Their focus has been heroes of the baseball community through their Cheers to Charity initiative. But Dehnert, who has a soft spot for the military, decided to go outside the batter’s box and collaborate with the military-related organization Folds of Honor.
“I have an affinity towards military, and Folds isn’t necessarily a baseball hero,” he said. “But I was up in Tennessee with John Daly and a few other guys up there … and they were talking about Folds of Honor and they made an introduction, and then somebody at Folds touched base with me on LinkedIn.”
Dehnert’s professional past has a military connection. He once owned a camouflage cookie company that sent cookies to deployed soldiers and spent time traveling to military bases, speaking to transitioning Armed Forces members about entrepreneurship.
“So I went outside of my traditional path and did the things with Folds because, like I said, I’m a big fan of supporting military and military families and things like that, so it made sense,” he said.
Folds of Honor was founded by Air Force F-16 fighter pilot Lt. Col. Dan Rooney. The nonprofit provides scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen and disabled military personnel and first responders.
Instead of a one-time collaboration, Dugout Mugs and Folds of Honor established an evergreen partnership. Dugout’s Cheers to Charity donates $1,000 per month on top of a 50/50 split of all generated revenue from Dugout Mugs-Folds of Honor merchandise.
“We’re grateful to the team at Dugout Mugs for helping to provide academic scholarships to military and first responder families,” said Rooney, founder and CEO of Folds of Honor, in a statement sent to Military Families Magazine. “Dugout Mugs understands the importance of a life-changing education and wants to do something about it. They are truly making a positive impact on those who deserve and need our help.”
Dehnert said it’s good to bring the baseball community into the folds of the military community.
“So when we talk about heroes of the baseball community, I think that, heroes of our community. It should encompass that. Let’s take baseball out of that a little bit.”