Suncoast business finds a niche in batting tees

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Professional baseball is filled with players and coaches who grew up on the Suncoast. And most of them have learned on, or teach with, a product made right here on the Suncoast.

Baseball coaches like to tell you to keep it simple. See the ball, hit the ball. Sarasota's Joe Tanner used that philosophy when building a business making and selling batting tees.

"It's a simple idea that everyone needs," says Joe, who spent 50 years playing and coaching in the professional ranks.

It was while he was coaching that he got the idea to make his own tees. “At the time, I was in pro ball and others saw me using it, and they made a big deal about it."

So, in 1989, Tanner began making tees out of his house. "I thought it would take off and it did!"

"Back when we were working out of his garage, I never imagined this," says co-owner A.J. Menard.

It’s a family-run business that does everything here in Sarasota. Joe's daughter Marilyn answers the phone; his grandsons A.J. and Andy are now co-owners, and their long-time friends and employees help them do it all from soup to nuts.

"We do it all here…shipping, ordering, building, manufacturing," says Andy.

"We can do everything in this shop that needs to be done to build the tees," says Joe.

At 82 years old, Joe sold out to his A.J. and Andy, and now he is just one spot on the assembly line for the company he built from scratch.

"I have the utmost respect for him. As a grandfather and someone who is recognized in the business, it is a joy," says Andy.

Everyone from tiny leaguers to major leaguers use a batting tee. The Tanner Tee is front and center, and they plan to keep it that way. "We take pride when we see Jeter or Pujols using our tee. It feels good! Anywhere you go you see Tanner Tees," says A.J.