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Inventors hit a home run

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CROGHAN — It took four men in Lewis County four years to get a patent on their removable outfield fences, but with the patent now in hand and a recent licensing by Little League International, the door is just opening up to unlimited possibilities for growth.

“It’s a pretty exciting time,” said Mickey Lehman, co-owner of Grand Slam Safety. “We’ve had quotes as far away as Korea. In Florida, there’s a possible 30-some projects.”

The company, which also includes President Robert K. Lyndaker, Robert M. Chamberlain and Dave Moore, custom makes the flexible fencing, which is designed to drastically reduce the incidents of injury for softball and baseball players.

As the company pitches its fencing to potential customers nationally, a purchase offer on the Interface Sealing Solutions Inc. plant in Croghan, which closed at the end of 2012, recently was accepted, which will allow for growth of the business.

The invention came after Mr. Lehman’s wife, Jan, asked Mr. Lyndaker about the possibility of installing fencing at Beaver River Central School, Beaver Falls.

“It’s a great idea,” he told Mrs. Lehman, “but it’s got to be safe.”

He began searching for fencing and, to his surprise, could find nothing matching the idea he had.

Two months later, his search was still fruitless, so he began searching patent records to see if someone else already had thought of the design.

Again, he found nothing.

He said he found the lack of such a product interesting and began working on a model.

He showed his finished 4-by-4-foot panel to his friends, who later would become his partners.

They then approached officials at Beaver River Central School, offering to install the fencing for free.

“It was a prototype,” Mr. Lyndaker said. “We’d get to see it work in action.”

The patent was applied for in 2009, and in 2010, Beaver River baseball players were enjoying a newly installed fence.

South Lewis Central installed one shortly after. Ogdensburg schools plan to install their own next year.

Little League District Administrator Danny L. Salmon, an umpire, said the fences are invaluable.

“I’ve seen some bad injuries. They wouldn’t have happened if the players were running into this rather than chain-link,” he said.

As far as price is concerned, the Gram Slam Safety fence is comparable to chain link and takes only 1 hours to install.

Another advantage the local company has over chain-link is that it’s removable in an hour.

At Beaver River, the fence is put up for baseball season and removed during fall for soccer and football.

It is recommended the fencing be stored during the winter in northern states.

The company’s new facility will enable the company “to work faster, better, more streamlined and with more efficiency,” Mr. Chamberlain said.

The space will allow for the storage and purchase of bulk materials.

The first phase of an environmental study is complete and financing is being secured.

A manager for the facility will be needed immediately, while hiring of new staff will depend upon the orders received.

Normally, fencing for school or municipal projects requires bids and capital project funding, so orders can take some time to be approved.

Once ordered, a fence will take approximately six to eight weeks to complete.

With potential projects in the works from all over the country, it’s hard to guess how fast the company could grow.

The men will be at the Little League International Congress in Minnesota in April, with several stops planned following the event to pitch their idea to potential customers.

“It’s really got so much potential,” Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler said.

“What we have here is a home-grown idea. Today it could produce a small amount of jobs, but 20 years from now, who knows what we could be looking at,” he said.

More information about the company can be found at www.grandslamsafety.com.

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