Baseball has always been a good fit for Portland, Ore., youth coach Travis Chock—like a warm blanket, or an old, well-worn T-shirt. A ballplayer all his life back home in Hawaii, Chock grasped tightly to the sport’s sense of community when he arrived at the University of Oregon in the fall of 2002, knowing nobody and finding the Pacific Northwest to be vastly different from his home in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The difference, he said, was "as cultural … as it was geographic. I thought I could hang out with Hawaiian people and it'd be just like home, but that wasn't the case,” he said in a phone interview. “I hung out with some Asian people .... It wasn't until I started playing club baseball that I started to feel at home. I realized that it wasn't really about where I was from, it was the game I played."
It's because of that bond with the sport that Chock has spent the better part of his adult life coaching kids and teaching them how to play the game. He started immediately after he earned his degree in 2006, taking a spot on the bench of the South Eugene High School team. A year later, he opened one of the city's first baseball camps. It's the career he's wanted for a long time, but it wasn't until recently that he realized just how difficult it would be to make a living in that corner of the industry.
"Very rarely can you make baseball coaching a full-time thing," Chock said. "Kids can only do camps like that when they're not in school. That leaves all this time during the day when you're not making any revenue. I realized if I want to make a difference and run these camps my whole life and help promote the game, I'd need a backbone to support myself when the kids aren't available."
Chock hopes to have his backbone come in the form of Baseballism, a baseball-centric clothing line of shirts, hats, and hoodies born from the camp-issued shirts he first designed when he was coaching kids in Eugene. Two weeks ago, he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $13,000, funds that will go towards developing an online store for the brand and building a solid inventory base for distribution.
"I think of it sort of like Polo and Lacoste," he said. "Lacoste started off as a tennis brand, and obviously Polo has its sport. Baseball is classy enough to carry off a brand like that."
Chock says that he wants to use the money made from Baseballism to open more youth camps, sponsor teams, and help promote the game that helped him acclimate to life away from home. He points to companies like Red Bull as great examples of how he can use his clothing line to do what he loves and help build the baseball community.
"Those guys sell a drink, but they promote it by running all these extreme sports competitions and events like the Flugtag. We want to make enough revenue through our shirts to host free baseball camps. buy a shirt if you want, but the main goal is to spread the game."
Launched on February 7, Chock's campaign has already raised nearly a quarter of the money necessary to successfully fund the project. Much of that can be attributed to the recent attention that the campaign has received. As Chock noted to his backers and followers in a February 11 update, the campaign was voted the third most popular fashion project on Kickstarter, and Major League Baseball players like the Oakland Athletics's Eric Sogard has agreed to promote the project by wearing Baseballism apparel during spring training, which starts next week.
The campaign also received a significant boost in attention when Karl Ravech, host of ESPN's Baseball Tonight, retweeted a tweet from Chock's @baseballism account linking to the Kickstarter page.
"I had twenty followers on Twitter last week, but now I've already got 465," Chock said. "People believe in the game and they believe in the brand. The word 'Baseballism' encapsulates every player, fan or coach who's ever picked up a glove or bat."
Or, hopefully soon, a snug, stylish t-shirt.
- Location: Portland, OR
- Summary: Baseball lifer wants to support his operation of youth camps by opening up a clothing line selling high-class baseball apparel.
- Goal: $13,000
- Amount raised as of press time: $4,105
- Days Left: 44
- Best Buy: For $150, backers will get the full lineup of Baseballism apparel, including a limited edition hoodie, flat bill cap, and two shirts of their choice.