Dugout Mugs Founder Randall Thompson Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 42
“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Randall Thompson’s life revolves around baseball. He founded the company Dugout Mugs, whose flagship product is a mug in the styling of a baseball bat barrel. Thompson is around baseball day-in and day-out, which retrospectively makes it a near-tragedy that he once considered giving the sport up.
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During his time at Winter Park High School in the Orlando area, an undersized Thompson spent his first three years of high school playing on the junior varsity team. He loved the game, played hard, and like most kids, harbored dreams of playing collegiately, but his lack of size and talent held back those aspirations.
“I was really good at hearing things or feeling things and picking up on them quick, and being able to adjust my game accordingly,” said Thompson. “As far as being a prospect, or being somebody that was on anybody’s radar for the college side of things—no.”
Thompson was ready to leave baseball behind, head to a big college and live out his life away from the diamond. A big-time growth spurt his senior year of high school and a move to the pitcher’s mound changed his trajectory in baseball and in life. He started seeing some success on the diamond, and parlayed that rapid ascension into a walk-on spot at Division 2 Florida Tech.
Far from the opposite of a player just barely finding their way onto the back-end of a college roster, the late-bloomer asserted himself right away. He developed his craft at a rapid pace once on campus, showcasing a heavy low-90s sinker and racking up stellar results during his first go-round at college fall ball—surprising seemingly everyone in the program, but perhaps no one more than Thompson himself.
“Legitimately, I showed up and I was outmatching everybody” said Thompson. “It was kind of a strange thing to me.”
During his four years at Florida Tech, Thompson was a mainstay on the Panther pitching staff, laying the groundwork for his eventual shot in pro ball. Viewing his college time with a retrospective lens, he was also laying groundwork for his eventual career after baseball.
He showcased his outgoing nature by performing as the school’s mascot, Pete the Panther, during Florida Tech basketball games, and seemed to always have an inkling of what his career path post-baseball might look like.
“I think that people would’ve thought that I would’ve created a product, created a business of some sort,” said Thompson. “I was a person that always had, what I thought to be, interesting concepts and business ideas—I loved the idea of running a business someday.”
Before he could get to whatever that business might be, Thompson had to see his baseball dreams through. Following the culmination of his college career, he went undrafted in the 2011 draft, but soon after received a call from the Blue Jays—the call he’d waited for his whole life, but a call that didn’t quite turn out as he’d imagined it in his mind.
“I always just thought it was going to be this huge moment in my life” said Thompson. “All he said was ‘Hey, you wanna play?’ and I said yeah, and he said ‘Ok, I’m gonna need you in Dunedin tomorrow morning,’ and that was it.”
Thompson’s shot at pro ball lasted all of one summer in the Gulf Coast League and a brutal few months in extended spring training—long days, intense boredom, and $38 dollar bi-weekly paychecks. By the time the Jays released him in 2012, he was ready to move on.
The difficult part was finding what to move on to. He soon found himself back at his alma mater as a pitching coach, trying to figure out if life back in the dugout was the move. It was there that the guy who was always thinking of businesses found his idea to run with.
“The hitting coach was taking wooden baseball bats in the dugout, and he was taking a hand-saw and cutting baseball bats in half,” said Thompson. “There was loose baseball bat barrels lying all around in the dugout, and lightbulb moment, pick it up, look at it, natural cupping to the bat already—I think to myself, can you take that cupping and just keep going down and turn it into a pretty cool drinking mug.”
The idea for the Dugout Mug was born. It didn’t start right away—Thompson had to grind. He started from ground zero in terms of finance and product knowledge. He taught himself how to make what would be his first prototypes, and worked a variety of odd jobs from sun up to sundown to finance his startup.
Fast-forward a half decade and Dugout Mugs operates with MLB licensing, displaying pictures on its site of a variety of bat designs being held by big league All-Stars such as Giancarlo Stanton and Jim Thome. Dugout Mugs has flourished, and it’s all thanks to determination, creativity, and a growth spurt.
On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm’ founder of Dugout Mugs and former Blue Jays organization righthander Randall Thompson joins to discuss his career and how it led him to found his startup.