PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON STEPHENS
Dugout Mugs started out as a vision while sitting in the dugout and has grown to be a successful and rapidly growing company with no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Randall Thompson, a Florida native, has had an irrevocable love for baseball since the age of five. Beginning with T-ball, Thompson made his way through the ranks until he played at a professional level pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, when his time within the game came to an early end. Retirement was not enough to diminish his passion, though. After his personal career playing the sport, Thompson began coaching at the Florida Institute of Technology.
Being more of a creative mind, Thompson had some initial struggles with expanding his business, making Dehnert a seamless addition to the company.
In July of 2014, Thompson sat in the dugout during a game while his team’s hitting coach advised the players to always focus on their hands. To drill the point, he went so far as to cut a bat in half, leaving the far end of the instrument to the side. Though Thompson had
played the sport for 20 years, he had never seen this tool that had been such a prevalent part
of his life the way he did in that moment: a potential drinking mug.
Thompson had many ideas that preceded the original Dugout mug, but he knew that this idea was different, which caused him to pursue turning his personal project into a fortified venture.
Following the game, Thompson created his first sketch of what is now the Dugout Mug. Thompson had many ideas that preceded the mug, but for whatever reason, he knew that this idea was different. He began the process of turning his personal project into a fortified venture. In the earlier stages, Thompson even established a partnership that unfortunately went awry over time. It was not until 2017 that he found a new partner in Kris Dehnert.
Being more of a creative mind, Thompson had some initial struggles with expanding his business, making Dehnert a seamless addition to the company. Dehnert is also a Florida native that, prior to Dugout Mugs, began and expanded six companies, including the Gold’s Gym found in Lakeland.
“If [the company’s] picture and vision are clear enough, a bad day won’t cause team members to quit but instead double down to see what’s on the other side.” – Kris Dehnert
Dehnert had expertise that not only helped Dugout Mugs grow, but also overcome hardship. Thompson’s first partner held enough stake within the initial project that, even after splitting, was legally able to continue creating the patented product, despite it being Thompson’s original idea. The company was forced to endure strain, including false advertising and petty lawsuits, but through the new partnership found in Thompson and Dehnert, the decision was made to “play to win, [instead of ] playing not to lose.” Though the previous partnership continues to lend occasional tension, the new team has experienced development like never before.
Thompson conceptualized making a drinking mug out of a bat after watching his hitting coach cut a bat in half in order to demonstrate a point to always focus on their hands.
In 2017, Dugout Mugs was considered roughly a $50,000 company. As of October 2019, the company’s worth is closer to $5 million. A rapidly growing company constitutes a rapidly growing team. Currently, Dugout Mugs has 22 employees living throughout the U.S., working in offices and remotely. Dehnert explains, “If [the company’s] picture and vision are clear enough, a bad day won’t cause team members to quit but instead double down to see what’s on the other side.” One employee, Jono Cornelius, another previously professional pitcher, stands out for having a great influence on the company’s growth. Cornelius has streamlined the mug and other product creations to the point that custom-designed drinkware can be created and shipped within 24 hours of ordering.
Dugout Mugs has no plans of slowing their expansion, with several projects in the works including influencer campaigns, league affiliations, charity efforts, and a potential baseball business incubator that allows previous players to create careers which still incorporate their passion for the sport.
Both Thompson’s and Dehnert’s hopes for the future of Dugout Mugs are to offer premium products at a lower-than-premium price, continue flourishing a team that reflects the comradery found on the field, and to never stop giving back to the game.