Science Project Became Business, Partnership with Walmart for Columbia Family

Dec 27, 2018

David Jones inspects a ball half as it comes off the conveyor belt at the Stee-rike 3 plant in Columbia.
Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

David Jones and his son Brantley are baseball fans.  Brantley played as a youngster, and was so enthusiastic about batting practice that his older brother, who didn’t like the game, was forced by circumstance to invent a pitching machine so he wouldn’t have to pitch to his brother for hours every day.  That machine, created as a school science project when he was only 11, and Brantley just 9, became the foundation for a business. 

David and Brantley Jones began manufacturing the machines after Walmart agreed to sell them.  They made plastic practice balls similar to the familiar Wiffle balls, the light plastic balls with the holes in the side, to go along with the machine.  Soon, however, the sideline became more successful than the main product, and now Stee-Rike 3, their company, makes the practice balls exclusively (about 12,000 a day), and has sold them nationally through Walmart for more than 20 years.   In addition, much of the content of their balls is recycled plastic, so the product is both successful and environment-friendly.  Brantley still plays with the balls, though now he’s pitching them to his own children.   He says after two decades of selling through nearly 4000 Walmart stores, “we must be doing something right.”