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Former Boardman resident's success soars skyward

August 12, 2011
By Kathleen Palumbo
With the recent debut of his highly anticipated new pro sport series on the Fox television network, a Boardman native's success is all in the way the ball bounces.

Sharing that he has designed and invented more than 2,000 different toys, Brian Kessler, originator and CEO of Maui Toys, Inc. explained that several years ago he came across a new idea. After being introduced to a special compound, he invented a ball with the appearance not unlike a snow globe. It eventually became the Sky Ball.

“I realized we had a very special ball that’s different from anything,” said Kessler.

Expanding into its use for a sport, Kessler said approximately a year and a half ago he began working with his friend Danny Swartz. Together they spent six months playing around with what would work.

“Slowly but surely the sport really began evolving, and Sky Ball League began." he said. “Fortunately people really got it.”

He said the new Sky Ball League became a very big hit.

He thought It would be really fascinating to take a sport in its infancy and turn it into something more. It didn’t take long for Fox Sports to pick it up.

“It gave us the ability to do this process…it was really exciting,” said Kessler, adding that more than 1,000 people had tried out.

According to information provided by Sybil Lindenbaum, of Lindenbaum Public Relations, the challenging new pro sport developed by Kessler includes a 16-episode series, for which tryouts were shot in Youngstown, Los Angeles, Tampa, and Austin. Local athletes responded to an open call to compete for eight spots which comprise the regional teams in the Sky Ball League.

Hosted by original American Idol co-host Brian Dunkleman and airing every Saturday and Sunday on the Fox network, Sky Ball League held its northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania tryouts at the Covelli Center, where eight contestants were chosen to represent Ohio in the Sky Ball League Tournament of Champions.

In the first recently aired episode, SBL creators Kessler and Swartz teamed up to demonstrate the game, teach strategy, and run practice drills for the game, which is played on a court, and described as a combination of basketball, baseball, and volleyball, with a little lacrosse thrown in.

“These properties create a pro sports ball that has a unique play pattern that athletes have never experienced anywhere else,” said Kessler of the makeup of Sky Balls.

The balls are slightly larger than a softball and constructed of a unique combination of plastic and rubber pumped with oxygen and helium, making them capable of bouncing up to 75 feet, and which always bounce in a hyperactive state.

Inventing and manufacturing runs in the family for Kessler, who said his father and uncles were involved in manufacturing in the Youngstown area for years. He added that his father has several patents.

According to its website, Maui Toys, Inc. manufactures and distributes worldwide. The company makes spring and summer activity toys that encourage children to be active. It has set a new standard with Sky Ball, in addition to having led its competitors with a wide range of toys that add the magic of light and sound to a variety of nostalgic favorites.

With its corporate headquarters located in Youngstown, in addition to sales in Los Angeles, and an office in Hong Kong, Kessler said he finds himself back in the Youngstown area six to eight times a year. He presently resides in LA and has two grown children, ages 23 and 20.

While there’s no telling what new products are around the bend for Maui Toys, Inc., with his latest venture and the collaboration with the Fox network, Kessler is, for the moment, simply having a ball.

“Maui Toys accomplishes making the life of a child as childlike as possible,” reads the company’s website. Kessler has managed to extend that dream into the realm of adult pro sport entertainment with Sky Ball League.

“We went beyond our wildest dreams,” he said.

Article Photos

Photo special to the Town Crier
Brian Kessler, originator and CEO of Maui Toys, Inc., has extended into the realm of adult pro sport entertainment, with Sky Ball League, currently showing on Fox Sports.



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