Poly grads tout coffee over chew

Former Cal Poly baseball players and class of 2009 graduates Pat Pezet and Matt Canepa recently returned from touting their new product, Grinds Coffee Pouches, at professional baseball spring training camps in Arizona and Florida.

Grinds is already being used by players in 12 Major League locker rooms, where Pezet and Canepa are marketing their chewable caffeine fixes as a substitute for chewing tobacco.

Grinds pouches, filled with coffee grounds, also provide liquid supplements and come in mocha or mint chip flavors. One can, with 20 pouches, has the caffeine equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee.

“Playing baseball is a grind,” Pezet said, due to extended periods of inactivity, such as eight or nine hours on a bus or waiting for hours to play.

“That’s why tobacco is so successful — baseball guys are just looking for a little something to pick them up.”

Canepa played one season as a catcher at Cal Poly before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2006. He returned to Cal Poly in 2008 having witnessed a surprising prevalence of tobacco use among players.

The moment of inspiration for the product came on a hot summer night in 2008, while procrastinating for a school project at Cal Poly. Pezet and Canepa decided to chew coffee grounds rather than make a hot cup. The intended caffeine buzz paid off in more ways that one, as the men developed the idea that won $3,000 at a 2008 business plan competition at Cal Poly, as well as $15,000 in startup costs from Cal Poly’s Innovation Quest competition in 2009.

“The prizes allowed us to give this thing a shot,” Pezet said.

Now they operate the business out of their San Francisco flat, filling orders covering 49 states.

“This is 99 percent about getting tobacco out of baseball,” Pezet said, although he noted their recent interest in adjacent endeavors where tobacco use is prevalent — such as the rodeo circuit and among police officers and the military.

Pezet is excited to report the company is on the road to profitability this year, and is about to order a second run of 20,000 cans from its manufacturer in Denmark.

But sales are not yet the primary focus, said Pezet, who continues to offer the product for free to professional baseball players.

They first want to get Grinds into each of the 30 Major League locker rooms, hoping that players will endorse the project for the wider public, and that Major League Baseball will sign a contract to provide the product for its players.

French Hospital Medical Center recently appointed two new board members to its Foundation Board: Jill Anderson, founder and director of Pacific Repertory Opera and professor of voice at Cuesta College; and Wayne Simon, health care attorney and former chief deputy commissioner of corporations of the California Department of Corporations. The hospital’s foundation, which now has 23 board members, is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for the hospital.