Michael Lauck is a columnist for iTricks. All opinions expressed in this review are his own and not necessarily those of iTricks.

Baller by JT Chalatsis, Ellusionist, $34.95, downloadable instruction video, sponge balls and gimmick. Available directly from Ellusionist.?
The lowdown: Baller promises to make sponge balls great again… and delivers.

So here’s the deal: Two months ago I found myself in the ICU and I have been on an extended “medical vacation” ever since. I’ve needed to keep myself occupied (even though most of my possession are still boxed up after the move to iTricks Tower Midwest V2.0) so I have been working with sponge balls again. When I saw the trailer for Baller, well, I wasn’t sure I could believe what I was seeing. I ordered it and I fully expected to be disappointed… I mean, is there anything really that new in sponge?

A few days later it arrived. I got a gimmick that was hand built by creator JT Chalatsis (although it does not look “home made,” so don’t worry about that) and a set of two inch sponge balls. Mine were red and I assume they all are but I do not know for sure. Everything is securely packaged; in fact, I had to resort to a long handled wooden spoon to get the balls out of the tube they came in. My chihuahua wouldn’t stop barking (thanks to to mail man ringing the doorbell when he delivered Baller), I felt like crap and the wooden spoon thing annoyed me. On top of that, I forgot that it was a combination download/shippable item so I initially thought it had shipped without instructions because you don’t even get a link to the video (it is in your Ellusionist account). I was in a bad mood and expecting to hate this thing… I checked the Ellusionist site, found the directions and within 10 minutes, my day had completely turned around. Baller is brilliant; it delivers everything it promised.

I really can’t say too much about it without giving it all away. I think it is safe to say that if you use sponge balls frequently then you may have tried something like Baller, probably without success. That being said, I did not feel like Baller was a rip-off or a reworking of something I already had at all. This was not one of those “I just paid for something I already had” kind of moments. Nor was it a “More ripoff magic” moment. It was a “Finally! This makes so much sense!” kind of moment. It was a “I can’t wait to start using this” moment. In short, it was everything you hope for when you send off for an effect.

Let me be honest about Baller for a second, though: if you are not a sponge ball guy, this will be useless to you because you are going to still need sponge ball skills and routines. Baller is like really great barbecue sauce; it makes dinner a whole lot better, but you still need some meat to pour it on. Does that make sense? Think about it because I really think that it is a good way to describe Baller. Another thing to consider is that the Baller gimmick is going to wear out and need to be replaced, but honestly, that is the nature of sponge magic and I expect it to last for a while. In the future, it might be nice to see Baller sets in different sizes or colors, but that is hardly a deal breaker.

Baller is a good purchase for anyone already doing sponge ball magic or looking to make a return to it. I have to admit that it really does live up to its “Make sponge balls great again” hype and is completely worth every penny. It has loads of potential and I fully expect for a whole bunch of new effects to come out of Baller. I highly recommend it and if I ever meet JT Chalatsis, I am buying that dude a drink!