As the MLB offseason starts up, one part of baseball is in full swing: Baseball bat production. Fall is one of the best seasons to get wood that is used to make bats. When I was in Cooperstown, NY, recently, I visited the Cooperstown Bat Factory and had a chance to see the process of how bats are made.
The process begins with selecting the right billets, or thick pieces of wood. One of the factory employees, Jake, showed me how he selects each billet based on the specs of the bat he is turning. The bats are made of either Maple, Yellow Birch, or Ash, and all the wood used to manufacture them comes from upstate New York, within 350 miles of Cooperstown.
As the workers create the bats from the billets, large amounts of sawdust collects on the factory floor. But none of it goes to waste. Factory owners use the sawdust to heat the building, and when they have too much sawdust they give it away to local farmers who use it in barns for their animals.
Once the bat has been carved out of the billet, a man named Mark, who has been working at the factory for 20 years, paints the bats in a special way. He starts by making a small mark dividing the barrel and the handle. If a bat has a large mark on it, Mark uses a darker color like a black, dark blue, or dark green to make sure that the mark is not visible to the person who is using it. Next, he dunks the barrel into the chosen color paint, then does the same for the handle. Afterwards, he lets the leftover paint drip onto a sheet that collects the paint drops and funnels them into a new bucket to make sure no paint goes to waste, either. This also helps with recycling and the environment.
When the paint dries, 15-year-old employee Wade engraves logos and words into the bats using a computer laser system. The engraving can be used for anyone, from a little leaguer to a major leaguer. Wade used to be mainly into track and field and football. But after working at the factory for two years and learning more about America’s Pastime, he said baseball has become his favorite sport.
The Cooperstown Bat Factory was established in 1981 and is owned by Tim and Connie Haney. Cooperstown Bat makes between 25,000 and 30,000 bats every year. The bats are used by the players like Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen, custom engraved for gifts or souvenirs, and autographed for memorabilia. Right before I toured the factory, Nike had ordered 1,100 bats that they were to display before the All-Star Game. Also, a minor leaguer for the A’s named Phil Pohl especially uses their bats. He often comes into their store to buy new bats that they customize for his needs.
Touring the factory was a very interesting experience. It’s not every day you get to get a behind-the-scenes look at how something as important as the baseball bat gets made!
People can learn more about Cooperstown Bat, the factory and its history and order bats online at cooperstownbat.com.
Max Mannis is an 11-year-old special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit www.sabr.org.