When you think wooden baseball bats, a certain city down south probably comes to mind. However, Central Ohio is home to its very own pro-certified wooden bat manufacturer, Phoenix Bats. The Plain City (but really closer to Dublin) facility is turning out all sorts of bats, from men’s baseball to women’s softball practice bats, and even vintage bats.
Phoenix Bats was just a hobby and a passion before it became a business. Founder Charley Trudeau was a woodworker playing in a vintage baseball league in the mid 90s when the Historical Society asked him to make some vintage bats. As word spread and interest grew, hobby turned to business.
The operation started in 1996 and by 2000, was pro-certified. 2003 was a banner year with a move to a new facility and money from their first investor. It was also the year of a very important purchase.
“We purchased the most advanced bat-making machine in the world,” says Co-Owner & GM Seth Cramer. To this day, it’s still one of the best tools on the market with the ability to cut and sand a bat in two minutes.
Phoenix Bats provides wooden bats for everyone from the professional to the little leaguer.
At the professional level, “We’re seeing more Clippers swing our bats,” Cramer says. Last year, three of the nine starters were swinging Phoenix. “The Clippers have been just a great partner for us.”
There’s also a variety of bats for league players, and they’ve tapped into a market of female softball players who use them as practice bats. Phoenix Bats hasn’t forgotten their beginnings though and still produces a line of vintage bats.
No matter who is using the bat, one thing is consistent – the quality of the wood. Pros to leaguers can expect the same high-quality wood.
Phoneix Bats builds with maple, ash and birch. The wood needs to strike a balance between stability and durability, “And those woods really provide both,” Cramer says.
While Ohio’s trees aren’t quite up to snuff, “You really need a tree that grows really straight in the air,” Cramer notes, everything is sourced domestically from nearby states like New York and Pennsylvania.
Any wood that doesn’t grade out for modern players doesn’t go to waste. It can be used to make a vintage bats or for another specialty of Phoenix – trophy bats.
Columbus is proving to be a good location both logistically and because of a high number of ball players.
“Columbus…has so many organized baseball teams,” Cramer says. There’s a professional presence with the clippers, as well as a number of leagues and travelling teams.
Just as many other businesses have discovered, the city’s central location is also a huge benefit.
“You can reach a significant amount of the population in a very short amount of time,” Cramer Notes.
With some very well-known competition, attracting the big league players is a challenge they are facing head on. Without the same funding to swing around as other companies, they are focused on offering a superior level of service, and really tailoring a bat to a player’s needs. They are also doing things a little bit differently and are the only pro-approved provider with a female bat rep.
Word is spreading about the company, “We’re seeing more and more clients from Ohio as the word has gotten out about us,” Cramer says, adding to national and international sales. Locally Experience Columbus is playing a big part in the brand’s recognition.
“I saw Experience Columbus as a great partner to raise awareness about Phoenix Bats,” Cramer says. The organization has been active in providing tour groups with information about the touring Phoenix Bats.
“They’ve been an educational resource as well,” he adds, noting Experience Columbus led programming about marketing and social media.
Thanks to this and other factors, sales are on the up and up. Cramer has seen sales quadruple in the seven years he’s been with the company.
For more information, visit phoenixbats.com.