by Benjamin Jeffers, Upstate Business Journal - When Eddie Rollins started designing baseball bats, he wasn’t planning on one day trying to sell them to major league players. In fact, he didn’t even plan to sell the bats for money.
When his son Matthew was playing baseball as a teenager, Eddie looked at a wooden baseball bat and figured he could make one. He’s been crafting wood products for most of his life, so adding a baseball bat to his repertoire seemed like an easy thing to do.
“I didn’t think it’d be as difficult as turning anything else,” he said.
Soon, Matthew’s friends started asking for bats and Eddie accommodated them too. Now, years after Matthew’s baseball career ended in the minor leagues due to injury, the father-son duo has created Anchor Bat Company, and is looking to make it to the big leagues.
The design of the bat starts with the type of wood. Matthew said they use maple wood, which they source from a place near the National Baseball Hall of Fame. To gain a competitive advantage, Matthew said the Anchor duo focus on selling only top quality bats made from grade-A wood instead of producing a larger quantity of lower quality ones.
“It’s kind of ironic. We get it just outside of Cooperstown, N.Y., so we get it from where everybody hopes one day they’re going to be,” he said.
Out of a pallet of hundreds of pieces of wood, only several dozen may be acceptable to use for the bats they make, Eddie said.
Eddie said the design of the bat “makes all the difference,” so he must be very careful in crafting each bat . Using calipers, he will measure the entire length of the bat to make sure it meets the specification of each player. Some players like a flared handle while others prefer a larger knob at the end. Others may ask for a wider barrel or handle.
Besides creating the bat, the company made a conscious effort to design an easily recognizable logo, so people would instantly know what type of bat a player was using. Matthew said entire Internet sites are dedicated to discovering the equipment players are using, so he wanted a symbol that was universally recognizable. Plus, the anchor logo symbolizes the Christian faith he and his father share, being anchored in God, he said.
Anchor is banking on a major league contract to increase its already growing business. The company recently signed a deal with Valley League team Charlottesville Tom Sox in Virginia, and individual baseball players request tailor-made bats as well.
By next year, Matthew said, the company hopes to win approval from the MLB to sell baseball bats to major league players. The application for licensing costs about $14,000 dollars, and a $10 million insurance policy on top of that, he said.
Even younger players are increasing using wooden bats, Matthew said. He’s seen a growth in the wooden bat market over the past several years, with youth leagues trending toward using wooden bats over aluminum ones.
The company is a small operation out of a garage in Taylors, right now – but is one major league contract away from explosive growth, Matthew said.