Saturday, June 17, 2006
Baseball lovers take note. All baseball bats are not made in Louisville, Ky.
Jump in your car, head east on Interstate 80 and enjoy the scenic drive to Brookville, Pa., home of Brookville Wood Products, and some of the most beautiful softball and baseball bats you've ever seen.
Take the Reynoldsville exit and just follow the signs to the bat factory. You will enjoy the trip immensely.
Brookville Wood Products has been in business for the past 40 years, producing furniture squares for major furniture manufacturers. The bat factory is just five years old and it's been growing by leaps and bounds. It is located about 1/4 mile down the road from the parent company. Just ask Tim Catagarene for a guided tour and he'll answer all questions.
The bat factory has been growing steadily each year. Owned by Joe Mitchell and his wife, Mona, BWP sold over 30,000 bats in 2005. Their sales are made to professional teams, sporting goods stores, and retail, with over 50 percent of their sales made to professional players. We just missed a buyer from the Chicago White Sox the day of our tour. He placed an order of bats that day and then departed. In one week in May, BWP shipped out a whopping 1,228 bats. The bats themselves are priced at $75 and downward.
Damon uses them
Perhaps the best known buyer is outfielder Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees. Damon used a BWP bat as a member of the Red Sox, when his grand slam helped beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
Damon's bat, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is the pride of BWP. A replica of Damon's bat is encased in a glass enclosure in the BWP building, which by the way, was a church at one time.
All of Damon's bats were purchased at BWP. Their bats carry two stripes, one wide and one narrow.
Adam Fox, a native of the Brookville area and playing in the Texas Rangers farm system, often works the off-season at BWP.
The wood used in bat-making by BWP includes red oak, ash and hard maple. Catagarene pointed out that bats made from ash seem to break quicker than those made of maple. All of the wood utilized in the bat-making comes within a 100-mile radius of Brookville.
All hand made
The bats are completely hand made at BWP. The process begins with a piece of wood called a billet. Each piece is weighed and inspected to be free of defects. The standard length of the billet is 37 inches. The next step sees the billet hit the copy lathes and about four pounds are shed from billet to bat. The process continues on the sanders and then travels on to dipping and staining. Then it's off to the pad printer where the logo is applied and the lines are placed on the bat.
Workers have the capability of placing the buyer's own signature on a bat or applying a personal saying. It is a continual process of sanding, dipping and staining. The final process is cupping the end. This lightens the weight of the bat by about 1/2 ounce. The bat is then sold or placed on the stock shelves.
BWP continues to grow in international presence with customers in Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean. It also supplies billets to other bat manufacturers with over 15,000 pieces annually.