In the mid-1990s, Charley Trudeau was remodeling houses and playing vintage baseball on the side. One day, since he had all the woodworking tools, someone asked him to make them a vintage bat. The bat was so popular other orders followed. Soon Charlie was out of the remodeling business and into the bat-making business full time.
Today, the Phoenix Bat Co. in the Columbus suburb of Plain City turns out a wide range of wooden bats, from softball to baseball, from high schools to the pros. It is one of some two dozen companies that are approved by Major League baseball to make bats for major leaguers.
Seth Cramer, the general manager and majority owner of the company, gave us an abbreviated version of the hour-long tour he gives groups. ‘I enjoy doing bus tours,’ he said. ‘They are seeing something here they will not see anywhere else.’
Seth showed us the computer where the minute details of a bat are calculated. The information is fed into a large state-of-the-art lathe in the back, which spits out maple or ash bats at the rate of one every two minutes. It can work on a dozen kinds of bats at once. Seth also showed us the stacks of squared billets that will be turned into round bats, and how the finished bats are carefully dipped in stain and hung to dry.
Then is was off to the new Huntington Park in downtown Columbus, where some of the bats are used. The park, now in its third season, is the home of the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A farm team of the Cleveland Indians. Joe Santry, the team’s public relations man and resident baseball historian, gave us a tour of the park, which not only has many fan-friendly designs — including openings in the outfield wall where fans on the street outside can view the game for free — but is a veritable baseball museum.
The concourses are lined with glass cases with a wealth of baseball memorabilia, such as a glove that belonged to Lou Gehrig. The walls of a second-story bar behind the left field wall are covered with bats, uniforms, gloves and other equipment of former Clipper players. An exhibit case has the uniform jersey Derek Jeter wore while playing in Columbus when it was a Yankees farm team. Numerous baseball cards, programs, photos, ticket stubs and other printed material are displayed under glass on the 110-foot-long bar’s counter. An open-air rooftop on the third level has bleachers that are reminiscent of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Bats at the Phoenix Bat Co. hang to dry after being dipped in a distinctive stain. Seth Cramer shows one of the bats made by the Phoenix Bat Co. Huntington Park is the charming home of the AAA Columbus Clippers.