There is an unassuming woodworking shop on Patty Street in New Bremen.
From the outside it looks like an ordinary oversized garage, but inside, the teamwork of two local men brings together 30 years of woodworking experience and a lifelong passion for baseball.
The result is RBI Bats — a local company, using locally sourced product and a homerun for everyone involved.
“My biggest passion for bats came from ‘The Natural,’” admitted co-owner Daniel M. Myers, referencing the 1984 movie starring Robert Redford. In the film, a baseball bat is carved from a tree that had been struck by lightning.
Mr. Myers met David L. Lapp a few years ago, when he enrolled in Mr. Lapp’s woodworking class at the Howard G. Sackett Technical Center in Glenfield.
The two struck up a friendship and Mr. Myers, a varsity baseball coach at Lowville Academy, began bringing his senior athletes to Mr. Lapp’s shop, Royal Custom Cabinets.
His players chose a model of bat they liked, and Mr. Lapp would spin out a replica bat made of locally harvested wood.
The players would then use their new bats at an annual end- of-season wood bat tournament and have a keepsake of their high school baseball career as they graduated.
That alone would make a nice story, but that’s not where their story ends.
“That’s how things got started,” said Mr. Lapp.
In 2010, the two decided to take the plunge and purchase a new lathe. This new equipment would enable them to create more than a replica bat, but instead, their own and custom-made models.
Their mission is to create a high-quality straight-grain wood bat that all ages can enjoy and use safely. They accomplish this with the help of Matthew E. Bush, a professional logger from Croghan. Mr. Bush provides native maple and ash to RBI Bats.
“I look for absolutely straight grain with no defects at all,” Mr. Bush said.
When he finds a suitable piece, it is cut into four foot long billets on his sawmill. That’s easier said than done.
“It’s hard to find a perfect piece,” he said.
He said he can usually tell by looking at the outside of the tree whether or not the grain is perfect for bat making, but once in a while he is fooled. A piece may look good until it is cut.
He’s got plenty of experience in scouting out perfect grain, however, explaining his years as a competitive lumberjack.
“I made my own ax handles for chopping in competition,” he said.
His ax handles also required a perfectly straight grain.
Once his billets are cut, they are kiln dried and ready for the lathe.
Designs for new bats are chosen by looking at various models. They consider the age and skill level of the players that will be using the bat.
Christina Scanlon is a Johnson Newspapers staff writer. Contact her at 376-6851 or email@example.com.