Spring training is almost over. Opening Day is right around the corner. Baseball fever is in full swing. To get us ready for the season ahead, I've put together a list of a few of my favorite baseball bat producers.
Now, everyone knows the major players of baseball bat manufacturing. Easton, Rawlings and Mizuno are all heavy hitters in the industry. Louisville Slugger is so synonymous with the game, that it has become the proprietary eponym for batting equipment. While all of these brands can be found in major sporting goods stores, none of these brands will be found in the list below.
For this post, I wanted to highlight the manufacturers that value form, as well as function. I wanted to showcase the companies who are making bats with a designer's touch. I'm featuring those people who can turn a piece of equipment, into a piece of art. All of the companies featured on this list were founded by individuals with design backgrounds (graphic, industrial, architecture, etc.).
Warstic Wood Bat Co.
Warstic produces bats that are meant to be used. They just also happen to look amazing.
CEO and founder Ben Jenkins began turning bats for just a few years ago. His lifelong passion for the game took him from Creative Director of Dallas-based marketing firm OneFast Buffalo, to sporting goods manufacturer in a relatively short amount of time. During this period, his company has taken off with both players, and designers alike. The Warstic brand can now be found online in places like Amazon, J. Crew, and Uncrate. His bats can also been seen on fields across the nation, like in Texas, where they're the official bats of the Texas Collegiate League.
Jenkins also knows a thing or two about the game. During college, he played in the Southeastern Conference for his alma mater, Mississippi State. He was also a former infielder for the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system. It's safe to say that Jenkins has spent some time in the batter's box, testing the right equipment. That's the type of R&D other companies can only dream of.
FUN FACT: This Jenkins dude stays busy. Like, crazy busy. When he's not making incredible bats, he's doing something else totally awesome, like: being the founder and CEO of Treadsmith Board Company (an amazing snowboard manufacturer), founding the Workhaus Lodge (a hip looking co-work space), or founding both ONEFASTCO and INDIG.
Design Background: Creative Director at OneFastBuffalo - Dallas, TX
If there is any question as to Warstic's design cred, look no further than their recent collaberation with the designer label Coach®. The high-end hand bag company was looking to produce a unique line of fashion-inspired baseball equipment, so they turned to the team at Warstic (and OneFastBuffalo) for the bats. These 33" long Maple Baseball bats featured 4 hand dipped colors (Squash, Tidal, Vintage Royal, or Bonfire), boasted a vintage artisanal leather grip, and came in a custom Coach® premium bat holster. Even though these bats were game ready, with a $248 price tag, and the Coach® logo to match, I can't imagine that many of these saw action on the field.
I can actually attest to the quality of these bats. You see, last year, as a totally unnecessary gift to myself, I got online and ordered a beautiful new Warstic Whiskeyville. Seduced by it's sexiness, I couldn't resist this 33.5" piece of maple (with custom name engraving).
I did not have, nor do not have, any intention of using this in a game. It sits by my desk, reminding me that some people follow their passions, and produce amazingly beautiful bats, while others sit at their desk, and write online reviews about bats.
Note to self: Be more productive in life.
Mitchell Bat Co.
Another bat company founded by a designer is the Mitchell Bat Co, out of Nashville, TN. Started at the end of the 2013 baseball season, owner Jeremy Mitchell's love for the game inspired him to create his stunning line of baseball bats. Adorned with bands of bold coloring, reminiscent of popular teams, Mitchell paints each piece by hand. This is a company you can feel good about, as portions from each bat sale are donated to MLB's RBI initiative, which helps revive baseball in the inner city.
Not only does Jeremy produce an incredible set of bats, but he stays busy in the design world as well. He is the Senior UI director at Nashville firm RedPepper. On top of that, Jeremy is an Art Director, Filmmaker, and Photographer, with an impressive portfolio. Check out his incredible work at jeremymitchell.com.
To me, these bats are a testament to great design. They show a refinement, not often seen in today's sports equipment. While most other brands scream at you with oversized team logos, and gaudy graphic elements, Mitchell's bats have a subtly that really sets them apart. For me, it's the perfect balance of high design, and team pride.
My next purchase will definitely be the Atlanta model (go Bravos!).
Also, I can picture the 10-year-old me hanging the "Oakland" model on my bedroom wall, right next to my oversized "Bash Brothers" poster.
Design Background: Senior UI Director at RedPepper - Nashville, TN
Killspencer is the brainchild of the LA-based Industrial Designer Spencer Nikosey. Founded in early 2009, Nikosey has been producing some of the most beautifully designed bags, backpacks and briefcases on the market. His Silverlake shop (walking distance from my place) handcrafts each product with an amazing attention to detail. Durable enough for a day at the gym, but stylish enough for a weekend in Monaco, these bags have become a hit amongst many of today's tastemakers.
Just recently, Nikosey unveiled his line of boutique athletic equipment. Products like footballs, soccer balls, and boxing speed bags are made with the same high quality leather found in his popular cases and duffles. This new line also includes a number of hand-turned premium baseball bats. Made from a variety of different hardwoods (such as premium ash, maple, and walnut), each bat is finished in clear protective polyurethane, and debossed with a personal monogram. Manufactured in downtown Los Angeles, these bats look just as good on the field, as they do on your wall (mine would probably just stay on the wall).
Design Background: Industrial Designer - Graduate of Art Center College of Design (2008)
Huntington Baseball Bats
Huntington Baseball Co makes bats of the vintage kind. Meaning, these bats are designed around the type of proportions seen during the early days of the game. A thinner profile, unique weight distribution, and a more gradating thickness make for a distinct look and feel.
According to their site: Huntington Baseball Company brings "the history of the game back to life through beautifully crafted and game-ready equipment. Each model is meticulously researched and re-created by hand, using the exacting standards of a bygone craft. This dedication to quality ensures that you will, for the first time, truly experience what it was like to play ball when the game was young."
Again, I don't want to take one of these out onto the filed. I want to hang it on my wall and look at it everyday. I would be way too scared to scuff up the gorgeously hand painted rings, or the meticulously hand rubbed finish of the bat. I mean, holy hell, look at the lettering on that thing! Could it be any more perfect?! The answer is: No. No it couldn't.
Design Background: Industrial Designer and Artist - Massachusetts College of Art
Do you know of another company with a line of inspiring baseball bats? Tell me all about it. I'd love to hear about what they're doing. Shoot me a link, and let me know what's up.