By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — The Cooperstown Bat Company has gotten called up to the big leagues.
For the first time, the company’s playing bats have been approved for on-field use by Major League Baseball.
“It’s been quite a process,” said Cooperstown Bat Company co-owner Tim Haney.
Haney and his wife, Connie Haney, bought the Cooperstown Bat company in 2008. Founded in 1981 in a basement in Cooperstown, the business now consists of a store on 118 Main St. in Cooperstown and a factory in Hartwick.
Before he bought The Cooperstown Bat Company, Haney worked there, starting as a general employee in 1994. Haney says that getting the company’s bats approved for major league on-field use has been a long term goal.
“It’s been our whole push since we bought the company,” said Haney
Haney said that getting approved was the culmination of a year long effort that started around spring training of last year and involved many steps, including updating the company’s insurance. It also requires them to pay a yearly fee to MLB.
“It takes a pretty nice financial commitment,” said Haney.
The company’s bats are already widely used in other baseball leagues, including high school and college teams, travel teams, the Mexican major leagues and semi-professional softball leagues in China. Additionally, the company makes personalized and collectible bats, as well as other bat related products.
Haney will be going to Phoenix to meet with six major league teams during their spring training. These teams are the Kansas City Royals, Oakland A’s, Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“The biggest one that we have the closest ties to are the Royals,” said Haney, who said that the Royals sponsored the Cooperstown Bat Company’s nomination as a bat supplier for Major League Baseball, a requirement for any company wishing to be certified.
Haney will then travel to Florida, to meet with teams who do spring training in the Grapefruit League. Currently he has meetings lined up with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals.
“Obviously I would love to do Red Sox and the Yankees,” said Haney.
The meetings are set up by the clubhouse managers. In them, bat companies get the opportunity to pitch bats to the players.
“We propose bats to major leaguers, they decide whether or not they like our bats,” said Haney.
If a player ends up deciding to use the Cooperstown Bat Company’s bats, their clubhouse manager will then order the bats for them. Haney says that a typical major league player will order around 50 bats per season.
Haney said that interested players will also get the opportunity to send one of their bats back with Haney and that the Cooperstown Bat Company will then manufacture a bat based off the player’s old bat, albeit with the company’s own twist.
As for what the Cooperstown Bat Company has to offer major league players, Haney cited the company’s knowledge of wood. He said that the density of a bat’s wood, and not its size, determines a bat’s strength, and that the Cooperstown Bat Company likes to make high density bats, with comparatively smaller barrels.
“True strength comes from density,” said Haney, who said that he’d found misconceptions at both the high school and college level on this subject.
When asked about the kind of player he’d like to pick up his bats, Haney had some specific thoughts.
“I’m looking for a guy who’s committed to a team,” said Haney, giving Dustin Pedroia as an example.
Haney said that Derek Jeter would be another such player, but that Jeter already has a bat contract.
Haney said that they are looking to get around 30 major league players to pick up their bats. The reason why there’s an upward limit on this number is that the company currently doesn’t have the ability to produce bats at the necessary standard for a bigger number of major league players.
“I want to make sure that everything that hits the field is the best that we can make,” said Haney.
Last year the Cooperstown Bat Company produced 25,000 baseball bats. Haney would like to eventually raise that number to 35,000, and have that increase be from playing bats. This year, he would like to grow the number of bats made by at least a few thousand.
Haney said he doesn’t believe that this increase will come entirely from the major leagues. This year, American Legion Baseball in New York will be played entirely with wooden baseball bats, and American Legion Baseball is set to go all wood nationally in 2015.
“There’s a big push for wood bat play,” said Haney.
The Cooperstown Bat Company’s bats are made of one of three types of wood: yellow birch, hard maple or ash. This wood is locally sourced and Haney said that an effort is made to buy only American made tools and equipment at the company.
Haney says that the Cooperstown Bat Company has 11 full time employees, and employs around 30 people in the summer. Haney hopes, however, that an increase in business from getting approved for on-field use will allow the company to create four new full-time positions, two of of which would be directly related to producing more bats.
“I hope to get a little bigger, and take on a few more full time employees,” said Haney.
Haney says that when he first sees his bat being used on a major league field, he’s going to throw a party.
“That would be awesome,” said Jake Horth, head bat turner at the Cooperstown Bat Company, when asked how it would feel to see one of his bats used in a major league game. “That’s basically as high as you can get.”
Haney describes his family as a baseball family and expressed a love for his job.
“I make baseball bats. That’s like the coolest thing ever,” said Haney.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Mark Hoge, who has been working at the Cooperstown Bat Company since 1991.
“I don’t feel like I work anymore,” said Hoge.
To celebrate getting approved for on-field use, the Cooperstown Bat Company has put all of its playing models on sale at 20 percent off. Haney said that this promotion will last until the end of February.