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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The "Pennsylvania Amish Lumber Makes A Big Hit" Story

Article in the American Airlines Magazine.
It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in seat 18E on an Airbus A-319 traveling from Philadelphia to Sint Maarten at an altitude of over 30,000 feet and reading American Airlines in-house magazine, "American Way."  Actually, I was more like leafing through it until I reached pages 34-35 and then I stopped and started reading the story titled "There's nothing simple about a bat."  Should tell you that the article was about wooden baseball bats and not the bat that is a mammal.  But, what really got my attention was a two-inch circular photograph that had a nine-line paragraph under it that said that the bat company that was featured in the story, the Marucci Company, owns its own ash and maple wood supply in the Amish area of Pennsylvania.  Wow, when most people think of Pennsylvania Amish they think of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, since it is the oldest and best-known of the 53 Amish settlements in the state.  
So where do they get their wood.  I don't know I'm sorry to say.  I'm going to say Lancaster County, but it really could be almost in any of the other 53 settlements in the state where they harvest their lumber.  And, it doesn't really matter anyway since my story is really about producing baseball bats and not the exact location in the state where the lumber might be harvested.  My interest in the wooden bat goes way back to when I played baseball as a youth.  We didn't have metal bats back then and everyone on the team used the same couple of bats that the coach would bring to the field.  When my neighborhood friends would gather to play summer games at the nearby train station or behind my house in the printing company's parking lot, we at times would use a wooden bat that was held together with screws or nails, having been broken numerous times throughout the summer.  Back then there were only a few manufacturers of baseball bats.  
League in the North-East sponsored
by Major League Baseball and where
wooden bats are used exclusively.
When my oldest son, Derek, pitched for Villanova University, they used metal bats instead of wooden bats in his collegiate games.  The ball came off the bat so much faster that it did with wooden bats.  As a sophomore and junior he had the chance to play in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League for the Quakertown Blazers.  This league was sponsored by Major League Baseball to showcase college students who might have a chance to make it into professional baseball.  That league used only wooden bats, since that was what was used in professional baseball and still is today.  The sound and speed of the ball off the bat is entirely different than it is with metal bats.  Today's Little League teams use metal bats because of the cost of replacing wooden bats every time they would crack or break.  Must say though that the cost of metal bats is unbelievable and they are said to be good for only so many hits before they wear out.  Great advertising to get you to buy another new metal bat.  Now, back to my story about the Amish supplying the wood for the bats made by the Marucci Company.  The company was founded in 2002 by Louisiana State University athletic training director Jack Marucci.  Jack's 8-year-old son Gino wanted a wooden bat just like his Major League idols.  
Marucci wooden bats are in big demand.
Tough to find one at a sports store anymore, so he decided to make one in his backyard shed.  Then Gino's friends wanted one so he made more.  Eventually made one for his friend Eduardo Perez who happened to be a Major Leaguer at the time.  Word spread and two years later he moved from his shed to a larger facility.  As of this year he is the second largest bat producer behind Louisville Slugger.  Doesn't make them on his home lathe in the back yard shed anymore.   Today there are 32 manufactures of bats that are approved by Major League Baseball.  That first bat that Jack made was with wood he got from the Amish country of Pennsylvania and he still uses the same wood today.  The company produced over 5,000 bats this year between January 15 and February 14, in time for the start of Major League spring training.  The story was the most interesting one in the American Way magazine I was reading and just before I finished it we were told to turn off all devices and buckle in.  I wanted to re-read the story so it happened to fall into my carry-on.  That's why I happen to have it in front of me as I'm typing my story today.  They make those for people to read and that's exactly what I'm doing, be it in my Caribbean villa or on the plane.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

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