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Play Ball!

Play Ball, July 1999 Cape Cod Life |

A master woodworker, Tom Bednark has been crafting custom bats in his Barnstable basement since 1992. Photograph by Terry Pommett

The Barnstable Bat Company hits a homerun with their custom baseball bats

Baseball, the tribulations of the Red Sox aside, is a very “user friendly” sport, welcoming every level and stripe of fan. The season begins before the crocuses with the ritual of spring training, and ends in the crisp October air. The 162 games schedule will accommodate a passiveness of attention unthinkable to the NFL campaign. It simplicity allows for near-universal participation at the amateur level; only a mop handle and an old tennis ball are required. True, basketball calls for nothing more than a ball and one rusted, netless rim in the schoolyard, but there is an element of height in basketball which does not exist on the sandlot. It is, in fact, about the time that we’ve grown as tall as we’re ever going to get that our active participation in amateur baseball ends and we are graduated to fan status. This rank affords many options for staying as close to the game as you desire. You can follow the box score, volunteer to coach the 6 year olds, adopt Boomer Scott and his Mad Dogs (late of the Northeast League), even aspire to seats in section 30 at Fenway. Or, you could supply the bats.

Centerville’s Tom and Christine Bednark chose the last to celebrate the national pastime by founding the Barnstable Bat Company, making custom and personalized baseball bats for souvenirs and game play. It is easy to imagine that such an undertaking would be akin to tilting at windmills. Hillerich & Brads by’s Louisville Slugger dominates the professional market. For durability, aluminum is the choice of the NCAA; although the recent publicity surrounding the danger to pitchers and undue advantage to hitters inherent in aluminum bats has prompted not a shift to mother ash, but a negotiated redesign of aluminum models, to better mimic the characteristics of wood. Manufacturers HB and Easton Sports own this market as well. These were hardly considerations for the Bednarks, who recognized an opportunity uniquely reserved to their situation.

Tom Bednark was a general contractor, talented woodworker, and avid follower of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 1992 when the revelation came as he sat with Christine watching a Cotuit Kettleers game. “I can make the bats,” Tom thought. His requirements for a product, he recalls, were ease in storage and shipping. A baseball bat is a simple enough thing. It could be sent anywhere in the world. It could be made at home (there is a workshop behind the house), and Tom is craftsman enough, as the many guitars in his office attest. Most important, perhaps, he and Christine love the game. So, a product is chosen.

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