There must be something to this. In 1996, Barnstable Bats became approved for Major League play, and none too soon for Geronimo Berroa, then with the Oakland Athletics. Berroa was slumping coming into August, and the A’s equipment manager placed an order for a dozen bats. Berroa would hit 31 of his 37 homers that season with a Barnstable Bat, eight in 24 at bats in the first week of August, Tom recalls. There must be something to this. Ballplayers can be a quirky lot, the idiosyncrasies of Nomar Garciaparra at the plate being one prominent example. “Like John Valentin of the Red Sox wants the handle so thin it’s scary. But that’s what he uses. We’ve made him bats, and that’s what he wants.”
Tom not only customizes his bats for the Major League’s clients but for everyone. “If a kid wants something special, and he’s not a professional player, I’ll make it for him,” says Tom. “I do a lot of custom bats. People from Florida, California, Texas all up and say, my kid’s 10 years old and plays Little League and wants a bat with theses sort of characteristics, we make it.” While the professional trade is a lot of fun (Yankees’ second baseman Chuck Knoblauch calls in from time to time), this enterprise is no full-scale assault on the majors. “I’d rather sell bats to college teams and Cape League teams, and to the parents of Little League players.”
Among the parents shopping at Barnstable Bat? Tom searches the rack, pulling out a bat autographed by Mike Barnacle, Joe Morgan and Tim Russert. What brought them? “Russert and Barnacle’s kids’ birthdays are a day apart,” Christine says. “They were like kids in a candy store.” Elders and youngsters alike, to be sure.
Tom has made a number of bats for Mo Vaughn, both for charity auctions and game play. Now with the Angels, will the Hit Dog be back? “I don’t know, I’m going to pump him up,” Tom says. “I know what he uses, and he smacks the ball around with them.” If not, there’s always a kid named Bobby Kielty, Bourne Braves’ outfielder, who batted .348 and came within a homer of capturing the league’s triple crown in 1998. He’s spent a lot of time swinging Tom’s bats, and just signed a half million dollar contract with the Twins.
For more information, contact the Barnstable Bat Company in Centerville at 508-362-8046.
John Downey is a freelance writer and an avid baseball fan living in Dedham, Massachusetts.
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