Why swing with an old bat, when you can swing with a Young one. In the mountains of North Carolina, the family-owned and operated Young Bat Company handcrafts wooden baseball bats from forest to field for everyone from little leaguers to Hall of Fame caliber players.
Established in 1993 by entrepreneur and passionate woodworker Chris Young, Young Bat Company (YBC) grew from making a few dozen bats to more than 100,000 bats per year in the late 1990s. During this time, high-profile baseball players including Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and more could be seen representing the YBC logo on their baseball bats. After a 12-year retirement the company returned to the field in 2017 and is ran today by Chris’ son, Tom Young, and his childhood best friend, Cody Siniard, who make custom wooden bats in addition to baseball inspired novelty items including bat mugs and other handcrafted products.
Mountain Made in North Carolina
Previously owning two Wood-Mizer sawmills during the 1990s and 2000s, the first piece of equipment YBC purchased after restarting the company was a new Wood-Mizer sawmill in order to make baseball bats from natural round logs on-site rather than buying processed material “We started with a sawmill, added a kiln, then lathes, and before you know it we have some contracts with big box retailers and seeing a lot of our bats and bat mugs in MLB stadiums again,” said Tom. “We’re excited to see the growth.”
Every Young baseball bat starts when logs are brought in and milled on the company’s Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic wide portable sawmill into solid wood square billets. The billet is stickered and stacked for air drying before going into one of two Wood-Mizer KD250 dehumidification kilns.
Once properly dried, the material is turned from a square billet to a round dowel, then weighed, graded and staged. When the product design is determined, the dowels are hand selected based on weight, species, grade, and pattern to be turned on the lathe into a bat. From there, the bats are sanded, cut to length, hand painted/finished, and laser engraved before it heads out to the baseball field.
YBC uses a variety of wood for their products including northern white ash, red oak, hickory, and European beech but they primarily work with hard rock maple due to the density and flexibility it provides for the bats. “It gives a nice trampoline effect and you get a nice pop with your bat,” explains Tom. “It’s the most common wood species used by MLB players.” “We have a great team,” shares Tom. “John can hand cut any product that we need and fix any machine that’s broken. Cody designs every product you see. Andrew and Jimmy are the utility players who saw with John, sand, and hand finish all of our products for that perfect handcrafted look.”
Expanding Products and the Future
In addition to producing a wide range of custom baseball bats, YBC realized that every piece of wood cut from a log doesn’t meet the necessary grade to become a finished bat.
“We needed to have secondary products that would support our bats and also lend more items to fans that could have something that was baseball related,” explained Tom. “We jumped into this baseball novelty area. If you think about it, there’s a lot more baseball fans than players.”
For Chris, his passion for woodworking and baseball is something he’s still able to share with others through Young Bat Company. “Working with my son now is just wonderful,” shares Chris. Tom and Cody see a bright future where YBC will continue long enough so that their children can become involved in the family business just as they did.
“Young Bat Company is a family-oriented business that really brings home what it means to be made in America and made in the mountains,” shares Tom. “We’ve made our stamp and continue to build a legacy in the baseball community.”