As a woodworking hobbyist and a longtime baseball lover, Jim Anderson wanted a fun way to honor the birth of his first child. So, after seeing an ad for trophy bats in a mail order catalog, he decided to make one of his own.
“My friend and I made this bat,” he said. “We had no idea what we were doing but were both intrigued by the process of turning something out of wood.”
But something about the bat didn’t look right. “I knew it would look weird if it didn’t have a logo in the middle,” Anderson said. “So I think of the name Max Bat, after my son and I concept a logo and put it on the bat and once I put it on the bat, it looked like a real bat.”
Anderson start making bats in his basement workshop as a hobby while his son Max slept. “I was playing amateur baseball at the time and guys were asking me to make them bats,” he said.
Then, 9/11 happened.
The company Anderson was working for went out of business, leaving him unemployed.
“Here I am, a new dad, I have no job, the world’s in turmoil,” Anderson said. “So I was having these internal conversations to figure out what I was going to do with my life and something clicked and I decided I was just going to do this.”
So he reached out to Major League Baseball and received the rules and regulations, made a handful of bats to send in for inspection and waited to hear back.
“I was going to be content to get a letter back on MLB letterhead saying thanks but no thanks. I can frame it and put it on the wall and use it as a teaching tool to tell my son Max to pursue his dreams,” he said. “The letter came back and said congratulations, you’re an approved bat vendor. From there, I can’t do this in my basement anymore.”
The quest to find a scalable manufacturing facility began then, in earnest. After meeting with several smaller shops in the Twin Cities area, the feedback was all the same. ” Several of the people I met with said there’s an outfit in West Central Minnesota that can help you,” Anderson said.
The outfit just happened to be the No. 1 custom woodworking company in North America: Glacial Wood Products. The Brooten, Minn. based company was able to take Anderson’s custom turned baseball bats and replicate them with precision.
Now, Anderson had a scalable production partner to help make the bats … he just had to find people to buy them. So he did what all aspiring bat makers do … he went to Spring Training.
The Twins equipment manager at the time, Jim Dunn, invited Anderson speak to the team in the clubhouse. Anderson was a little starstruck. “There was a little hesitation for us, you know, we didn’t know if we belonged there,” he said. “But, we quickly realized we know we make a good product and these guys need this. They’re just like you and me, they’re just really good at what they do.”
“I remember wanting to get bats into Jacque Jones’ hands. I just grabbed a bunch of bats and walked over and said here try these,” Anderson said. “Seconds after I handed those to him I told myself I did that completely wrong. So my next conversation was with Michael Cuddyer and I asked him all sorts of questions before I ever handed him a bat and we had this dialogue and conversation and it was great.”
Max Bat now manufacturers more than 40,000 bats each year and has more than 400 professional players are using its product.