The Axe Bat Comes Calling
This is a story we’ve told many times over the years. But it seems fitting to repeat it today, this being the first post on our new blog. It’s the story of how we came to the bat business. Or rather, how the bat business came to us.
It started with a cold call in the summer of 2009. Rusty Trudeau, then the category manager overseeing baseball and softball products, remembers the conversation this way.
“Really out of the blue,” Trudeau said. “He asked me who I was and what position I was in. Then he asked if I’d be interested in any new products.”
Now, such calls are not uncommon. We get them from time to time. But most never pan out. This one struck Trudeau as being different.
“As soon as he started talking,” Trudeau said, “it made sense to me.”
On the other end of the line was Bruce Leinert, a woodworker from New York. Years earlier, he’d been out in the woods near his home, chopping down a cedar tree to make some poles for a project, when he’d realized the similarities between swinging an axe and a baseball bat. He’d married the two implements and built a bat in his woodshop with an axe-shaped handle.
It was a simple idea, but intuitively brilliant.
Leinert said a couple of the big bat manufacturers had already passed, but if Baden were interested, he’d send a sample right away.
“Sure enough,” Trudeau said. “A week later, I got the bat.”
Trudeau said what he saw took him back to an earlier time. Prior to joining Baden, he coached high school baseball locally for years. Took multiple teams to the state tournament. Three times was named his conference’s coach of the year. Every season as a coach, he’d used an axe handle to teach his players the proper position for their hands at contact.
“So right away, I knew what he was doing,” Trudeau said. “I put it in my hands and said, ‘Wow, that feels pretty darn good.'”
A couple weeks went by. The bat sat in Trudeau’s office. Sometimes, he’d pick it up. Work his fingers on the handle. Take a slow, elongated swing. Then something would come up, the phone would ring, and he’d put it down.
Finally, one day, he walked the bat down the hall to the office of chief executive Michael Schindler. They talked about the design. How much better the grip felt. How the bat fit perfectly with Baden’s history of creating innovative products designed for the player.
The idea had potential, they agreed; it was worth pursuing.
“I understood the concept,” Trudeau said. “But I also understood this was not going to be a slam dunk. There is so much history involved with baseball — and change within the game is often resisted. But my gut feeling was: This is real. I like it.”
A lot more has happened in the years since. There have been lengthy approval processes. Multiple rounds of product testing and refinement. Countless hours of research.
We’ll get into more of those details in future posts. And while we won’t be able to share the entirety of our plans for the Axe Bat, we will do our best to give you an honest, inside look at the bat’s development.
Like most blogs, this one is a work in progress, but our hope is you’ll find a lot to like here, whether you’re a player, parent, coach or fan. We welcome your comments, questions or feedback to mattp at badensports dot com. Thanks for stopping by.by