TORONTO- As the college and high school baseball seasons finish up their post-season, many of the areas current and former players who live in the area gear up for another summer of the Ohio Valley Baseball League, or OVBL action. From the tee ball teams all the way to the collegiate level, most ballplayers use the new aluminum and metal bats which have come along way in the past couple decades. So much so, that standards have been put in place to lessen the response of the barrels.
What about those who appreciate the old school form of baseball, or play in the OVBL where wooden bats are all that is allowed? Where would you even get a wooden bat? You could go online and order various models without holding it, swinging it, or even knowing if you're going to like that particular bat. Another option would be to have a custom wood bat made right here in the Ohio Valley.
For the past several years, Toronto native and former Akron Zip, Mike Swearingen has been taking his life long love from the diamond right into his workshop where he produces customs made wooden bats for players around the area and country. Starting from square billets of Ash or rock Maple, these hand-turned pieces end up as a premium grade wooden bats like you had ordered a Louisville, Marucci, or Rawlings.
T-L Photo/MIKE MUKLEWICZ
TORONTO’S MIKE Swearingen works to shape a bat inside his shop.
Once Swearingen settled down after his playing days with his wife, also a former Zip pitcher, and a house full of children he decided to give the process a try. A few years and a few hundred bats later, Swearingen has found a way to stay a part of the game. All the maple and ash used to make his bats are hand selected from a lumber yard in Pennsylvania where he makes a handful of trips to stock up each year. From there, each billet of wood is graded and cut down into a cylinder before its placed on a lathe to be hand turned.
What makes these bats so unique though, is the custom dimensions that can be fitted to suit any ball players taste. Once you model is made, it can be replicated again and again from the template, even if it truly is a one of a kind model.
All these products can be finished after they are done being turned as well. Swearingen recently acquired a new technique of customizing each bat with a name, model, and brand that really pulls each piece together. If one weren't to know that they had purchased the bats in Toronto, they would probably believe it came from a big name company- especially after taking a few cuts with it.
After personally watching a couple of these bats be made, and giving it a shot myself, its quite obvious that he doesn't create these to make the money, but to satisfy the yearning of his old days on the ball field and true love for the game of baseball.
Anyone interested in the process or looking to pick up a couple bats is encouraged to visit www.mikeswearingenbatcompany.com to get an inside look.
Muklewicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org