In the middle of hockey country one might think turning out hockey sticks would be the way to go but instead Prairie Sticks Bat Company produces quality baseball bats.
The company was established in 2001 and has been busy producing the bats for local teams and around North America.
“We definitely do have a following out there. People come to us, we don’t always solicit the orders,” said co-owner Jared Greenberg. “Over the years we have created a following so we get referrals and things like that. It tells us that we have a pretty good product out there.”
The homegrown bat comes from three types of wood – maple, birch and ash, sourced from trees in Quebec or upstate New York.
Greenberg says they aren’t much different than the big name bats out there like Louisville Slugger or Rawlings but they do use a specific milling called hand-splitting, a process used back in the old days of bat making.
It ensures the grain patterns of the wood are going both ways as straight as possible because the billets of wood are split by hand and not on a machine, he said.
When Baseball Canada mandated certain age groups needed to use wood bats instead of aluminum Greenberg says that stirred the entrepreneurial spirit inside and Prairie Sticks was formed.
“So we just saw an opportunity and decided let’s go for it.”
There has been a trend back towards wood bats at some age levels and it seems to be growing, he said.
“Midget and high school categories are using wooden bats and this year Bantam players are using wood,” he said. “Even the little guys who don’t need to use aluminum bats still will buy wood bats to practice with.”
The production process wasn’t something which was mastered overnight and Greenberg recalls starting out using a floor model hand lathe and started whittling out bats by hand which took about an hour for each one.
“Now with the machine we use it takes about 65 seconds,” he said.
There are over 100 models of Prairie Sticks to choose from including those which can be designed specifically for a player, including monogrammed. They also produce novelty bats.
He says he’s not sure if he’s a 100% traditionalist when it comes to baseball but he admits it’s a special sound when you hear the crack of a ball coming off a wood bat as opposed to the ping sound when a metal bat is used.
“And I think pitchers should be rewarded every once in awhile when breaking bats with a good pitch, which obviously benefits us,” he laughed.
Greenberg argues games have stretched out longer due to metal bats being used because more potential outs are turned into base hits instead and it has nothing to do with hitting the ball on the sweet spot like you need to do with a wood bat.
The goal is to get their product into the hands of Major League Baseball players but you need to be licensed by MLB in order to get in but Greenberg is confident of that happening at some point.
“All it is is a licence to sell, it doesn’t guarantee you any sales so we just need to be in a financially stable position,” he said.
No matter what the future holds Prairie Sticks still stands behind the product.
“Well we don’t offer a warranty but when we send out a bat we know it’s game ready,” he said.