Famous baseball bat maker Louisville Slugger might not be looking over its shoulder — yet — but there’s a new baseball bat company gearing up to start production, and its owner will call Homewood home.
The Homewood Board of Trustees approved $100,000 in village Business Incentive Program funding Tuesday to help Homewood Bat Company acquire property at 17841 and 17845 Bretz Drive, the commercial development just east of Home Depot and north of Ridge Road.
Owner Todd Pals made a presentation to the board and described his experience in the baseball bat business, shared his plans for the new company and showed trustees the logo that will be on each bat the company produces.
Pals said he had 10 years experience working for Hoosier Bat Company, which at the time produced Major League Baseball-approved bats. During that time, he developed relationships with professional baseball players, coaches, equipment managers and wood suppliers that will help him get his new venture established, he said.
He said production could begin in early to mid-December, and hopes eventually to make as many as 30,000 bats per year. The main customer base will be professional and amateur baseball players. He said Homewood bats have already been conditionally approved by Major League Baseball.
The early focus will be on getting bats in the hands of the pros. He said his goal is to get five to 10 major league players to use his bats during 2016.
“If we can get bats in their hands this winter, (then) they go into spring training using them,” he said. “That will give us visibility. It makes the job of selling it much more easy.”
He expects that visibility — the possibility of seeing Homewood bats on sports television, on the Web and in newspapers — will not only help sales but could help Homewood, too, giving the community broad exposure.
Pals said he wants the company to be more than just a wood shop, though. He has plans to create a display, a sort of small museum, that will show his collection of baseball memorabilia, including bats, gloves and balls that have been used in the major leagues.
He brought one example to the meeting, a bat used by Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder. He said Fielder has already put in a request for some Homewood bats.
Pals also plans to bring current and retired pro ball players and coaches to Homewood for autograph signing sessions and to put on clinics for area youth ballplayers.
“Our goal is to make a positive impact on Homewood and surrounding communities,” he said.
Trustees were unanimously supportive of the project, citing uniqueness of the business, the location of the shop and Pals’ interest in becoming an integral part of the community.
“Apologies in advance, but I hope this is the grand slam we’re looking for,” Trustee Jay Heiferman said.
The location is one that has had difficulty getting momentum. The development began just as the effects of the recent recession were being felt in 2009. The units Pals is buying have never been occupied.
Village Economic Development Director Tom Vander Woude introduced the project to the board and noted that Pals’ request was well within the village’s guidelines for business incentives. The village will provide 33 percent of the acquisition costs, although the limit is 50 percent, he said.
Pals and his investors will provide the balance of the $695,000 it is expected to cost to purchase the space, construct the shop and start up the company.
The incentive awarded is in the village budget, according to Village President Richard Hofeld.