Alliance for American Manufacturing

05/08/2019 | News release | Archived content

He Used to Break Bats. Now, He Makes Bats.

American-made Dove Tail Bats are quickly becoming a major league favorite.

When 57-year-old Paul Lancisiwas a young man,he dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball (MLB) player. During his high school years in Massachusetts,he was even scouted by the New York Yankees and attended a spring training tryout with the Boston Red Sox.

His 92 mile-an-hour fastballjust wasn't quite impressive enoughto make it into the farm system of these historic professional baseball teams.But that didn't stop Lancisi from making his mark on Major League Baseball.

For more than 20 years, Lancisiand his wifeowned and operated a furniture and cabinet making business in Shirley Mills, Maine. Lancisiwould also occasionally make baseball bats for his youngest son,who was pursuing a baseball career at college in California.

At the behest of his son, he began making more baseball bats to replace the poor-quality wood bats his son was furnished by various teams. Those bats were soft, often broke and did not last long.

In 2009, Lancisidecided totake a gamble, stop making furniture, and focus on making his baseball bats - and make a profit.

Paul Lancisiwas back in the game.

'When I decided to make baseball bats my full-time job, I said,'We are going to do this a little different. We're going to build a business making major league bats at every level,including amateur baseball. When it gets into the hands of minor leaguers, hopefully they will take it on to the big leagues with them,'' Lancisisaid. 'And it happened.'

An All-Star Lineup

For the past 10 years, Lancisihas been the owner and CEO of Dove Tail Bats.The company is located in a rural, tree-abundant section of Maine about 60 miles from the Canadian borderin a town withslightly more than 200 residents.

These small town bats are finding their way to the big leagues.The company is entering its fifth season as an official certified MLB bat-supplier, and Dove Tail Bats has been able to outfit some of baseball's most high-profile players.

Among the Dove Tail contingent is New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso, who was named National League Rookie of the Month after finishing April with ninehome runs, tyinga franchise record. His 26 RBIs by the end of April were the third-most in MLB history for a rookie. All his achievements were accomplished swinging an American-made Dove Tail Bat,which also was in his hands during his outstanding college career at the University of Florida.

Another of the Mets top hitters is Jeff McNeil,who is playing in his second MLB season. His Dove Tail Bat has helped him reach a batting average of .370 heading into May with 13 multi-hit games.

The two players and their affinity for Dove Tail Bats is just the sort of business model Lancisi planned for when he began making baseball bats as a side job in 2009. Word of mouth spreads quickly amongst major league players,and even some established All-Star veterans have been known to swing a Dove Tail Bat from time to time.

'We've had Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant. We even had Manny Ramirez when he left the majors and was playing in Taiwan and Japan,' Lancisisaid. 'When the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015, 70 percent of the runs they scored were with our product. We had 8 of the 9 starters swinging it.'

Former Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, now with the San Diego Padres, broke two World Series records with his Dove Tail Bat that later went on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.,after Hosmer was named MVP in the 2016 All-Star Game.

With 35 certified bat manufacturers allowed to sell to Major League Baseball,breaking into this market of 1280 players (about800 are position players who bat every day) is no easy task.

'You look at the market share and it doesn't leave you very much,' Lancisisaid. 'So, I looked at the minor league level and researched that there are 6,400 minor league players. When you go the next level, which is college you are looking at 57,000 players. High School there is 455,000 plus and youth baseball has 6.7 million and it's growing.

'I set the business up long term so that we start at a young age. We try to hit kids, train them, get them in the right model and then go from there. That's really what we are trying to do. It's just a trickle-downeffect of seeing a major leaguer swinging our bats. When the younger players see them on TV,they want to give them a try.

'All of our bats are major leaguequality,so the kids and youth league players are the market we a going after. If they succeed, hopefully they will continue to use our bats as they progress.'

The Secret to His Success

Lancisiattributes his success to the wood he uses in the Dove Tail Bat manufacturing process.

'Maple is the most popular bat in major league baseball, however our biggest seller is yellow birch,' said Lancisi. 'We have six players with the New York Mets swinging them right now, and they're believers. And they make everybody else believers.'

Yellow birch wood has been gaining success among ballplayers ever since Lancisi introduced the hardwood on a mass basis in 2014 when he achieved his MLB certification. Traditionally, maple and ash have been the wood of choice for bat makers,who source most of their wood from northern Pennsylvania and New York.

But Lancisi, who has been working with wood since he was 16, discovered that the yellow birch in Maine was an even more solid wood because of the longer time it takes a tree to grow to maturity in the harsh winter conditions of the Pine Treestate.

'We do about 300 dozen a year for minor league teams that order only yellow birch,' Lancisisaid. 'They find that it is stronger and it's more durable than maple. It's less brittle. Players are sticking to it because they are getting the same results as they do with maple and it lasts longer.'

Lancisi sources his wood from the same mill that provides wood for Steinway Pianos. Every two or three weeks a tractor trailer load of wood comes in from the logyards where the wood is staged. At the staging area, the wood is separated for species and graded.The top-quality grade that goes into Dove Tail Bats is shipped to Lancisi's batmanufacturing building where it is processed.

Lancisi has a heavy-duty log splitter which yields about four pieces for an average-sizelog.His teamthen puts the split pieceson a saw where they are squared before they go into a kiln to dry for two weeks. The pieces of log come out of the kiln weighingabout 8 pounds and are turned into dowels or billets each weighing about five pounds.

The billets are cut then placed on a computer numerical control (CNC) lathe machine where the bat is formed under the direction of one of 12 employees. The CNC machines each have about 3,000 different bat profiles. Dove Tail Bats has three of the CNC machines and Lancisi is in the process of purchasing a fourth to keep up with consumer demand.

After a bat is formed on the CNC lathe it is then sent to the sanding, boning and finishing process which includes a proprietary finish that Lancisi says is 'rock hard.'

'We try to produce as hard of a bat as possible so that all of the energy of the player goes into the ball so that it has a trampoline effect. This creates more pop,'Lancisisaid.

Hitting It Out of the Park

The business and the baseballs got their first professional pop in 2014 when Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig became the first major leaguer to swing a Dove Tail Bat.He was named to the National League All-Star team and finished the season with a .296 batting average and 16 home runs.

Lancisicontinues to grow his business.Sales are likely to increase as more youth players make their way through their baseball careers, including the select few that make it to the major leagues. After modest sales in the early years of production, Dove Tail Bats is on track to have more than $2 million in gross sales in 2019.

'I think we are going to produce well over 30,000 bats this year,' Lancisisaid. 'We've already doubled last year's first quarter and we did about 28,000 last year. In 2014, when we got into major league baseball, we made 3,500 bats. In 2015, it jumped to 7,000. In 2016 it went to 14,000 and to 28,000 last year so now I think we will be well over 30,000 this year.

'We've got more retail sales this year because the major league players are swinging our bats. At any given time, we can have 50 to 75 major leaguers swinging our bats but most of our revenue comes from amateur baseball.'

Dove Tail Bats sell from $60 to $70 for a youth bat and up to $200 for a signature pro series bearing the names of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. The average Dove Tail Bat is priced at around $130.

Lancisidoes not plan on making baseball bats for the rest of his life,but hopes to stay connected to the game even if he decides to sell five or more years down the road.

'My biggest fear is that a company would take us over and move us,' he said. 'That would devastate the community and all of my employees and we are not about that. That's the last thing we want to see happen and we've settledin on that we are in it for the long run.'

When Lancisiwas throwing his 92-mph fastball as a sophomore in high school,he 'knew how to break bats.' Now he makesbats - and has finally realized his dream of making it to the major leagues.

'I joke with a lot of people that I go through the pains of trying to make it,but I say listen, in 2014 we got into pro ball, and in 2015 we won a World Series and went into the Hall of Fame,so I think we're doing pretty good. It's been a very humbling experience for us.'

Editor's Note: Blogs like this one are intended to highlight companies that support American jobs and that make great products in the United States. We rely on companies we feature to provide accurate information regarding their domestic operations and their products. Each company is individually responsible for labeling and advertising their products according to applicable standards, such as the Federal Trade Commission's 'Made in USA' standard or California's 'Made in USA' labeling law. We do not review individual products for compliance or claim that company products comply with specific labeling or advertising standards. Our focus is on supporting companies that create American jobs.