I discovered Dinger Bats a couple of months ago during a chaotic time at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when quarantine was imposed and stay-at-home orders had been issued. More importantly, MLB Spring Training had been abruptly cancelled and the future of the baseball season was in doubt. Sports equipment entrepreneur and owner of Dinger Bats, Kyle Drone, had a fundraising promotion selling T-shirts, where a portion of proceeds would be donated to local healthcare workers. I asked how I could help out, and he sent one of the shirts to me. I took some photos with it, and I got a great response. But I was intrigued by his main enterprise, which was manufacturing wood-bats, specifically ones made for Major League Baseball players.
I wondered how the pandemic and economic slowdown in this country had affected a small business like his. He was nice enough to let me interview him, and answer a few questions that inquiring minds want to know about the bat business. He also surprised me with a complimentary, custom major league-quality bat!! (scroll down for more photos)
I was a catcher on the baseball team at a small college in Jackson, TN when in my Junior year the local Double-A affiliate (now the Jackson Generals/Diamondbacks AA) contacted my college coach and asked if I would be interested in being their bullpen catcher for the minor league season. I accepted with the idea that I could be seen by minor league coaches and personnel and also get experience catching pro pitchers to hone my skills.
I did this for two summers and became friends with several of the players. Often times, players didn’t have their cars, so I would drive them around to do their shopping, errands, etc. Instead of gas money, they gave me bats and other equipment. I ended up with quite a few bats, and became fascinated with learning more about the industry, and all of the different models and brands.
One of the players on the team was having a bad year at the plate, and I asked him why and he thought it could be because of the bats he was using. He said he didn’t know anybody in the big leagues that could give him a major league quality bat. I asked him, “Would you try out some bats if I made you some?” He said sure, he’d try them. I spoke to my father, told him about the situation, and he agreed to help me. He bought a lathe and when I returned home we started production, and the rest is history.
Dinger offers players at every stage of the game the “S3 assurance” which is:
- Superior Wood
- Superior Craftsmanship
- Superior Customer Service
Players from little league to the Major Leagues use and praise Dinger Bats. Some notable past and present players on the Dinger Bat list include: Rhys Hoskins, Kyle Schwarber, Starling Marte, Brock Holt, David Freese, Hunter Pence, Josh Bell, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, Stephen Vogt, Matt Adams, and more.
2. What makes Dinger Bats stand out and make them unique from all the others?
My goal from the start and still today is that we wanted to provide every player at every level from tee ball to the big leagues the opportunity to have the best quality wood possible. That is what we have been able to do successfully and continue to do that today. They are handcrafted in Ridgway, Illinois – a small town on the northern tip of the Shawnee National Forest.
3. What materials do you use?
The main materials we use are Hard Maple, Yellow Birch, and Northern White Ash. They’re all very good materials but over the recent years Maple has become the wood of choice at most all levels.
Their M-series was designed to give anyone the opportunity to hit with the very best wood available. There is no better maple on the market today.
3. How do you market Dinger Bats to professional players, young athletes, coaches, leagues, etc.?
We primarily market by the grassroots approach of actually visiting camps and teams throughout the year and rely heavily on word of mouth at the professional level. For young athletes we use social media, email, attend tournaments, etc. We are now starting to use influencers and advocates to help us in these efforts.
4. Describe the process of making a bat from start to finish.
- The raw material comes to us in the form of billet (a dowel) that is 37″ long and 2.8″ in diameter.
- We weigh and grade each billet as they come in. We take the top 10% of the billets and that is our “MLB level” wood that anyone can buy as our M-series that we offer on the website.
- We select the desired weight for the bat.
- We run it through lathe with the program that I have created and in 90 seconds, a bat is cut.
- We then use a semi automatic sander on the bat, cut off the excess, and cup the end of the barrel to the desired weight.
- We paint the bat in the paint shop to the customers specifications and engrave with wood type, model, size, serial number and any personalization that may be requested.
5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of all sports impacted the sports equipment industry and Dinger Bats specifically?
The pandemic has slowed our business for this time of year significantly and has hurt the industry quite a bit, but hasn’t completely stopped us. We luckily have great business internationally that has allowed us to keep going through this time. But things keep getting postponed and even cancelled in the US and in my state of Illinois. We hope that there is an end to this in the near future but it’s out of our control. All we can do is keep going and have a positive mindset throughout the process. I believe we will get through this and come out stronger in the end.
Thank you again to Kyle Drone and Dinger Bats for taking the time to answer my questions, working with me, and making a beautiful, custom bat for Cheap Little Swing. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to align my blog with great American businesses such as Dinger. I hope you will join me in supporting them during this time, too.