(Photo Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman)
When he’s not busy mashing upper-deck home runs on the Dodgers‘ farm, Tulsa Drillers‘ first baseman Lars Anderson has been very instrumental recently in promoting his one-of-a-kind baseball bat company — Birdman Bats, LLC.
Alongside partners Gary and Mark Malec, the 28-year-old Anderson is a partial owner of the company, working closely with Gary on the countless bat designs and different colors/finishes that may be desired by many players around the game. He brings more than 10 years of experience and expertise of dealing with other bat companies to the table, and hopes to build a foundation that’s accountable and quick with orders, along with delivering consistent, quality wood.
For those not familiar with Anderson, he was chosen in the 18th round of the 2006 draft by the Red Sox and made his major league debut in September of 2010. He’s also made stops in the Diamondbacks, White Sox and Cubs organizations, ultimately reaching a minor league deal with the Dodgers in December of 2014. Primarily a first baseman and corner outfielder, Anderson’s best year as a professional came in 2008 across two levels of the Boston farm, when he hit .317/.418/.517 with 32 doubles, 85 runs scored, 18 home runs and 80 RBI in 118 games played.
Lars took a few moments from his busy schedule over the weekend to chat with TBPC about his latest business venture.
“I met Gary and his brother Mark through a mutual friend. We initially bonded over music. The three of us would hang out and play guitar. They’re former baseball players as well so we would talk about the game,” Anderson said. “Gary would show me the bats he’d been making and selling to people in the area. I was blown away that that was a hobby and small business for him. It takes a ton a skill to do that. I would bring him bats that I had and we would talk about what players seem to like in a bat, myself specifically.”
From that point, the company began to grow quickly, up until the moment when Birdman’s lathe, hand-built and wired by Gary himself, finally saw its last days and broke beyond repair.
Over the next several weeks, the owners are reaching out to family, friends and acquaintances for assistance in a kickstart campaign which will fund the purchase of a state-of-the-art CNC lathe, as well as finance the necessary funds to obtain the required license to sell bats in the MLB.
In the meantime, quite a few players, including several on the Drillers’ squad, swing Birdman bats during practice and in the cages.
“We’ve made bats for a bunch of guys here. Adam Law, Kyle Farmer, Willie Calhoun, Alex Verdugo, Drew Maggi and myself. A bunch of guys like the shirts we make, too. They’re great,” Anderson said.
Perhaps Birdman’s most strategic niche is the fact that they use birch lumber. Easily accessible and rapidly growing in popularity, birch has the hardness of maple with the flexibility of ash. And it is both lightweight and durable. Since its introduction to professional baseball in 2006, birch has been continuously rising in popularity among pro ball players.
“I think we can be very successful,” Anderson added. “We will be producing all birch bats so we can afford to send guys all premium wood. We don’t have to compete with big companies like Louisville Slugger or Old Hickory to get good maple or ash.”
Anderson believes that Birdman’s creativity, lightheartedness and love for the game will set them apart from competitors.
“Instead of just the company name for the label on the bat, we have a creative, colorful drawing. We also will be naming our bats fun names instead them just being a letter and a number (C271, C243, M110). I think guys are looking to express themselves in a unique way on the field and we want to help them realize that. I also think that this levity in our aesthetic will help keep players loose on the field,” he said.
“I’m excited to start something small and build slowly from the inside. I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but all the people involved in Birdman are down-to-earth, great people who love to work. That’s always seemed to be a winning formula in my experience.”
For anyone wishing to learn more about Birdman Bats, the kickstarter project will be running strong through July 7.