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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on August 9th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 23

Local makes custom-order baseball bats at WynnWood Bats

By KRISTINA SEWELL

Shawn Wynn sure knows his wood—ash, maple, and birch wood that is. Founder of WynnWood custom bats, Wynn is working to keep a dying art alive.

A 28-year-old originally from Taft, Calif., Wynn had a fairly short baseball career. He grew up playing little league only to play one season in high school as a catcher.

“At the time I was playing behind a catcher who was really good, so I wasn’t likely to get a lot of playing time,” Wynn admitted. “I opted for track to get in better shape for football.”


SWEET SPOT
Shawn Wynn, owner of WynnWood Bats, said that each type of wood he uses cuts entirely differently on the lathe, whether it’s ash or birch.
PHOTO BY KRISTINA SEWELL

Despite this, Wynn never outgrew his love and appreciation for baseball. He started playing men’s fast-pitch baseball in San Luis Obispo, where most of the players range from 18 to 35 years old. While playing fast-pitch is fun, Wynn said dealing with a broken bat is not.

“I was paying $140 for bats that would break on an inside pitch,” he said. “I decided, hell, it can’t be that hard to make bats. Now, for $25, I can make a bat how I want it without it breaking.”

Wynn also mentioned that in the days of Babe Ruth, everyone made their own bats and were allowed to. But as we’ve come to understand science and bat speed, the process of bat composition has changed.

So WynnWood Bats was born. Wynn said the process takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. He became familiar with woodworking as a child when his grandpa used to make wooden pens from orangewood and olivewood.

“It took a lot of YouTubing and making crappy bats,” Wynn said. “I started with shaping pinewood two by fours; it’s very soft to work with.”

Luckily, Wynn likes to conduct research and teach himself new things. He said a “crappy” bat has bad dimensions, weak parts, and is imbalanced.

For Wynn, it took a long time to get the process down.

“Sometimes you have do something really bad for a long time before you get good at it,” he said.

All it takes is five tools and a machine called a lathe to make a WynnWood bat. Wynn bought the 40-year-old machine from an Orcutt oil field worker in February.

According to Wynn, there are three primary types of wood that are used to make baseball bats: birch, maple, and ash.

“I like working with birch the most,” Wynn said. “Birch has the flexibility of ash and the hardness of maple.”

According to the “Bat Man,” ash wood has longer, flexible rings and a trampoline effect when you hit the ball. It also has the longest sweet spot.


OWN TWO HANDS
Shawn Wynn kept breaking bats while playing fast-pitch baseball in San Luis Obispo, and set out a couple years ago to learn to make his own sluggers.
PHOTO BY KRISTINA SEWELL

“Until Sammy Sosa came along, everyone used ash wood,” Wynn shared.

Then came maple, which is very hard and has the shortest sweet spot, but it crushes the ball and the bat won’t give, he said.

“Birch is the best wood bat for a beginner,” Wynn said. “You feel the contact, but you also crush the ball.”

But according to Wynn, the trick of making wood bats comes down to the strength of the wood. Wood bats are notorious for splitting and breaking.

“I get my wood from the Northeastern part of the U.S. because it’s cold and the grow season is shorter than in California or Florida,” he said.

For bat wood, a shorter and colder grow season means a tighter grain. The tighter the grain, the stronger the wood—especially in the handle, which is the weakest part of a wood bat, Wynn explained.

The wood also has to be stored in cool temperatures with little humidity to maintain the strength of the bat. Because of this, Wynn said he has never had a bat break on his clients.

Customizing bats to meet regulations can be a tricky business. According to the MLB, a wooden bat may not exceed 2.61 inches in width and 42 inches in length. The beauty of Wynn’s bats is that he can customize them to almost any specifications that a client wants, within regulation of course.

“You can’t custom order bats from some of the bigger companies because they keep certain models and specifications reserved for MLB players,” Wynn said.

Online presence
You can earn more about WynnWood Bats at the Instagram profile @WynnWood and on Facebook.

Wynn loves the customization of his bats. Every bat he makes is custom ordered.

“Baseball is a sport of superstition,” he said. “I had a client that wanted a dome handle to counterbalance the head weight of the bat because he thought it helped improve his hitting. He hadn’t been able to find one in 20 years until I made one for him.”

For Wynn, the process of making a bat takes about four hours. He starts with a piece of wood that is large and cylindrical. After locking it onto the lathe, Wynn then decides what length and width he will make the bat before marking measurements on the wood. After that, Wynn fires up the machine, which spins the piece of wood in place. Using a variety of different wood cutting tools, Wynn shaves away at the bat to shape out the handle and the barrel.

Much of the shaping requires appropriate pressure and a steady hand to avoid uneven surfaces. Learning how to use the tools on the different types of wood was also a process for Wynn to learn.

“Maple, birch, and ash all cut differently,” he said. “The angle and pressure of the tool has to change to account for this.”

The final steps of the process are staining and sealing the bat, and of course branding the bat with his signature WynnWood logo. To date, Wynn said he has made about 63 custom order bats.

He can tell the quality of the bat the minute he holds it in his hands and takes a swing.

“I’ve thrown out a lot of bats. If I won’t swing it, I won’t sell it,” Wynn said. “I care about the people that get my bats and I won’t put my signature on a crappy bat.”

Despite the high overhead (the wood used for bats is expensive), Wynn said he loves hearing back from his clients about their bats. He generally charges just $80 for a custom-order bat.

Wynn shared that WynnWood Bats is expanding, and the power of social media has helped his business grow. WynnWood Bats has recieved inquiries from people in Texas as well as baseball sporting stores asking for bat samples. Wynn has acquired more clientele by showing off his bats at the men’s fast-pitch games in San Luis Obispo.

“I like hearing that people enjoy the bats or that they hit a double their first time at bat with it,” Wynn said. “I like hearing that people are having success with something I made with my own two hands.”

Contributor Kristina Sewell can be reached through Managing Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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