HOOSIER BAT COMES TO FORT WAYNE

This time of year, not many people are thinking about baseball season. But it’s different at the Hoosier Bat facility, on Fort Wayne’s southwest side, where baseball is more than the National Pastime — it’s a growing business.

As a matter of fact, this is among the busiest times of the year at Hoosier Bat. Its lathes are turning out bats to be used by amateur hitters across North America as well as specialized, 33-inch “display” bats that will decorate trophy cases of top hitters on teams in many leagues in 2024. And they’re not much different from the Hoosier bats that grace display cases at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Hoosier Bat arrived in Fort Wayne just one year ago, when Valparaiso businessman and the company’s founder, Dave Cook, sold the operation to Brad Smock and Chad Bushee. Both new owners are from the Fort Wayne area: Smock was a catcher at Carroll and later for both Purdue and Purdue-Fort Wayne, while Bushee played high school ball at Norwell.

“Chad and I started making bats as a hobby before we purchased Hoosier Bat,” Smock explains. “We we’re making bats in my garage, and that’s kind of what led us to do it.”

“We’ve always been, obviously, big baseball people and passionate about it,” Bushee adds. Smock and Bushee were researching varnishes and finishes for their homemade bats when an acquaintance referred them to Cook, whose Hoosier Bat models had been popular among some very high-profile Major League hitters.

“We both had our sons with us when we got to meet him,” recalls Smock. “We started talking and it just went from there. We became interested mainly because of the Hoosier Bat history.”

That history dates to the 1990s, when Hoosier Bat models were especially popular in the Chicago White Sox dugout. Marketing restrictions have put the Big Leagues off limits to Hoosier Bat — for the time being, at least — so the company now concentrates on the much larger amateur baseball market. It is turning out unique, three-piece “Woodforce 2000” bats that feature a birch handle, a six-inch “sweet spot” of hickory and a maple cap. The pieces are secured by finger joints and bonded by a special Chicago-made glue, and varnish finish.

“The advantage is in the durability,” Smock says of the Woodforce 2000 line. “The bats are very hard and won’t flake, and are good for players transitioning from metal bats to the wood” bats used in the more advanced leagues.

Hoosier also crafts prime all-birch bats for game use as well as nearly indestructible fungo bats for coaches giving fielding practice.

With a past filled with cheers and headlines and a promising future wherever baseball is played, Hoosier Bat is still swinging for the fences.

HALL OF FAME HISTORY

Three Hoosier Bats are featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. One was used by Sammy Sosa in his home run race with Mark McGwire. Lance Johnson used a Hoosier Bat to lead both the American League and the National League in hits over back-to-back seasons. In 2007, Frank Thomas hit his 500th Home Run with a Hoosier Bat. Add Hoosier Bats to your arsenal and bring our legacy of excellence to your college, high school, or youth league team.