The crisp connection between bat and ball was one of the chief selling points for a Shirley company as it returned to spring training sites in Florida and Arizona to market its bats to major-league and minor-league baseball players.
By all accounts, Dove Tail Bats was having its share of success as one of approximately 35 bat makers certified by Major League Baseball.
“We got pounded with orders at spring training,” said Paul Lancisi who, with his wife Theresa, owns the 10-year-old business located along Route 15 south of Greenville.
Much of that sales-oriented momentum stemmed from the company’s most prominent slugger in 2019, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso.
Alonso won the annual Home Run Derby during the All-Star Break and went on to be named National League Rookie of the Year after hitting an MLB rookie-record 53 home runs.
“The bump was enormous because of what he did and also because of [fellow Mets’ All-Star] Jeff McNeil [who also swings Dove Tail Bats],” Lancisi said. “The guys in the Mets’ minor-league system look up to those guys and they were all over it.”
But while Dove Tail Bats was busy back north filling this year’s early MLB orders totaling approximately 2,000 bats, the coronavirus pandemic gripped America.
Major League Baseball suspended its operations on March 12 and shut down its spring training camps.
“We’ve got all our orders in house and now the clubs are telling us not to ship anything because they have no one at their facilities to receive it,” Lancisi said. “That’s really bad because since we can’t ship it, they can’t pay us, and if they can’t pay us we’re kind of out of work.”
“We’ve probably got $100,000 in receivables out there that we’re waiting on.”
That may not be the end of the impact of the contagion this season on companies like Dove Tail Bats.
Lancisi said teams and players typically place additional orders for the second half of the season shortly before the All-Star Break from established customers as well as hitters new to the Dove Tail Bats brand. This year, the season may not even start before that traditional mid-July date.
“Last year, other players saw Pete Alonso swinging us and we got second-half orders from players we never had before,” Lancisi said. “We won’t get a second half this year.”
The Dove Tail Bats sawmill remains open to produce the billets that eventually become bats, but employees in the bat-manufacturing department were reduced to three days of work per week as of Monday, Lancisi said.
“We’re just trying to spread the work out,” he said.
The company also is working to expand its markets and revenue sources beyond traditional professional baseball.
Dove Tail Bats has established relationships with numerous adult and youth baseball organizations around the country. Sales representatives attend the Arizona Fall League, the Men’s Senior Baseball League and such youth-based entities as the Baseball Showcase of Chandler, Arizona, and Firecracker Baseball, a Rhode Island company that hosts travel tournaments throughout the Northeast.
The company also markets its bats internationally, with an order set to be sent to Taiwan on Wednesday as well as a burgeoning affiliation with the Melvin Mora Academy in the Dominican Republic.
“We just believe we need to diversify,” Lancisi said. “I’ve seen too many bat companies try to rely on pro players, but you have to be smart enough to open up your market to anywhere and everywhere where players swing a wood bat.”
The company also is poised, once the snow melts, to begin construction on a 10,000-square-foot addition to add to its billet-making capabilities both for its own purposes and for outside sales.
“We have a great supply of wood here in Maine so why not take advantage of the source?” Lancisi said. The company uses mostly maple and yellow birch.
That addition also will include a 15-by-80-foot batting cage where players can test potential Dove Tail Bats models on site.
“We’ve got [pitching machines] with simulators so you can see the flight of your ball and distance and all the analytics,” Lancisi said.
“When we go to tournaments we bring a big selection and so kids can pick out bats, and they usually order from what we’ve brought. Now they can actually come up from where they are, try out different models and then buy the one that’s right for them.”