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More Than Just A Hobby-Michael Paes Makes Wooden Bats In His Workshop



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More Than Just A Hobby—

Michael Paes Makes Wooden Bats In His Workshop

By Andy Hutchison

A lawyer by day, Sandy Hook’s Michael Paes is “Batman” by night — well, at least in his free time. Paes makes baseball bats on a lathe in a workshop off his garage during his free time as a hobby that has turned into a small business.

Fern Paes, Michael’s wife, gave him a bat making book in 2005, so he bought a lathe and started crafting his own bats just for fun.

“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always done woodworking,” Paes said. “My grandfather was actually a gunsmith.”

Also in ’05, Paes joined the newly-formed Newtown Sandy Hook Vintage Base Ball Club. He began making vintage replica bats for use in games and quickly started taking orders for custom bats — those made from different types of wood and cut to varying lengths — for players on his own as well as competing teams. The Bulldog Bat Company was born. Word spread in the vintage base ball world and Paes now sells more than 300 bats each year. The business, which he looks at more as a hobby, continues to grow each year.

Among Paes’ clients is the Bay Area Vintage Base Ball Club out in California. He has worked with the New England League’s Danbury Westerners for three years as well. Paes even makes bats for area Little League and Babe Ruth league players. Paes has been through a handful of mills that supply the wood he uses. He finally found one, based in Pennsylvania, on which he can rely for good wood. “One bad bat can lose you a lot of customers,” he notes.

Paes orders ash, maple, hickory — whatever is requested by the consumer that he can obtain — to make bats. Modern bats are made from ash or maple and the vintage bats were often cut from hickory since it was strong. Hickory is too heavy for today’s standards, Paes said. Some customers will send a photo of a bat they want replicated and Paes works simply from a picture. He starts with essentially an oversized dowl and turns the wood on a lathe.

Some of the fine-tuning is done with various tools, including skews and gouges, and sandpaper. The vintage bats were heavier and longer than the bats of today.

“In the early days of baseball the thought was the heavier the bat you could swing, the further you could hit the ball,” said Paes, adding that through the years it has been determined that lighter bats with thinner handles can be swung faster.

Paes, 44, enjoys making bats as a change of pace from his work in employment law since he can see the project of making a bat unfold quickly before his eyes.

It takes 45 minutes to an hour to make a bat the vintage way. Scrap pieces or mistakes are used for firewood in the winter.

“The ability to take both the love of baseball along with the woodworking is just a great thing for me,” Paes said.

Every year, for Christmas, Paes makes a bat for his 10-year-old son Jonathan. He occasionally finds time to make a bat for himself for use in the vintage games.

So when Paes grounds out or strikes out does he blame it on the bat maker? “I wish I could, but I have to blame it on the player instead,” Paes said with a laugh.

The 44-year-old’s business also includes vintage equipment, some of which he makes himself. He chose the name for his business because he has owned bulldogs throughout the years and likes the look for his logo.

Paes also plays bass guitar in a band, Inside Out. The band’s next public gig is Saturday, August 29, at Liquid Venue on 464 Boston Post Road in Orange.

For more information about Bulldog Bats, visit bulldogbatsonline.com.

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