SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Gary Malec is the CEO of a Bay Area startup company, and dreams of what Steve Jobs once did. Malec is trying to expand a business out of his garage, but his isn’t jammed with computer servers, instead it’s brimming with power tools.
“I think it’s that total startup culture,” said Malec. “We wake up and have our coffee, we’ll watch The Price is Right, and then we get to work.”
Malec and his baseball-loving friends are co-founders of an emerging boutique bat company called Birdman Bats. The multi-colored shiny pieces of wood are a departure from the standard black and brown bats that have been around since the Civil War.
“I bought a lathe on Craigslist and started making bats,” said Malec of his humble beginnings.
Birdman’s cartoonish half-man, half-bird label adds an eclectic touch that Malec thinks will create some buzz around the game.
“The name is because of the label,” said Malec. “My brother is infamous for his weird drawings, so I found his notebook and the birdman was in there.”
So what’s in a logo? Try $26,000 raised on a Kickstarter campaign for a computer operated lathe which allows them to crank out a bat in 40 minutes instead of four hours on their old machine. The six person crew specializes in different aspects of the process, starting with sandpaper and ending with stain.
Over the span of a year Birdman has reached the big leagues in the workshop, but they’re still waiting to crack a major league field.
“The grand hurdle is to have one of the MLB front offices to say ‘Yeah you guys make good bats,’ and then from there we need to cut a fat check to the league,” said Malec. “Then carry an outrageous insurance policy.”
It all adds up to about $43,000 per year just for the chance to have a professional swing a Birdman Bat in a big league game. They have yet to take a swing at the funding for the Bigs.
All this might not have been an option before Barry Bonds swatted 762 home runs with a Sam Bat, a company in Canada that helped to erode Louisville Slugger’s century-long strangle hold on the market.
“It kind of opened the door,” said Malec.
Lars Anderson is Birdman’s marketing guru. The 10-year minor league veteran carries the colorful birch bats in his bag hoping to drum up some interest from his teammates and competitors. When the company gets enough funding for the MLB license the demand is expected to be there.
12-time all-star Manny Ramirez loved swinging the Birdman lumber when he and Anderson were teammates in the minor leagues. Ramirez was quick to place an order.
“He picked it up and said ‘Oh bro I like this. I want some for winter ball,’ ” said Anderson.
Birdman has hatched in San Francisco, and now they’re hoping for some wings in the big leagues.
“I have a new found appreciation for the hard work and dedication that it takes to turning a bat,” said Anderson who will continue his baseball career in Japan this season.
“Had I known that in my younger years, I wouldn’t have tomahawked a bat into the clubhouse door so many times.”