The making of a bat Rawlings experts roll into Tate Dodge, show how big league items are made GLEN BURNIE

August 18, 1993|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Contributing writer

Kevin Zonn had seen it before, but he couldn't get enough.

So there he was yesterday at Tate Dodge in Glen Burnie, standing outside during a rainstorm watching a guy from Rawlings make a baseball bat by hand.

The short, sandy-haired Millersville man was awe-struck. He marveled as Roy Conrad of Rawlings began chipping away at a && bat as it twirled on a lathe. It wasn't just any bat, but one for San Francisco Giants first baseman Will Clark.

Chips flew onto Mr. Conrad's red shirt as he explained that bats for major league baseball players are made by hand. There are prototype bats for every major leaguer that Rawlings serves. When a baseball player needs a bat, Rawlings pulls out the prototype, takes the proper measurements and begins chipping away. Mr. Conrad was finished chipping and sanding in just 20 minutes.

"I've seen this demonstration three times," Mr. Zann said. "It's really fascinating. It surprised me the first time I saw the demonstration that they actually make the major league bats by hand. I never realized that."

Mr. Conrad and his partner, Roman Bormet, operate the Rawlings Sports Caravan, tandem trailers that travel the country every year presenting demonstrations on how to make bats and baseballs. The two men even perform some personal services for participants, embossing and repairing baseball gloves.

There also a traveling museum, which includes bats owned by Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Henry Aaron; All-Star and World Series baseballs; and collection of gloves from a replica of an 1877 fielder's glove -- a leather fingerless glove -- to modern behemoths.

"We hit about 40 states during our nine-month tour," Mr. Conrad said. "We'll be heading to New Jersey next. It's a long tour, but it's worth it because people really like it. They're so surprised that we make the bats by hand."

This is the only Maryland stop for the caravan, although it was in Baltimore for the All-Star Fan Fest in July.

The two men start the year at spring training, repairing players' gloves and making new bats. Mr. Conrad has made bats for Mr. Clark, Cal Ripken and New York Mets third baseman Howard Johnson. About 35 percent of major league players use Rawlings gloves, and 50 percent the Rawlings/Adirondack bats. Rawlings also is the official supplier of major league baseballs.

Mr. Zonn is certainly impressed with Rawlings' reputation and the work performed by Mr. Conrad and Mr. Bormet.

"I wouldn't mind doing this for a living," he said, nodding his head toward the caravan trailers. "It would be nice to make bats for major league baseball players."

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