Conboy has found hobby,business in bats
BY CONOR FOLEY
The process starts with a simple wooden dowel.
It’s raw, unfinished and doesn’t look like anything special – just a 37-inch long, 2 and 7/8-inch wide cylindrical piece of wood.
But that’s not how Montrose’s Pat Conboy sees it.
Give the junior 30 minutes, and he’ll craft it into a baseball bat, something he’s been doing since he was a freshman.
“During the winter of my freshman year, I was playing in a wooden bat league in a dome and I saw a lot of guys breaking their bats,” Conboy said. “I just decided to start making my own.”
Now, the 17-year-old said he has made anywhere from 150-200 of his Paul Bunyan Bats, which he sells to friends, customers and even some local sporting goods stores.
“Probably about a year it took me to really perfect it,” Conboy said. “It was months after months, and piece of wood after piece of wood. Just tooling with it, playing with it until I finally got bats that looked like bats.”
Conboy, whose dad owns a saw mill, said he was introduced to the wood industry early on, and started taking a woodshop class in ninth grade. After he saw his teammates breaking their bats, he looked into how he could make his own. He researched the process on Google, watching videos in addition to talking to a few people.
“Basically, it was trial and error until I got it,” Conboy said.
The first few trials were “really, really rough,” Conboy laughed. But he pushed on, selling his first bat in March or April of that first year.
“I talked a couple of my friends into buying them,” he said. “They were rough. I feel bad for selling them to them, but they took them and that’s when I really got started.”
The bats got better and better and, soon, more people were asking for them.
“It felt really good, to know that I could actually make something that people wanted and people liked,” Conboy said.
Typically, Conboy works with ash, maple or birch.
“The major leagues, birch is just starting to come on,” he said. “Ash has always been king. Maple came on in the ’90s, and now birch is coming on good.
“Maple is on the downfall, because maple splits easy. Birch is strong, it’s got the flexibility of ash but it’s got the strength of maple. It’s really the best of both worlds.”
Conboy places the dowel on a lathe, and starts by rounding off the barrel of the bat. From there, he shaves off excess wood down to the handle.
He checks the diameters. Precision is key.
The barrel is then blended to the handle, and the knobs are formed. Sanding takes out any imperfections and makes the bat nice and smooth.
Conboy said he considers the midsection of the bat, the area between the barrel and the handle, to be the most important.
“(It’s) the transition,” he said. “The barrel has to be strong, and the handle has to be strong, but in the middle is where it really, really, really has to be strong. Otherwise, it’s going to break if you hit the ball wrong.
“I just double check. I sand it until I know it’s perfect.”
He checks the weight with a scale. Bats used at the high school and adult levels of baseball are supposed to have a drop weight of -3, meaning the weight of a 32-inch bat should be no lighter than 29 ounces.
“Usually, everybody’s got a leeway, a half ounce or so, either way,” Conboy said, “because wood’s wood, and it’s not going to be perfect.”
After that, the bats get a Varathane stain – the stuff they use on gym floors, Conboy said – which makes them shine. Once it dries, the bats are ready to go.
“All the bats that I use myself are my favorites,” Conboy said. “I mean, some of them I like more than others, but I just love to look at it and know that I made it.
According to his website, paulbunyanbats.com, Conboy sells adult ash bats for $70, adult maple and birch bats for $76 and youth ash and maple bats for $40.
While most high school players use the aluminum, BBCOR bats, Conboy chooses to use his wooden ones. This year, he’s batting .833 in a mainly pinch-hitting role, with five hits, three RBIs and a run scored.
“Before I was batting .250, .300, and ever since I started using my own bats, I’ve been batting over .400,” he said. “I think the wood makes you a better hitter because you have to hit the ball in a certain spot just to make contact.”