Mitchell Bat Company has become a sort of cult favorite among baseball diehards. Fans from around the world (an early customer emailed from Australia) pay upwards of 200 bucks for the company’s flagship product: a wooden baseball bat — hand-painted to order — in crisp, bold colors. And in just two short years since launching his business, Jeremy Mitchell has seen his wares featured by such prestigious publications as Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle and Country Living.
Not bad for a brand that was built on accident.
In August 2013, Jeremy was a full-time web designer asked to help with the re-branding of Nashville-based Salemtown Board Co. While just a standard skateboard company on paper, at its heart, Salemtown is a collective of skilled artisans who leverage their impeccable woodwork to create jobs and lasting memories. Needless to say, Jeremy indelibly was inspired by the company’s mission and maker spirit.
Once the Salemtown re-branding project ended, Jeremy began looking for his own design opportunity — a matter that was further underscored by a slight decorating crisis. “I just really wanted to create something with my hands because everything I’d created prior to that was digital,” he explains. “Then, I’d just started a brand new job and, for the first time ever in my adult career, I was going to have a private office. And I was thinking about that office, like, ‘Man, what am I going to put on the walls?’”
For Jeremy, a lifelong baseball fan who spends his summers watching the Nashville Sounds and is known to head to a Cardinals game in St. Louis at a moment’s notice, the answer came fairly easily. “I did a video project for the Sounds and I would hang out afterwards, and the bat boys would give me broken bats,” Jeremy says. “I had a bunch of bats but I didn’t really want to just hang those on the wall. So I was thinking, ‘This would be kind of cool if I had decorated bats with stripes on them.’”
Fast forward to October when, in the midst of an historic World Series played between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox, Jeremy began posting some of those Salemtown-inspired designs on social media. These weren’t the dime-a-dozen, mass-produced souvenir bats of your youth, either. Jeremy’s creations were sexy and sophisticated — descriptions that you typically don’t associate with baseball bats. And people started taking notice.
Jeremy sold two bats in the first four days. Within two weeks, ESPN reached out to do a story. In those days, there was no inventory or media kit, or even an established plan to ship the bats to eager customers. It all happened so quickly, in fact, that Jeremy considered closing his business almost as soon as it opened.
“It was nuts,” Jeremy says about Mitchell Bat Company’s first months of operation. “It was hard because I had to learn a whole new skill: I had to learn how to paint. We had to figure out shipping. We had to find the right box. We had to find the right packaging — and we had to learn how to be a fulfillment company, too.”
Call it masochism or love for the work (or a little bit of both?) but despite juggling Mitchell Bat Company with a full-time job and a family, Jeremy didn’t quit. “If you’re working on anything, at some point you have to go to bed; at some point you have to go to sleep,” he says. “But this project is different because I still want to just work and work and keep making these bats, and time just flies. It’s the first time since I was a kid that something has felt that way to me.”
And perhaps it is that enthusiasm that has endeared so many — including non-baseball fans — to Mitchell Bat Company. Now, in addition to bats striped in their favorite team’s colors, customers can also buy vintage baseballs, pennants and caps. “At live shows like Porter Flea, people come to our booth and they’re kind of confused looking but they also kind of have like a smile on their face,” Jeremy says. “I’ll ask if they like baseball, and they’re like, ‘No, but what is this?’ Then they’ll buy a bat and say, ‘I don’t like baseball but I love your bats.’”
This effort to appeal to folks who don’t know the difference between the American League and the National League is intentional for Jeremy, who eventually wants to open a retail store in the Nashville area. Aside from the increased exposure and higher profits, more sales will mean more money that he can donate to Major League Baseball’s RBI program, which provides funds to help support baseball programs in inner cities across America.
Ultimately, it is for this reason that Jeremy is willing to put in the long hours (though he since has left his day job and hired six part-time workers of his own). “I was never really intending to start a business but I just kept the idea really simple and I have to remind myself of that a lot of times if I’m ever stressed out,” he says. “I’ve got to remind myself that the idea of (Mitchell Bat Company) was simple: to put stripes on bats and to give money to charity. And that’s what I’m doing.”
To learn more about Mitchell Bat Company, the products offered and find a retailer near you, click here.
Thanks to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for today’s fabulous photographs!
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