Maple behind Bonds’ sweet, powerful swing

Sam Holman is usually asleep when his most famous client is making history and the 62-year-old Ottawa resident thinks that’s probably for the best.

Holman is the founder of Sam Bat, a company that produces maple baseball bats and has supplied Giants star Barry Bonds with his lumber since 1997. But even with Bonds on the verge of breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark of 755, Holman says he doesn’t hear about his latest exploits until the morning paper.

“The thing is, if I’m up, then we’re not making bats,” Holman said with a laugh. “And that would make him even madder.”

Holman’s company began as conversation over a beer, as his friend Bill MacKenzie of the Colorado Rockies’ organization mentioned his team seemed to be breaking too many bats. Holman, who was then working as a stagehand for the National Art Centre in Ottawa, took it as a challenge to produce a more durable bat. His research led him to experiment with maple rather than the ash bats that dominated the market and what started as a two-man outfit run out of Holman’s garage has now become a 12-person company that produces 8,000-10,000 bats a year, validating his alternate approach.

“I would say [maple’s] stronger than ash, but you’re asking a prejudiced guy,” Holman said. “But, I mean, I think we have records and things that tend to prove this.”

The records, of course, have been created largely by Bonds. He first learned of Sam Bat from Joe Carter a decade ago and used a 2K1 model in 2001 when he set the single-season record of 73 homers. He now receives between 120-140 34-inch, 32-ounce bats a season and Holman said he has had a huge impact in the company’s surging popularity.

When he first started using the new bats, Bonds was one of the first players to make the switch to maple. Now, Holman says he supplies equipment to 125 players — including All-Stars Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs.

“I can’t say enough about Barry’s loyalty and what he’s done for the product has been amazing,” Holman said. “We’re watching a legend in our time and we really should understand that about Barry before everything else.”

<p>Holman said Bonds has been up to Ottawa to take a tour of the operation, and he is in contact with the star two or three times a year.

“If something’s wrong, we’ll certainly hear about it,” Holman said. “And if something’s right, we’ll see it at the plate like you do. And that’s probably the best [message] we get every night.”

“I would say [maple’s] stronger than ash, but you’re asking a prejudiced guy. But, I mean, I think we have records and things that tend to prove this.” — Sam Holman, founder of Sam Bat

melliser@examiner.com


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