Three hours before the first pitch, Metro Bank Park is nearly empty.
On the field, the Harrisburg Senators are going through pregame motions — fielding grounders, shagging flies and rotating in and out of the batting cage.
The distinctive crack of wooden bat on baseball is commonplace for the better part of an hour for each team. Every bat sounds a little different, depending on the make, model and player swinging it.
The latter is where boutique batmakers such as Hummelstown-based DS Wood LLC come in.
Selling a bat to a star player in the major leagues is about as easy as teaching someone to master control of a knuckleball or get a hit 40 percent of the time. Famous players have their pick of the billet pile and are likely under contract or prefer swinging bats from the big names — Marucci Sports, Louisville Slugger, Old Hickory, Sam Bat or Chandler.
DS Wood, which started in a garage in 2009, is gaining traction with minor league players such as Ricky Hague with the Senators and prospects for the Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and others.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Ryan Schwartz, the three-man company’s COO and director of sales. “We go after the top prospects. They are the future of the big leagues.”
The licensed Major League Baseball bat vendor is working with 60 professional players this year. The company, which was started by Ryan’s brother, Rich Schwartz, and former partner Allan Donato, ended last season with 35 professional accounts.
‘Could be big’
Many of DS Wood’s bats are used by minor leaguers and high school athletes, as well as by players in the adult leagues. The company’s amateur reach is coast to coast because of connections made in states where wood bats are used all year.
“Trades aren’t bad for us,” said Gregg Williams, vice president of operations and sales.