Lake Highlands resident Joe Hardin, the founder of the wooden bat-making company Texas Timber, bonded with his dad over baseball, as many do. But their story is a little different.
Hardin — whose past neighborhood posts include president of the L Streets and White Rock Valley homeowners associations — loved baseball growing up and played in college. For a class project he built a lamp out of an old Louisville Slugger. His professor remarked how neat it would be if the bat had Hardin’s own logo on it. That got Hardin thinking. He began researching and eventually found an old bat-making machine for sale. He roped his dad into helping, and they made 10 bats and branded them with a wood burner. Hardin gave a bat to his friend, a minor league player for the Abilene Prairie Dogs, who promptly hit a two-run double. So the Hardins made bats for the whole team. The Abilene Business Journal ran a story about their company. Then the Associated Press picked it up, and the Hardins began taking orders from all over. For years they continued to make small batches.
“It was something me and my dad connected with,” Hardin says.
A couple years ago, they upsized. They bought more efficient machinery, hired a staff and went from making 30-40 bats a year to about 1,000 a year. One day a customer requested a miniature “baby bat” the length of a newborn, as a keepsake to help commemorate the child’s birth.
“We made one, and then we thought, ‘Well this is a cool idea,’ ” he says. “So we decided to make some more.”
Joe and his wife Aimee have babies on the mind, anyway. Last fall they welcomed their own set of triplets. Each, of course, received his and her own Texas Timber baby bat, custom-made to birth length and engraved with name, time and date of birth, and weight and length.
“These have really caught on with social media because there aren’t a lot of unique baby gifts, like these,” Aimee says.
They’ve even sold to major league parents. And while success is nice, Hardin says the most important thing about the bats is that they bring families together, just like him and his dad.
To learn more, visit texastimberbats.com.