Back in 2013, Buddy Herberg was wrapping up his college baseball career as a catcher with the Cardinal Stritch Wolves, and thinking about life after school.
Two years later, Herberg is playing semipro baseball and occupying the rest of his time with what used to be a hobby – making wooden baseball bats.
What first started in the basement of his dad's firehouse in 2009 has turned into a growing business that brings in orders of up to twenty-five bats a day.
Herberg’s Chicago-based company, Firehouse Bats, and its equipment is starting to find its way into batters boxes around the region.
For Herberg, his fascination with how bats were made started before finding a motor-less lathe in his father's firehouse basement. At sixteen years old, a family member had a Norwegian maple tree cut down to demolish a house. Herberg was given a few of the branches from that tree and shaped his first baseball bat.
"I kind of just whittled by myself just with a little chisel and I made it into like a club, almost. And I messed around with it, I hit with it, it was cool, but it was not a baseball bat. It looked like Bamm Bamm's club from the Flintstones," says Herberg.
Now that Herberg has perfected his technique with the proper equipment, each bat from start-to-finish takes about forty minutes. Each bat gets a custom build, paint and any other specification that the player may want. His philosophy is that any baseball player, from little league to professional, should have access to high quality and affordable bats.
"It's more of the case that I want people to know that my bat is a good bat. That people will want to swing it, not just because of the price, but because they actually understand that it's a good bat," says Herberg.
Even with his business growing, nothing beats the sense of accomplishment Herberg feels when he uses his own bat during a game.
"The feeling of having your own product in your hand when you're up to bat and knowing that you can trust it, and knowing that it's going to help you be successful in something that's pretty difficult to be successful in - it's quite a rewarding feeling," says Herberg.