Former player carves out place in majors with bat-making business

Big-name brands like Louisville Slugger and Rawlings have long dominated major league baseball. But an upstart family business in Norwalk, Connecticut has managed to carve out a place in the majors and put their bats in the hands of more than 160 baseball players, CBS News correspondent Vinita Nair reports.

Pete Tucci has a batting cage attached to his office. This is where he's always felt the most comfortable.

"Since the time I could remember, my dream was to play in the major leagues," he said.

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Pete Tucci baseball card
CBS News

Tucci was a first-round draft pick for the Toronto Blue Jays. He'd made a name for himself as a power hitter in the minors, then suffered an injury at the plate.

"When the bone broke, it actually severed ligaments and tendons going up to my ring and pinky finger," Tucci told CBS News. "When I came back, I never really regained my old form, so I figured I would kinda cut my losses at that point and really try and build something for my family."

He built a heating and air-conditioning business. It was doing fine, but Tucci was not.

"Pete would come home after work; he was like a fish out of water," Tucci's wife Amy said. "Without baseball in his life, he was just miserable. We just needed to find a way to get him back into baseball."

So she bought him a lathe, a woodworking machine she read about online.

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Tucci's lathe
CBS News
"I looked at her and said, 'what in the world makes you think I can make a baseball bat?' I never tried my hand at anything that had to do with woodworking," Tucci said. "It took me a while to figure out, took me three hours to make the first bat. Once I made like the first one, I was kind of hooked."

"I could not believe that," Amy said. "He was really not a handy person but it was amazing and just took off from there."

Five years after making that first bat, Tucci Lumber will produce 20,000 this year, custom cut to mirror a player's proportions.

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Tucci holding the wood that will soon be one of his signature bats
CBS News

"We probably have close to a thousand different models," Tucci said.

Amy paints each one, and applies the logo she designed. She had never painted before then, just as her husband had never done woodwork.

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Amy painting a Tucci bat
CBS News
The dominant competition, Louisville Slugger, makes close to 3 million bats a year. But this year, 161 pro players are buying from Tucci - big names like Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval.

Colorado Rockies player Troy Tulowitzki used his Tucci bat in last night's Home Run Derby. Houston Astros player Jose Altuve will be playing in tonight's All-Star game.

"This is the first year I used it, no actually the second year," Altuve said. "Been working really good for me and I love it. They treat me really good and I like swinging his bat."

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Houston Astros' Jose Altuve tosses his Tucci bat
AP
"It's pretty surreal," Tucci said. "Now I kinda feel like I am doing what I was meant to do and maybe my entire life of being in baseball and my life revolving around baseball actually landed me here and this is what it is all about."

Tucci has nine full-time employees and said he will be hiring more as the demand for the products keeps increasing.

Amy's goal now is to someday hand down the business they started together to their three children.

Six of the players in Tuesday's All Star Game will be using bats made by Tucci Lumber.

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