Marucci bats a hit with pro baseball players


One-third of all pro baseball players now swing handmade wooden bats made by Marucci Sports, a Baton Rouge, La., company that began when a father made a bat for his son.

Jack Marucci's 8-year-old son Gino wanted a wooden bat like his big league heroes. The problem? Bat companies didn't make wooden bats for kids - only aluminum ones. So Marucci got creative, and carved a bat, complete with his son's name, at his work bench.

When asked how he went from making bats for 8-year-olds to hall-of-famers, Marucci replied, "Sometimes, I think we still scratch our head."

Marucci's job as the head athletic trainer at Louisiana State University put him in regular contact with players and former players, including Kurt Ainsworth, who convinced him to start a company making handmade bats for professionals.

Now Marucci Sports makes bats for more than 30 percent of the Major League, including all-stars Jose Reyes, David Ortiz and Chase Utley.

Albert Pujols was swinging a Marucci bat when he hit three home runs in last year's World Series - a feat equaled only by Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth, and part of the reason why Pujols signed a massive $240 million contract in the off-season.

Pujols, though, is not endorsed by Marucci. In a unique business arrangement, he and other players actually own part of the company. Ainsworth said about 25 players are involved in the company. He called them the company's "secret sauce," and those involved are in an exclusive, "Marucci fraternity."

The wood for Marucci bats - mostly maple and ash - is harvested from the rich forests of Pennsylvania and southern New York. The wood is cut from an Amish-run mill the company bought four years ago.

On arrival at the mill, each piece is weighed, graded and separated. Just 13 percent of the lumber will make it to the big leagues.

The rest? The expensive lumber - worth $1 million - is piled in a room and labeled "firewood." Any blemish on the bat's surface won't be accepted - players are that particular.

Ainsworth said, "We have certain players that have 18 to 20 models for themselves, like Chase Utley has 18 models in our computer of his own bat, different variations...and he knows every single one."

CBS News visited Marucci's training center, where players often work with Ainsworth and co-founder Joe Lawrence. Both now manage Marucci day-to-day operations and have expanded the company's offerings to aluminum bats, gloves and clothing.

Jack Marucci, who remains part-owner, never left his day job. He insists that no matter what Marucci makes, it will always stay true to the original mission, which began in that famous backyard.

For more with Jeff Glor on the bats and to see his full report, watch the video in the player above.