The Beckett Blog


Reel Bats brings memorabilia for baseball’s big-screen stars to life by Chris Olds

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There are a handful of baseball movies that truly stick with fans — Bull Durham with its loggygaggers, fungus-covered shower shoes and even a quadraphonic Blaupunkt is one of them.

It’s the movie where ground balls are more democratic, where we find out what a journeyman catcher truly believes in and we get a look inside the Church of Baseball. By most movie critics, and a large number of baseball players, it’s considered one of the top baseball movies ever made — if not the best sports movie of all time.

All this wasn’t lost on one man — Abel Sanchez — who had an idea a year ago while touring the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. It was a simple concept, one he said he figured had been done before — work with Louisville Slugger to make replica baseball bats for some of baseball’s biggest stars of the big screen.

They hadn’t — and that’s how Reel Bats was born.

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“Dude, excited is not the word. It doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s surreal,” said Sanchez when asked about launching the project. “Even though I’ve been a life-long baseball fan and been around memorabilia and collectibles my whole life, I was certain Slugger had to have done something like this at some point during their 125-year history.

“Turns out they hadn’t. None of the major bat companies ever has. So to take this wild idea that literally smacked me out thin air and then scrape and claw to turn this concept into a reality … it’s been an altogether amazing and nerve-wracking experience.”

The company’s first offering is from Bull Durham — bats of Crash Davis, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh and Annie Savoy. Each 34-inch, 34-ounce bat has the movie’s logo, the character’s name and a 20th anniversary notation. Each one is limited to only 3,000 copies with a cost of $99.99 plus shipping. A fourth bat, which carries the Durham Bulls logo, is $109.99.

Mass-producing these bats isn’t as easy as it might sound — to use the movie’s name and logo they have to be cleared through not only Louisville Slugger, but also Major League Baseball and, most importantly, the appropriate movie companies.

“Seriously though, its amazing and humbling,” Sanchez said. “To be able to sign contracts and partner up with legendary names and companies such as Hillerich & Bradsby (Louisville Slugger), MGM, Sony, etc. to create something fresh that none of them has ever done. Man, it’s really both an honor and a privilege. Truly, truly humbling. Cliche as it may sound, I’m truly just happy to be here and to have survived the past year and watch this thing come to fruition.

“And we’re just getting started.”

While these bats are a slightly pricey, but unique, novelty for a casual baseball fan, more advanced collectors would definitely be interested in these bats — as pieces to get autographed. That detail wasn’t lost on Sanchez, either.

“Far as autographed bats, oh yeah, I’ve definitely considered that,” he said. “I can not divulge the names of the specific actors, but we definitely have that in mind. As to whether it will become a reality, who knows? These guys are always working and traveling but the idea of having them sign the bats? Sure, absolutely we’ve considered it.”

But before any of that can happen, deals to just get bats made must be signed — and that alone is a challenge.

“We are currently in negotiations with some pretty big names,” said Sanchez, who already had ESPN The Magazine feature his company. “We’re pretty stoked.”

What’s next for Reel Bats? Sanchez said while some deals are still in the works — a deal has been reached with Sony Pictures to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Natural in 2009.

David S. Ward‘s Major League also “was one of the few films to have ‘made the cut’ so to speak, and we intend to honor it now in 2009” but that that deal is not yet finalized with Paramount. Sanchez is rounding third base there with an eye on other films, too.

“We’re literally only honoring about 10, maybe a dozen baseball films tops,” Sanchez said. “These are like our Hall of Fame films, if you will. And considering since the advent of film there’s been over 250 films, documentaries and series produced about baseball, you could say we seriously whittled ’em down to the absolute cream of the crop.”

cerranofrontFor myself personally, nothing could top a Pedro Cerrano bat. Major League, for myself, is the best baseball movie. Period. One one side of my office as I type this, there’s a Roger Dorn-signed (OK, Corbin Bernsen) Major League poster.

On the other wall? An uncut sheet of nine baseball cards that never were. When I worked for the San Antonio Express-News in 2005, I created faux 1989 Donruss baseball cards for the whole crew — Manager Lou Brown, Cerrano, Dorn, announcer Harry Doyle, SP Ed Harris, CF Willie Mays Hayes, C Jake Taylor, SP Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn and even Jobu — as part of an entertainment piece that appeared in the newspaper’s sports section.

I painstakingly recreated the cards down to stats (when mentioned) and facts culled directly from the movie. Any missing stats and information were pulled from real-life players who the characters are in some ways modeled after.

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I’ll be first in line to pick up a Cerrano war club when it’s released. (Though I will confess that I know he didn’t swing a black Louisville Slugger in the film, it was a Rawlings Adirondack model that’s no longer made.)

There would be additional cool points if Reel Bats could strike a deal for each bat to come with a furry (golf club head) cover, something Cerrano preferred — “Hats for bats. Keep bats warm.”

Adding an autograph to that bat? That would be impossible to top — unless Dennis Haysbert saved some of his equipment from the movie. (If you’re reading, Pedro, it’s colds@beckett.com … )

For more on Reel Bats, go to www.reelbats.com.

Chris Olds has collected sports cards and memorabilia since 1987. Before coming to Beckett Media, he wrote about the hobby for the Orlando Sentinel on his blog, SportsStuff, and for the San Antonio Express-News and The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. Do you have a comment, question or idea? Send e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.

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