Joe Aul and his father Jack started Aul Bats as a hobby, and the company has since grown into their full-time jobs. They added another staff member in 2016 and the company is still growing.
Joe played baseball in college and Jack has a background in building, contracting, and construction work.
“We could combine our two passions of baseball and building things and eight years later we’re still increasing in size and capacity,” Joe Aul said. “It’s been sort of a dream come true.”
The company motto is “Swing Aul or Nothing,” and Aul says he thinks using a wood bat makes a player a better hitter.
A typical day at Aul Bat Company starts with emails and planning. From mid-morning to mid-afternoon they work on bat production. In the evenings, they meet with customers in the store or attend local tournaments.
The Pittsburgh, PA-based company makes bats for local leagues, and they even have a few clients who are minor league baseball players.
Aul estimates about 90% of their bats are made from maple, which is sourced from central New York. Once they receive the wood, the rest of the bat production is done by Aul Bats. They design the bat on a computer and then it goes to their custom-built computer numerical control (CNC) lathe. The lathe takes the wood billet and precisely cuts it into the correct shape. According to Aul Bats, the lathe is accurate to within 1000th of an inch and can complete a job in under five minutes.
After the lathe, much of the work is hands-on. This includes sanding, finishing, and cupping — a small depression is cut into the end of the bat to make it feel more balanced and reduce a slight amount of weight.
Some repeat customers will call and place an order for the same bat they already have. For new customers, Aul makes a point to educate them about wood bats and explain the different models they offer.
“We have about 150 different models saved and I can do custom adjustments fairly easily,” Aul said. “I basically just redesign it on the computer, and then take it out to the lathe. It depends on the customer, but we have certain models that we try to sell to most people, and then we have more specific variations that we can mix and match.”
Most of their business is local and a lot of their advertising is through word of mouth. Once an order is placed, a customer will usually recieve the bat within one to three weeks, depending on the time of year.
“I treat people, I think the right way, and they tell other people and it spreads,” Aul said. “It builds relationships and it really keeps customers loyal. People want to come back to us because they appreciate that personal attention.”