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01/30/2009 10:30 AM ET
For sale: Silver screen Sluggers
Entrepreneur launches Reel Bats for baseball movie fans
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Abel Sanchez remembers vividly the day in Cooperstown, N.Y., when the idea smacked him in the head with the force of a baseball bat.

It was July 2007 and the lifelong baseball fan who lives in Miami had "finally made it up there" to the quaint town that houses the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

"They might as well call it the Louisville Slugger museum, because it seems like all the bats, everything going back to Babe Ruth through Mickey Mantle, you just see Slugger after Slugger," Sanchez says.

"And then they also have the best baseball movies displayed. And that's when it just smacked me. It would be cool to do Slugger bats commemorating these classic baseball films."

Sanchez, 36, had hands-on baseball experience in high school when he was a bat boy for the Baltimore Orioles during Spring Training. He also saw what the media world was like when he wrote a book, "Van Halen 101," about his favorite rock band and got to meet lead guitarist Edward Van Halen.

But the man who'd been biding his time as a liquor store manager didn't know much when it came to starting a business.

"I'm just a fan, dude," Sanchez says. "I'm not exactly the entrepreneur type."

Still, Internet research showed him that his idea hadn't been thought of yet, so he started cold-calling.

Soon enough, he had Marty Archer, president of Hillerich & Bradsby's Louisville Slugger division, on the phone and within 10 or 15 minutes, Sanchez says, Archer replied, "You know? You got me. It sounds like an intriguing idea. You get the studios interested and I'll provide you the bats."

More cold-calling followed, this time with major film studios. Sanchez hired an attorney, set up a business, and now his idea is a full-fledged venture called Reel Bats. Already you can go to www.reelbats.com and order from a selection of four bats from what is sometimes recognized as the best baseball movie ever, "Bull Durham."

The bats commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1988 film include the logo for the movie title plus a "signature" of either Kevin Costner's "Crash" Davis character, Tim Robbins' "Nuke" LaLoosh character, or even Susan Sarandon's temptress, Annie Savoy. You can also order one without an individual character but with the logo of the Durham Bulls team.

"We're excited to be a part of this project," says Rick Redman, vice president of corporate communications for Hillerich & Bradsby. "Together with Reel Bats, Louisville Slugger has created a series of very special collector's item bats that fans of these classic films will certainly want, especially since there's a specially numbered limited edition of each bat created."

The next movie to be honored with bats will be "Major League," the comedy from 1989 that will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary. Expect bats for catcher Jake Taylor (played by Tom Berenger), speedster Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), infielder Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), slugger Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) and maybe a few surprises.

In addition, the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Robert Redford film "The Natural" is also in the pipeline, so you'll soon be able to order the Roy Hobbs "Wonderboy" model you always wanted.

Sanchez says he's hoping all the commonly known baseball silver screen classics will be honored.

Meanwhile, Reel Bats has already become such a popular idea, Sanchez says, that "major" movie stars will probably be involved in one way or another. Sanchez can't name names right now, but he says the company is "in negotiations" with several big names.

"I think this idea has succeeded so far because people just like to be part of a film or part of a character," Sanchez says. "It's a time in your life. You look back at a song or an album or a movie, and you remember a time in your life.

"People grew up with these movies. People who buy these bats grew up watching these films. They can recite quotes verbatim. It touches people in a way."

It also touches Sanchez, who says he's found the whole experience thrilling and humbling.

"I figured I could maybe sell a few sticks, and that people would like it," Sanchez says.

"The fact that I even got this thing launched, frankly, I look at it as kind of a miracle."

Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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