Batting on Takoma – Bringing the Bat to the City and Hoping for Diamonds to Follow

“Is there anything more all-American, more wholesome and good for the soul than the pleasing geometry of the diamond, the green grass of the outfield, and the sharp crack as a hitter’s bat connects for a solid run? For Eric Bloyd, there isn’t. And his passion about America’s pastime – baseball – has led him to a new entrepreneurial venture combining business and pleasure – Takoma Bats. It may sound like a simple idea, manufacture some baseball bats and sell them. It isn’t so easy though. Bats need to meet strict specifications to be legal in college and professional use, so design, length and weight, and the balance of the bat is critical to creation of the product. Bloyd’s bats survived design hurtles and he has the bats in the final manufacturing process. He expects NCAA approval for the bats in the next few weeks, and then sales efforts can proceed. But how did Bloyd choose to manufacture baseball bats? The answer doesn’t just involve business decisions. I am a baseball man – a baseball freak, Bloyd said. My goal is to build up enough revenues to build fields. Tacoma doesn’t have fields. Bloyd coaches the Tacoma Crushers, a college-prep baseball team. He has experienced frustration with the lack of adequate baseball facilities, he said, and his company is one way of addressing that lack. He can name all the baseball fields in Tacoma and he doesn’t understand why there aren’t more of them – especially for the high schools. So, financing his start-up with out-of-pocket money, Bloyd found a manufacturer for the metal bats in New Jersey and began testing prototypes for production. Bats were even tested for their performance in extreme temperatures. Cold bats can become brittle and crack. We used the bats at extreme temperatures and they worked fine, Bloyd said. The reason for that is when I coached at Lincoln (High School) last year, we had three bats crack – at about $300 each. Bloyd intends to distribute Takoma bats through tournaments as prizes to get the brand into the market. It’s too late this year for a strong sales effort, he said, as sports equipment is purchased long before the season starts. It’s pretty late this season, Bloyd said. The main push will be next November. Bloyd said his bats have more of a wood bat feel to them. They’re made for guys who can hit, Bloyd said. For real baseball people. Bloyd said his initial sales goal is to get 5 percent of the bat market share. Eastbay, a major sports equipment supplier, has sold between one and one-and-one-half million bats in three months, Bloyd said. A small share would still mean success for Takoma Bats, he added. Bloyd plans a distribution network with sales representatives in each state to sell to dealers, tournaments and teams. But for now, staff includes himself, his wife, and his partnership in development and production of the bats, American Metals Corporation. A web site for the company is under development for direct marketing sales, marketing and customer service. But a discussion with Bloyd about his business invariably returns to his reason for starting it in the first place – baseball in Tacoma. There is a huge amount of talent in this city, Bloyd said, adding that most high school programs in Tacoma seem to favor football and basketball at baseball’s expense. He said it is reflected in a downward spiral of interest in the sport, something he would like to see reversed. Bloyd compares Tacoma facilities and high school programs for baseball with those in Kirkland and Redmond, and he doesn’t think his hometown stacks up too well. It’s sad this city puts all of its money into football, Bloyd said. The furthest thing from everyone’s mind is America’s pastime. He recites a list of high schools in Tacoma: Stadium – no field; Mount Tahoma – a terrible field full of rocks – boulders in the outfield; Lincoln – crushed brick and neglected; and Foss – the one school with a beautiful field. Bloyd said he likes baseball because a player doesn’t have to be freakishly large or tall to play it. He is a man in business with a mission beyond profit.Bloyd’s stated goal is to generate revenue enough to help kids in Tacoma that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, to play baseball. Takoma Bats is his way of getting to that goal – a baseball business to help kids get to play baseball.Tacoma was once a big baseball city, Bloyd said, bat in hand. It’d be nice to see it again.”