There’s a beauty to the tools of sport. The baseball. The cleat and cap. The bat. As an object, a baseball bat has a specific use, which dictates the way it is built. The weight and material, it all follows the bat’s function — barrel to ball.
Former childhood players that have retained a love of the game miss the swing, the crack — each dent and scratch a marker of a moment, failure or success, it’s in the wood. Nashville-based designer Jeremy Mitchell has that love of the game and its minutiae. In Mitchell Bat Company, Mitchell found a way to bridge his love of baseball, craftsmanship, and design. Each bat is hand finished and painted by Mitchell, the colored bands in honor of teams past, present, or custom per customer.
As the modern world becomes increasingly detached from the art of hand-crafted tools, it is a joy to see Mitchell and his bats emerge from the garage and onto the ballfield.
“We never have an off-season! We’re always hustling to see what else we can come up with. My team of 6 people stays busy all year around.”
— Jeremy Mitchell
CJ: I think the Major League Baseball strike in 1994 is a shared moment of disconnect from the sport. I was in junior high when the strike happened and my love of baseball pretty much disappeared after that. What I love about what you’re doing with Mitchell Bat Co. is connecting fans to baseball, the game itself, not necessarily the players and teams of MLB, but to the game played in the streets across the world by kids. What was your connection to baseball growing up? Has it changed much as you’ve gotten older?
JM: I started playing baseball at five-years-old when my mom signed me up for tee ball. I played other sports growing up (basketball, football, track) but baseball was the sport that I felt deeply connected to its roots. I feel the same way today.
During the offseason, I watch old World Series games in their entirety. I probably watched this past year’s World Series 10 times. Baseball is on at our house all year around. Now that it’s Spring Training we will have those games on. I’ll come back home from my office and my wife will have Spring Training games or (MLB Podcast) Intentional Talk playing when I walk in the door. She says she likes having it on in the background. We watch other sports but not with the intensity that we watch baseball.
The stripe design reminds me of the ‘70s era of baseball – the insane vibrancy of the Houston Astros, the odd coloring of the St. Cardinals and San Diego Padres. It was an era of playful symmetry. Are the designs inspired
My inspiration comes from the early 1920’s all the way to today, but mostly the 1980’s. 1988 is when I started collecting baseball cards. I wasn’t a big fan of reading. But I would read the backs of baseball cards and study the uniforms. And I would stay up all hours of the night putting baseball cards in number order to make sets.
Being heritage bats, what specific era are the bats modeled after?
Baseball collectibles have an interesting role in the lives of those who collect them – is your hope that the bats will be used for play or are they meant as showpieces?
Most people hang them on their wall but from time to time people play with them. I started a sandlot baseball league (Nashville Baseball Club) last summer and we use our bats. We had a good time using them. They sparked a lot of conversation from people who had never heard of us.
You take great care in hand painting each bat and I was a bit surprised that you create the stripes with masking tape. Such clean lines created with a seemingly painstaking solution. How many iterations of your process did you go through before nailing down the best way to get the stripes and paint the way they are now?
We haven’t changed much of the process since the first bat. But we have gotten better and faster.
Being a designer yourself, you still brought on designer Matt Lehman to handle logo duties. The logo he created is a thing of beauty and works well across the products. Were you not up to creating the logo yourself? Did you take make an attempt and decide to bring someone else onboard?
Matt is brilliant. I was too close to it to design the logo myself. Plus I’m not much of a logo designer. I knew anything Matt came up with would be better than what I could come up with.
In your decade-plus career in the world of advertising you’ve taken on a variety of roles from creative director to web development. With the growth of Mitchell Bat Co. , are you maintaining your original career, or is it baseball all the time?
Mitchell Bat Co was never meant to be my “full time” job. It was sort of a happy accident that any success came from it. I’ve spent the last year or so “hiring myself out” of the day-to-day operation of MBCO. Doing so has allowed me to stay in advertising and pursue other ventures.
Your time spent doing agency work seamlessly blends into Mitchell Bat Co. The site and social media presence is incredibly maintained and engaging. Tough to believe it’s only been around since 2013. Are fans reaching out to you with ideas for designs? How much of your time is spent doing custom orders?
We do quite a bit of custom designed bats while still remaining busy with our original designed bats. Our custom bats are popular amongst high school parents that want a custom Mitchell bat for son’s or daughter’s coach. Parents will pool their money and go in on the bat. Then the players will sign the bat. It’s a big hit with the coaches too.
We recently were asked by the Arizona Diamondbacks to make them a handful of custom bats with their logo on them to be given to employees as Christmas gifts. We met a dentist in Cincinnati at RedsFest that has a “baseball-themed” dentist office. He had us makes him a bat with his logo and his “Opening Day” date on it. His office is pretty awesome. Seems like there is no end to people’s imagination when it comes to custom Mitchell bats.
Is baseball season your ‘busy time’? What’s the shape of Mitchell Bat Co. during the MLB off-season?
We never have an off-season! We’re always hustling to see what else we can come up with. My team of 6 people stays busy all year around.