Sam Holman’s bats are part of an historic chase, writes Matt DeBock
Home run leader Barry Bonds, of the San Francisco Giants, does it, and he is not alone.
He is only one of over 300 professional baseball players who do it, including several Toronto Blue Jays and rookie-of-the-year candidate Albert Pujols, of the St. Louis Cardinals.
They all tear through major league pitchers using Sam Bats, carefully custom-made in the heart of Ottawa, by the Original Maple Bat Company.
Bonds actually saw his home run production slide for several years until he was introduced to the Sam Bat. Last year, in his first full season with the bat, he hit 49 home runs, a career high.
This year, he has an incredible 67 in only 151 games, through Tuesday. Bonds is now on pace to hit 71 home runs, which would eclipse the historic 70 hit by Mark McGwire in 1998. The season ends on Oct. 7.
“Never take bar bets,” says Original Maple Bat Company owner and founder Sam Holman, a long-time Centretown resident, describing his start in the business. “They just create a lot of work.”
Before Holman introduced the game to maple wood, all major league hitters used ash wood bats, and broke them at a rate of up to 200 each year.
That lack of durability led Holman’s friend Bill
Mackenzie, a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks, to issue the fateful bar bet while the two sat in the Mayflower Pub.
“From the beginning, I knew I couldn’t make a better ash tree,” says Holman.
Instead, he used maple, which is harder and far more durable.
With only two colleagues to help him,
Holman began manufacturing Sam Bats in his garage. This low-key set up has continued to this day. Only now they are moving into larger quarters.
The new factory is a converted tavern, which Holman says is nearly 20 times the size of their original headquarters.
Holman says he needed to learn a lot about the science and physics of baseball to create a better bat. Now his major league clients use fewer than 40 bats per year. He was never sure, though, if his new bats would catch on.
“I certainly never expected this kind of success,” Holman says. “We now have Barry [Bonds], using it at the top, and Albert [Pujols] coming up through the ranks.”
Holman says the Sam Bat has been a part of Bonds’ recent success.
“We know we’ve turned it around,” he says of Bonds’ home run production.
Other major leaguers are having wild success with the maple bat as well. Holman says his friends began asking him early this season if rookie stand-out Pujols was using the Sam Bat
. They swore they had seen him swinging it in televised games.
“I said, ‘Well, he could be,’” Holman says, noting that many players share their Sam Bats. “It turns out he had been borrowing them from teammates J.D. Drew and Edgar Renteria. At least
until he broke one of Edgar’s bats, and Edgar suggested he should have his own made!”
Pujols is also having a great season, hitting .333 with
36 home runs and 126 RBIs through 150 games, numbers almost unthinkable for a rookie.
His 126 RBIs are a new Major League record for rookies.
Holman is proud to be a part of the success of players such as Bonds and Pujols.
“I am not a hitter,” he says. “I consider myself an instrument maker. I always compare it to making guitars, and guys like Barry are virtuosos.”