Former St. Vincent baseball player turns hobby into livelihood
Many college students enter their freshman year with the hopes of chasing after their dream job. It took Joe Aul four years of college to realize this was a possibility for him.
Aul, a 2012 graduate of Saint Vincent College and member of the Bearcats baseball team, recently launched the Aul Bat Company with the help of his father Jack. Although the father and son have been turning bats together since 2000, it wasn't until his time at St. Vincent was nearly up that Joe considered the possibility of making a business out of his hobby.
“I always thought about it,” Aul said, “but as I'm sitting there getting ready to graduate I'm thinking, ‘what am I going to do with my life?' I figured, ‘why not give this a shot?' ”
Jack Aul, a carpenter by trade, has always loved the game of baseball, but found a greater interest in the technical aspects of the game.
“Baseball was his 1-A, 1-B love,” Joe Aul said. “He figured he could combine them by turning a baseball bat.”
From a very young age, Aul displayed similar passions to his father. His dad recognized that and helped to develop those passions into skills.
“As long as I've been playing baseball, I've been working with him,” Aul said. “He had me up on the roof with him when I was two years old, much to my mother's chagrin.”
From the start, bat turning has been a father and son activity, and that is reflected in the newly formed company.
“When anyone calls the company, you're going to talk to either me or my dad,” Aul said. “We're not too big to lose track of the individual customer.”
Joe and Jack Aul turn all of the bats by hand. They pride themselves on having the best finished product around, starting with quality maple, ash or birch wood, and ending with custom paint jobs and vinyl finish. From start to finish, the process takes no more than 90 minutes.
But even a quality product like theirs comes with its naysayers.
Competition with aluminum bat companies has been the biggest challenge that the Auls have faced, and probably will continue to face. Aluminum bats provide more pop for kids who are looking for more immediate production on the field.
“The hardest thing about this business is educating the user,” Jack Aul said. “Right now they mostly buy by the name. It's a very hard sell for some of these younger kids that were brought up on the aluminum bat.”
Yet, the Aul Bat Company is projecting growth moving forward. The ultimate goal is for the company to be a full-time source of income for both Joe and Jack Aul. They are well on their way, as their bats are now being used by several high school, college, men's league and even semi-professional players.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.