David Chandler started manufacturing baseball bats 3 years ago. Today, Chandler Bats are now used by approximately 20 percent of major league players, like Raul Ibanez of the Mariners.
Major leaguers Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Dom Brown, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young have something in common. They have all swung a Chandler Bat -- a custom-made maple baseball bat crafted right here in Montgomery County.
"The bat has a great reputation in the market," said Camden Riversharks president and general manager Adam Lorber.
Lorber was introduced to the Chandler Bat two years ago by former Phillies third baseman and World Series champion Pedro Feliz.
More and more major leaguers are moving to the Chandler bats. The company has staked out 20-percent of the MLB market in just three years.
The man behind the bat is David Chandler.
He's an avid baseball fan and a high-end furniture maker by trade. Love of the sport runs in the family. His three sons all play. Chandler and his wife, a surgeon at CHOP, moved to Chestnut Hill from North Carolina in 2009. Soon after, the idea that grew into Rx Sport, a 40,000 square-foot dream facility in Norristown, was born.
"There are bats and then there are these bats," said Chandler.
Chandler says he has brought science into the business of making bats. With the knowledge gained from his furniture-making days, Chandler says his customization leads to a better fit and hence, a better bat, for elite players. Chandler says he took note of baseball industry complaints about wooden bats breaking, figuring there were "logical things that could be done to decrease the likelihood of bats flying into the stands."
From a manufacturing standpoint, the furniture maker says, "It doesn't have to be that way. There's a better way to manufacture a bat. If no one else is gonna do it, I will. I know I can do better."
The raw materials primarily come from Pennsylvania and surrounding states. The wood must meet 16 quality standards which the company outlined, such as straight grain, no chips or cracks-- all of which improve life span.
"The Chandler bat is like hitting a golf ball with a metal bat," said Chandler. " The bats have zero sensation when making contact with the ball."
"Look at all the major leaguers who use the bat. It says a lot right there," Lorber said. "He (Chandler) doesn't pay compensation fees so their use speaks to his reputation in the baseball community."
Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate and did what he had been trained to do in a Yankess 2012 Division Series game. Ibanez used a Chandler Bat to tie the game in the 9th inning and win the game in the 12th inning.
"When you have a player who is so talented and demanding of himself for him to put faith in us to backstop his performance-- it means we are on the right path," Chandler said.
Chandler says his goal has always been to increase player confidence at the plate.
This year, the company expects to sell 20,000 maple wooden bats.
"His bats aren't cheap but they are durable," said Lorber. "It's all word of mouth by talking to guys in the locker room."
Washington Nationals player Bryce Harper hit a home run swinging a Chandler Bat earlier this week. Numerous calls and orders came in the next morning.
The Chandler Bat retail price is $175, which includes a personalized name inscription, color choice and a 23 karat gold logo. In addition, the bat company offers higher level customization options, which is priced accordingly.
In addition to maple bats, ash wood is also available. The Phillies' Dom Brown prefers the ash. Ballplayers show their personal style through their bat.
There are 342 different Chandler Bat models to choose from and it takes three days to produce. According to Chandler, Louisville Slugger, the largest bat manufacturer in the world, has 400 models.
Joe Klein, executive director of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, said he once tried to explain to his wife why a player chooses a bat. "Women like different pocketbooks. Players like different bats. What is attractive to you in a pocketbook may not be attractive to a player in a bat," he said.
This week, Philadelphia Phillie Michael Young sent a text to Chandler asking him to tweak his bat design and "thin down the handle." They are working to create the right prototype for Young.
"It's fun and neat to see what you made on television," said bat maker Kevin Hollidge while sanding down a knob.
Amateur players are equally important to Rx Sports. The company is seeking to develop talent on all levels and launch a Chandler Baseball program to showcase the Philadelphia area's up-and-coming talent at tournaments and showcases.
Chandler says he makes the exact same quality bat for the major league available to amateurs and high school players. Right now they're working with the sons of 75 former MLB players.
"The plan is not to take over the whole industry. I want to keep the quality. The bat is not for everybody. We are geared toward the more elite player with ability. You have to have a certain level of talent," Chandler said.
Chestnut Hill Academy sophomore Zach Jancarski lives in the Norristown neighborhood. He comes regularly to their batting cage for batting practice with his Chandler. "There's not many places like Chandler Bats in the country. It's the number one place I like to hit every day."
Former major leaguer and hitting coach Kevin Wilson (Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates) pitched to Jancarski and his high school teammate Matt Roland while the bat-making lathe was running in an adjacent portion of the warehouse. Jancarski has committed to play baseball at the University of Maryland.
At present, the company doesn't have an online store because Chandler says that's one way they control demand. All sales are direct order via telephone, walk-in and even through text messages sent directly to David Chandler.