In Yonkers, a bat maker swings for market share
Step into the basement rec room of the small Tudor house in Yonkers – Victor Delgado’s “man cave” – and it’s abundantly clear from the mementos and souvenirs in frames and cases that this cavedweller is well connected – to the big leagues.
The ash bats and cowhide balls enshrined there are autographed by baseball’s Hall of Fame greats, All-Stars and lesser stars and the number-one pick from Puerto Rico in the 2012 draft. A photo gallery shows the homeowner with David Ortiz and other players met and befriended at Major League Baseball All-Star games. He has kept working company with baseball celebrities whose long roster includes Vladimir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Bob Feller, Jim Palmer and Monte Irvin.
Parked beside a well-stocked bat rack, two sky-blue fold-up wooden seats, numbered “1” and “2”, are sacred relics from the old Yankee Stadium. The rec room rug is a woven baseball diamond. The frozen juice bars that Delgado fetches from his kitchen freezer were sent by Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the Hall of Fame player.
The ring Delgado sports on one hand is a World Series ring from 2002, given him by the San Francisco Giants, whose players he came to know as a field production coordinator for Major League Baseball (MLB) Productions. Orlando Cepeda, the former Giants great and Hall of Famer, stops by when visiting New York to eat the paella that his young compadre from Puerto Rico, Delgado, makes.
Delgado also makes bats – wooden softball and baseball bats. His bats have not yet broken into the majors, but already his pro-stock models, made of pure maple, are sought out by professional players.
The sole owner of Delmundo Sports L.L.C., Delgado also operates recreational baseball, softball and youth leagues in Yonkers. He launched his Xplosive Bats business less than 1 1/2 years ago. He hopes by next year to open a production facility for his company’s youth and softball bat models and an indoor batting center in Yonkers and bring manufacturing and service jobs to the city.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, “I’ve been in baseball since I was 8 years old,” said the 38-year-old entrepreneur, “I was one of those kids that baseball helped make me who I am … I love the game. I would sleep with a bat.”
Twenty-five years ago, Delgado moved with his family to the Bronx, where he played baseball at DeWitt Clinton High School. A first baseman and catcher, he was a walk-on to the Mercy College team. Before and after college, he competed in semi-pro leagues in New York City for several years until “my knees couldn’t take it anymore.” At 24, he called it quits and donated all of his playing gear to neighborhood kids.
But after the birth of his son six years ago, “I got the itch to get back into the game,” he said.
He started playing softball and started a softball league operated by his Delmundo Sports company on ball fields in Yonkers parks. But the aluminum bats used in the league drove balls too far to suit the confines of a park field. Delgado had heard about a wood-bat softball league in Boston and decided to try it here.
He bought 10 bats for the trial, “probably the worst 10 softball bats you can imagine – made in China.” That led Delgado to start making his own bats for the league.
“The first dozen bats I made, I sold them in an hour” to players at Smith Park in Yonkers. A bat business was born.
Delgado started his manufacturing enterprise with funds borrowed from his 401(k) retirement savings plan at Major League Baseball Productions, where he has worked for 14 years. “I took a big risk,” he said.
The hitters’ custom-made lumber is produced at a plant on Long Island that also makes bats for two other companies, he said. The raw materials come from a Binghamton supplier – Delgado formerly used a hardwood manufacturer in Quebec, Canada – as 37-inch billets, cylinders of maple that are put through a lathe before the bat is sanded, stained and its barrel engraved with the distinctive Xplosive label.
“We have 16 pro-stock baseball bats, three softball models and two youth models,” he said. Pro models are priced from $85 to $105; softball models from $65 to $79 and youth bats from $50 to $60.
“We’re not trying to make 100,000 bats. We’re trying to make good quality, less bats. We try to customize the bats. I feel like every bat we make, we’re giving birth.”
To sell to Major league Baseball clubs, MLB must first approve the lumber used in bat production and the Long Island warehouse where they are made, Delgado said. The owner of Xplosive Bats would be required to pay a $13,000 fee to MLB and what he expects will be a costly premium on MLB’s required $20 million umbrella insurance policy. “When we make the jump next year to Major League Baseball, my family is going to give me the money,” he said. “That’s something we’re looking at next year.”
This year Xplosive Bats will concentrate on direct sales to youth and other baseball leagues, schools and local sporting goods stores. The company already has placed its bats in retail stores in Miami, Fla. and Puerto Rico. “Our goal is to expand to more stores seeking our bats,” that don’t require mass production and bulk orders, he said.
“We have guys in Double-A in Puerto Rico using our bats,” Delgado said, “We just shipped bats to Wisconsin.”
The bat maker had an appointment in Secaucus, N.J., for MLB Productions. He shed his blue polo shirt with the Xplosive Bats emblem and donned a dress shirt for his other job in baseball.
He checked the voicemail on the phone in his man cave before hustling out the door. It was a sports agent from Ohio who said his company represents 50 professional ballplayers there. Some had heard about Xplosive Bats and wanted to take a swing with one. “I’ve got guys calling me from the major leagues already wanting my baseball bats,” said Delgado.