Kennewick baseball bat maker swings for the rafters

Kennewick’s Jordan DeVoir absolutely loves baseball.

He loves everything about it. Playing it. Coaching it. Watching it.

But perhaps making baseball products is where he’ll make his biggest mark in the game.

DeVoir founded DeVo Bat Company in 2008. He makes wooden baseball bats for players ages 10 up to adults.

Give him a chance to talk specifics about baseball bats, and he’ll geek out on you with stories on bat balance, weights, etc.

He made his first bat in 2007, making it for himself to use playing in local rec leagues.

“I loved it. I wasn’t sure I was going to sell a bat,” he said. “But I loved swinging them.”

Others noticed his work, and “I sold my first bat in 2007.”

It also gave him an excuse.

“This has been a hobby for a long time,” DeVoir said. “It’s a way to stay involved and around baseball.”

But each year, he’s gotten more serious.

“It’s a lofty goal, but this year, we’re looking to sell between 1,500 to 2,000 bats,” DeVoir said. “That would be like killing it.”

It’s still not enough to make it full time – he’s taught physical education for 11 years, including the last nine at Pasco High School.

But he’s getting closer.

DeVoir’s playing days

 DeVoir graduated from Southridge High School in 2000, where he had been a solid infielder for the Suns.

From there, he spent two years playing at Columbia Basin College before transferring to the University of Illinois-Chicago to finish his college career.

The New York Yankees drafted him in the 19th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

For the next few years, DeVoir played on Yankees’ minor-league teams, places like Staten Island, New York and Charleston, South Carolina.

But injuries always seemed to hamper his play.

“I injured my shoulder while playing in the Yankees farm system,” DeVoir said. “I ended up having shoulder surgery. When I got healthy again, the Yankees released me.”

That was 2006, and he decided to go to the Arizona Winter League as a free agent to play and see if some team might pick him up.

“I did well enough to sign as a free agent for the independent Reno Silver Sox (of the Golden Baseball League),” DeVoir said.

He was with Reno for three months when one day, during a game, he fouled a pitch off his shin, breaking it.

That was it for him.

“I was 26, and I was injured more of the time than I played. I was going to get married, and I wanted a family,” said DeVoir, who now has five kids.

He returned to the Tri-Cities, and CBC, where he completed the remaining credits for an education degree.

He also served as an assistant to CBC athletic director Scott Rogers and baseball assistant Jeremy Beard.

“I’d run around as a gopher, getting things done for them,” he said.

It was another way to stay involved around baseball.

Beard, now the head baseball coach at California State University, Bakersfield, challenged DeVoir to get into the bat-making business.

DeVoir had mentioned out loud that he might start his own company.

“Beard challenged me. He said, ‘Why do you want to start a baseball bat company? That won’t work,’ ” DeVoir said.

That’s all he needed to hear.

“I’m just a competitive guy,” he said.

So, with the help of $2,500 on his father’s credit card, he dived into the business in 2008 as a part-time gig.

The bat business

The biggest-selling company of baseball bats is Marucci. The company has 28% of the market to sell to Major League Baseball players, according to Batdigest.com.

Victus is second, with 18%, followed by Louisville Slugger at 13%.

There are 30 companies that are licensed to supply bats to major league players.

But there are numerous other small, startup companies around this country.

It’s pretty cost prohibitive to be a supplier to MLB players – thousands of dollars in licensing fees alone – and that’s if you get approved by MLB.

Not that DeVo Bats doesn’t have a good product.

Former Major-Leaguer Shawn O’Malley, another Southridge graduate, tested his bats. So did former Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.

“We had them practice with the bats. Seager asked us if he could order some of our bats. We had to tell him ‘No.’ But Shawn had been swinging our bats through high school on.”

DeVo Bats caters to the youth baseball market.

“Our market is from players 10 years old to college age,” DeVoir said.

A large of leagues – such as the local high school leagues in the spring – use aluminum bats.

But there are numerous summer youth wood baseball bat tournaments around the Pacific Northwest. And college summer leagues use wood bats.

DeVo has sold its products to the Cascade Collegiate League, a college summer league based out of Seattle. The Walla Walla Sweets and the Yakima Valley Pippins – two of the higher quality West Coast League summer college league – have used DeVoir’s bats.

The operation

Laying on DeVoir’s garage floor are 36 new baseball bats just about ready to go. This is the Columbia Basin College baseball team’s order for the 2022 season.

“It’s a great product, and I’m always looking to support CBC alumni,” said CBC baseball coach Stefan McGovern.

DeVo Bats’ product list ranges from $90 fungo bats (used by coaches to hit ground balls and fly balls to his fielders), to youth bats at $100 up to adult bats at $150.

DeVo also makes accessories – bottle openers, coaster sets, fire starter pucks with the sawdust from the bats, logo golf balls, leather keychains, mugs; and apparel consisting of hats and socks.

It was about three years ago when DeVoir’s wife, Katie, challenged him to identify what he needed to properly launch the business – just as Beard had done years before.

“I still had repeat customers. But Katie asked me if this was more than a hobby or not,” DeVoir said. “She asked me, ‘What do you need to make a go of it?’ ”

The answer was the equipment to make the bats.

The DeVoir’s purchased over $100,000 for the equipment to make the bats. That includes a lathe that is programmed and can carve out a bat from a long, round wooden billet in about 4 minutes.

“We got this lathe machine one month before covid started,” DeVoir said. “The guy who was going to come out to train us on the machine couldn’t come. So he’d send us links on YouTube and we worked through it. I’m out here every day, turning bats.”

Those wooden billets come from two different suppliers.

“There was only ash bats when I played in the Yankees farm system,” he said. “Now there is maple and birch, too. The wood comes from two suppliers in the upstate New York area and the New England region.”

He was expecting another order of 450 billets to be delivered soon. But like everything else, the supply chain has slowed things down, and price of billets has increased.

DeVoir has all the bat products entered in a program in the lathe. That includes the weight of the bat, the length as to whether it’s for adults, youngsters or fungo bats for coaches.

Once the bat is created in the lathe, it needs to be sanded on a machine. Then it’s varnished and then painted. After it gets dried, the bat is finally engraved with the DeVo Bat logo.

It’s quite an operation, all run out of the garage.

And it’s gotten big enough that he’s taken on a partner. Troy Martin, a former CBC teammate who currently sells real estate in the Seattle area, became a partner about six months ago. And Chris Reidt concentrates on sales.

“We started pounding the pavement, looking for sales,” DeVoir said.

That includes attending trade shows. They’ll hunt for indoor facilities, batting cages, around the Northwest. Or go to a couple of summer youth wood bat tournaments.

“We set up a booth there, and teams order,” DeVoir said. “There are usually about 36 teams at these tournaments.”

The company’s marketing on social media is taking off too.

“Now we’re getting orders from all over the country,” DeVoir said.

As the little-baseball-bat-company-that-could, DeVo Bats is starting to increase its clientele.

“I actually feel like we’re gaining some momentum and some traction,” DeVoir said. “In the Pacific Northwest, we want to dominate our back yard.”

Go to: devobats.com.

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