ABO Baseball co-owner Trevor Oakes watched a bat he made hit an RBI double in Arizona on the weekend, and it was a challenge, the Tillsonburg bat-maker said, expressing how he felt.
“It was really cool,” said Oakes, visiting various Arizona MLB spring training camps this week with the ABO team. “It was overwhelming, I didn’t know how to express the feeling. It was crazy, it was such a happy feeling. It’s hard to explain.”
Less than a week into his first training camp experience, Oakes admitted it’s been ‘a learning curve.’
“It’s stressful, it’s exciting, it’s tough. It’s also fun at the same time.”
ABO Baseball arrived in Arizona Wednesday night and met with Chicago White Sox staff Friday morning.
“Today (Monday) we just went to different locations to get more connects,” said Oakes. “Tomorrow (Tuesday) we’re with the Rangers, Wednesday with the Dodgers. And so far, Friday with the Angels, but things may change.”
He planned to meet with someone Tuesday to – maybe – make even more contacts.
Angels’ Class A Advanced prospect, Franklin Torres, 23, was officially the first pro player to swing an ABO bat during a spring training game (Angels vs Rockies) on the weekend – on TV – in a game the catcher hadn’t been scheduled to play.
“It was pretty exciting, I was super pumped,” said Oakes. “The next day (Sunday), he still wasn’t in the lineup but we said, ‘we’re going to go anyway.'”
They showed up early and gave ABO bats to Torres, who handed out ABO bats to teammates.
“We were unaware that there were three guys in the lineup swinging ABO bats that day. We just thought it was Frank and another guy. The batter before Frank… I couldn’t tell what he was swinging, but it looked like an ABO bat. It wasn’t until his last bat, we saw he had an ABO bat in his hand – and he had shot two stingers to centre field. So it was pretty exciting, not knowing, and then to find that out.
“It was pretty cool to have three of nine guys swinging bats that I made.”
Torres’ game day status had changed at the last minute Sunday and he started in the lineup.
“We were pretty pumped that he was going to get three or four at-bats. His first at-bat was a grounder. Then his second at-bat was a double and two RBIs. I was so excited, so happy. It kind of took some weight off.”
Torres didn’t sign a bat-making contract with ABO – it was a ‘trial’ experience only.
“He’ll try those bats… and he’ll probably purchase more bats when he’s ready for more.”
From what Oakes is hearing, the Venezuelan prospect has a bright future – possibly AA or AAA baseball this summer.
“The Angels need a catcher, and that’s what he is, so you never know, right? We’re hoping he just kind of carries us with him. We’ll see what happens.”
Oakes and the ABO team is also considering a trip to Florida, depending on contacts they can make.
“It’s so tough, it’s so tough to get set up out here. Not having any contacts, it’s very, very hard. As long as we can set up meetings, appointments, then yes, we’ll go down there (Florida) for sure.”
Making those contacts, he said, has been the greatest challenge during spring training.
“It’s very hard to contact everybody because there’s so much stuff going around. So many players, so many coaches, so many agents. When you’re the little guy, it seems like nobody really seems to want to give you a crack. But hopefully it’ll just take a couple swings from some players to open that up.”
He’s hearing a similar story from other bat makers who experienced the same thing when they were starting up.
“They (other bat makers) weren’t against me, they were sort of rooting for me, helping me out with information. They said they went through the same thing. There’s a hustle and grind, and then it just opens up one day.
“It’s good to get that kind of advice, that information. Knowing that it’s okay if you don’t sell a million bats the first try. Get your name out there and let it explode – and we’re hoping that’s what happens.”
ABO’s run to spring training after getting pro certified was relatively short. That’s why they went to this year’s spring training camps with the mindset of making connections for 2021.
“Not so much getting bats ordered, that was just a bonus,” said Oakes. “Our mindset was more like learning what to do and making connections for the following year. Next year when we come down, we’re going to know exactly what to do, where to be and how to get there.”