BAT IN BUSINESS Brett Family Buys into New-Wave Bat Company

Article excerpt

SPOKANE, Wash. -- After getting 3,154 hits in a Hall of Fame career, George Brett knows bats the way a winemaker knows grapes. So getting into bat production is a natural.

Brett and his brothers just bought half-ownership of TriDiamond Sports, a revolutionary bat maker, and renamed it Brett Bros. Bat Co.

Unlike traditional bats milled from single pieces of wood, these bats are composed of three strips of Northern White Ash. The strips are glued to form a stick said to be 20 percent stronger than the models swung by Hank Aaron or Mickey Mantle.

"I heard so many good things about these bats that it was a no-brainer," said Brett, a 13-time All-Star with Kansas City who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 25.

Brett Bros. will join a movement to replace aluminum bats with so-called composite wooden ones that last longer than old-fashioned models, said Brett, who never used an aluminum bat in a game. Professional baseball has never allowed aluminum bats.

It was the high cost of replacing broken wooden bats that fueled the rise of aluminum bats in the amateur ranks about 30 years ago. Since then, a generation of Little Leaguers and college players have played the game without ever knowing the sublime feeling of crushing a cowhide ball with a wooden bat.

But times are changing.

Several companies are making composite wooden bats of various forms, hoping to reclaim the high school and college markets, and even softball leagues.

"Anybody who grows up and plays baseball knows wood is the way baseball is meant to be played," said Spokane businessman Bobby Brett, a former minor league player who brought the bat deal to his three brothers: George, former major leaguer Ken Brett and former minor leaguer John Brett.

Ken Brett, 83-85 in a 15-year pitching career with 10 teams, will be vice president of marketing for the bat company. Ken Brett batted .262 during his major league career.

Showing admirable family togetherness, the Bretts also co-own minor league baseball, hockey and soccer teams in Spokane, and real estate in Southern California.

Bobby Brett became aware of TriDiamond Sports about two years ago, when co-owner Joe Sample asked the Bretts' Class A Spokane Indians to try out the new composite bats. The sticks held up well during batting practice, and Brett was intrigued.

Sample, a thoroughbred horse breeder, and his partners developed the new bats with researchers at Washington State University's nearby Pullman campus who worked under contract.

Their process electronically scans each piece of ash, screening the wood for imperfections that can cause a bat to break. Pieces of cleared wood then are glued together, shaped into bats and laminated for extra strength.

Finally, braided fibers of aerospace materials are bonded up the first 18 inches of the neck, forming what look like permanent batting grips. …