Sunday, May 6, 2018

Jaw Bats the Hidden Gem in Downtown Baldwin City

Kevin Surbaugh

Jacob Walters of Jaw Bats shows off examples of his custom
designs. This one has all the players from the
World Series-winning Kansas City Royals.
Photographer D. Kevin Surbaugh
Recently, an open house was held at Jaw Bats. During the open house Jacob Walters, owner of Jaw Bats gave a tour of the facility, which is located in the back half of the building that houses the vintage marketplace Papa's Nest. The tour started out with the lathe.  He joked that he was kind of crazy, and still makes the bats by hand. From there, they moved to the scales used to weigh the bats.  Which prompted a child in the group to ask, why he needed to weigh the bats. Walters explained that different people want different weights of bats. As the tour progressed, the group moved into the wood storage and finishing area. Walters explained that this room was humidity and temperature controlled. When the wood comes in he has to through each one and weighs each and every piece. The wood is racked according to quality and type of woods. He has maple, ash; which is a dwindling pile because it's a dying species, then there is birch, which he expects to be the new wood to work with. Walters said that his bats range from $130 on the cheaper to $175 for the best of the best.
Chase Minton, Baldwin City tests out one of the
bats produced by Jaw Bats. A locally owned company
situated in downtown Baldwin City.
Photographer D. Kevin Surbaugh

In the finishing side of the room, which he said was his favorite area, he has another lathe to spin the bat as he paints it. As the tour came to an end, he showed off some of his finished bats. During this portion of the tour, he was asked if he used a laser to do all the engraving on the custom bats. His reply seemed to shock the questioner, as he told her that he used an acetylene torch, including the fine carving of all the player's names from the World Series-winning Royals team.

After the tour, some of those on the tour took a specific interest in the finished bats hanging on the wall. Some even trying the feel out of a few of them.

Jacob and Kristin Walters of Jaw Bats cut the
ribbon during an open house at their Baldwin City
Photographer D. Kevin Surbaugh
During the ribbon-cutting portion of the open house Jeanette Blackmar, Baldwin City Chamber director, said that it was great to see young people come and open a new business.
Tony Brown, Baldwin City Council member, who represents the council to the chamber, commented on the number of people who were in attendance, saying that it was unusual to see that many people at the chambers open houses and ribbon cuttings.
Musing that the size of crowd speaks to the kind of work that Walters does.
Brown said that he had and others on the chamber had wondered what is going to replace the drum maker that had previously occupied the space? What is going to fill that space? He said there was nothing that could fill that space, as cool as drums. Then he asked,
but how cool is this?
Continuing, Brown said that it captures something about our childhood.

He's taken toys that he has played with, and he's making functioning works of art. 
Brown thanked Walters for coming to Baldwin City and setting up shop and vesting in the community. Saying the city wants him to be "wildly successful," perhaps even the international center for bats. A statement that drew applause from the crowd gathered in the small workshop.

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