Think of the Louisville Slugger's Custom MLB Prime wood bat platform as a chance to walk through the exact steps as a professional player. The technical specs available to the pros come available on the Slugger site, but one aspect gives you a bit wider range of choice than the pros: a full-fledge option of colors, not bound by MLB rules.
"It is really a top to bottom choice of bat," says Tom Burns, Louisville Slugger senior product manager for bats. "It is the same kind of service we offer our pros in Major League Baseball."
The customization process for wood start with species, whether maple, ash or birch. From there, picking the turning model provides a unique perspective. With the turning model directly relates to how the bat feels in your hand and when you swing it, the barrel size and how the handle and knob get formed are all related to those turning choices.
The most popular option, the C271, is the most balanced in terms of swing weight with weight distribution toward the hands making for a lighter swinging bat. On the other spectrum, the C243 is Slugger's biggest barrel with the most volume of wood toward the end, enticing power hitters. But through every step of selecting options on the platform, Slugger uses a sliding scale of one to five, with five being the most end-loaded and one being the most balanced to help you make selections.
"Even if you don't understand (how the models work), you can still understand what each turn does," Burns says. "If you are looking for balanced, you can find turning models in the ones and twos and end-loaded in the fours and fives. It is easier to navigate and helps educate the consumer on those model numbers across our line."
With more options available via customization than traditional retail, Burns says customization provides an ideal place to try new turning models, whether the Derek Jeter model or a tweak of the most popular C271. "There is a lot more variety for players to expand out to beyond the traditional retail options," he says.
With the species and turning model determined—the quality of ink-dot approved wood for the custom selections pass the same slope of grain tests used for the MLB bats—walking through the customization process then moves into selecting what Burns calls "the fun part" with cosmetic designs for the aesthetic portion of the bat. The last steps include selecting weights and lengths, manufactured to your specification, and then personalization.
"Being able to put your name on the end of the bat was reserved for the pros for the longest time," Burns says. "Now you can put your name, team name or something inspirational on the bat. It is a really cool process from start to finish."
Burns, who made the customization of the MLB Prime bat his personal project when he started at the company says it has proven an exciting opportunity that continues to gain steam. As Louisville Slugger adds more models into the process and explores adding youth options down the road, one area that Burns says has already intrigued him was the amount of interest in color.
The bats go through the same spray line that pro bats travel through and with a pretty wide-open offering, he says it is nearly unlimited in what people can do in terms of combinations. "I have been surprised from the wildness we have seen," he says. "I have seen purple barrels and neon green barrels. These are performance products at performance price points and I see a lot of color on the bats. That is exciting and ties to the non-wood trends we've seen."
Consumers can customize the color of the barrel, the handle and even the inside of the bat's cup. "All those details really allow the player to add color or create their own bat," he says. "There is a good variety of traditional, team, individual and wild designs."
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.