Old Hickory Steel Pressed Bat Lineup Growing at MLB, Amateur Levels
Professional players using Old Hickory wood bats didn’t even know all the technical additions engineered into their bats and when they saw the Steel Pressed wood bat lineup becoming available for amateurs during 2020, they started calling the company asking for the same finish.
“We tested the waters on the amateur side with the Steel Pressed finish and it took off,” says Travis Copley, Old Hickory vice president of sales. “The big-league guys were asking for it, even though we’d been giving it to them already.”
The Steel Pressed design offers Old Hickory’s pro-level finishing by compressing the barrel similar to an old-school boning process. By compacting the bat’s wood, Steel Pressed makes bats exponentially harder. Adding a high-gloss lacquer finish improves strength—the bat comes with a 45-day warranty—and provides a visual pop and crisper sound.
On the performance side, Copley says players see a 3 to 4 mile per hour increase in exit velocity. “The big-league guys we were talking to said they felt a difference in how the ball came off the bat and carried in games,” he says. “We were hearing a lot of the same thoughts on it from the amateur level, with the ball coming off the bat harder and traveling farther.”
While Old Hickory started using the finish on pro-level gear before opening it to the amateur market, when it became widely available last summer and fall, it turned into an instant hit for the company. Pros who didn’t know they already had it, wanted it and Steel Pressed quickly became a top seller for the brand. Based on online sales, Steel Pressed has remained either the top or second-highest seller on a weekly basis for the last seven months. Now available in three models, Copley says it won’t stop there.
“It does have its own look,” he says, “it is a noticeable difference. It is flashier.” The finish can be added to any color and Old Hickory is now experimenting with differing additives to give the finish new attributes, such as color shifting when outside. “There are some things we are just now getting into that hopefully when the end of the season comes, we have time to play around with,” he says. Expect the company to test new finishes with focus groups and have fresh cosmetic additions by holiday season.
Whether the Steel Pressed or even the Black Label—a bat featuring wood that passes MLB standards, but may still have a slight cosmetic mark that doesn’t pass Old Hickory standards so it gets offered at a cost discount for young players needing a “cost-effective cage bat”—wood bats remain the staple of Old Hickory, with about 85% of all sales coming from bats.
Another popular Old Hickory product is batting gloves. While the Team Classic offers a mainstay for the brand, Copley says a new batting glove design for the high-end player will release this summer, adding a second style to the mix. Expect the new glove to come thinner and tighter fitting. “There are some things we changed off the current glove to give it a completely different feeling when on your hand,” he says.
A new line of apparel is proving a popular growth point for Old Hickory.
But everything centers around the wood bat, whether for the roughly 200 MLB players who swing Old Hickory or the amateur players. “The amateur market is growing rapidly, especially the wood bat segment,” Copley says. “Wood bat tournaments are starting younger and younger every year. To see the MLB guys swing and have that trickle down built our company, but to come into a new product at the amateur market (Steel Pressed) and see that filter up is a really good feeling.”
Whether pro or amateur, one of the most famous players using Old Hickory remains Mike Trout, off to one of his best starts ever. During his second year in MLB, Trout switched to a custom Old Hickory bat, now named the MT27. The 33-1/2-inch length, 31-1/2-ounce weight maple bat comes cupped with a black barrel and natural handle. “Right after his rookie year he transitioned into this model,” Copley says. “He hasn’t changed since.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.