By Matthew Van Wormer
About five and a half hours south, in Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville Slugger churns out hundreds of thousands of bats each year at a break-neck pace. They supply many Major League players with their bats so quick production is a necessity. Here in Cleveland, Ohio, Johnny Smatana doesn’t make bats for any Major League players. Instead, he focuses on Major League fans and instead of pumping them out quickly, Johnny takes his time with the masterpieces he creates.
Johnny is the owner of Johnnyville Slugger, a custom bat-making company where you can get whatever you want on a bat for around $150 bucks. Not a bad deal if you’re looking to create something you can have for a long, long time or if you just want a special gift for someone close to you.
“I started making bats about five years ago in a barn in my backyard to fill in time after work.”
What started out as an “after-work” hobby has become a full-time endeavor for Johnny as he creates bats for gifts, corporate events and even wedding gifts. The former international and ocean freight worker turns bats himself and with some help from his son, brings any image you can create to life on the bats.
“(He’s) a bio-med major and Johns Hopkins and he wrote my computer programming that allows me to put, really anything you can imagine on a bat.”
His ideas started out simple, just anything he and his buddies could come up with while they sat around in the barn and watched games. Johnny said that his barn is definitely more of a bar atmosphere which makes it a lot more fun.
Johnny grew up as a huge Pirates fan in a time when the Pirates would always finish the season above .500 and even won the World Series. Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell were the teams stars but Johnny’s favorite player was another Pirate who left his own mark on the team, Manny Sanguillen.
Today, John considers himself a “complete homer” as the Tribe has been his favorite team for over 15 years. Currently, Grady Sizemore is his favorite player and just wishes number 24 could catch a break in the injury department so he can stay on the field and play the game the way Johnny knows he is capable of. His all-time favorite Tribe player is the man who is known as “the greatest pitcher in Cleveland Indians history.”
“Bob Feller, [he] was the first to drop it all and enlist during the absolute height of his career, [that] makes him a clear choice.”
Maybe we can convince Johnny to make us a “Did The Tribe Win Last Night?” bat sometime! You can check out the Johnnyville Slugger website at www.johnnyvilleslugger.com, and make sure to look for his favorite bat, an Elvis tribute with the red glitter and rhinestones!
Congratulations, Johnny, on becoming the newest member of the Did The Tribe Win Last Night? Fan of the Week Hall of Fame!
Do you or someone you know have great memories of the Tribe and you think they should be inducted into the DTTWLN? Hall of Fame? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter (@MatthewDTTWLN). We’re on the lookout for great fans all season long!