From tree to Louisville Slugger: How Hanley Ramirez’ bat was born

From Pennsylvania through Louisville with love: Marlins 3B Hanley Ramirez examines this bat.

What happens if a tree falls in the woods, and a national audience not only hears it but sees it as captured on a special “Red” camera?

Well, that tree becomes a Major League Baseball bat to be used by Miami’s Hanley Ramirez in the Marlins’ Opening Night game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

It also becomes the focus of a feature that — the folks at Louisville Slugger believe — might be the first documentation of the entire tree-to-bat process.

“They told me they’ve had news teams come to their factory, but no one has followed a tree all the way through,” says producer Chris Bloxom, whose feature will debut on the 6 ET Baseball Tonight before the Cardinals-Marlins game.

“My concern about proposing a six-minute piece on a bat was that people would be skeptical — they’d think I was a little off. But, I wanted to give a bat a life. I liked the idea of something dying, and bringing it back to life.”

The piece took life last November in a northern Pennsylvania timberland where Bloxom, an arborist, and a professional tree climber set out to cut down 15 trees.

One was there to select the best trees, the second to attach a small camera about 70 feet up in some of those trees, and the third to record it.

“Then we shot the mill process where the trees are turned into dowel rods, and are put in a kiln [a giant oven to get the moisture out of the wood] to bake for a month,” Bloxom says.

“Our second shoot was the bats coming out of the kiln, re-rounded, and then sorted for quality and weight since only about 4 percent of the pieces actually make Major League quality bats.”

Bloxom returned to the mill last month after Ramirez agreed to use the bat, and put cameras on the truck which would haul his lumber to Louisville Slugger.

There, it was crafted to the third baseman’s specifications.

Ramirez was presented the bat last week in the Marlins clubhouse. He will use it during Wednesday’s game.

“Obviously, presenting the bats to Hanley was incredibly nerve-wracking considering the time and effort that had gone into it,” Bloxom said.

“Hanley was on board with the concept, but athletes are so particular about their equipment, there was enormous pressure on his liking the bats Louisville made.”

Ramirez saw Bloxom in the locker room and “[he] walked right up to me and his first question was, ‘Can I see the bats?’ This was the moment of truth.

“He popped the box open and pulled one out, took the plastic off and started feeling and smelling the bat. Then he looked over and said, ‘This is perfect.’”

Bloxom will update the feature after the game, which will air in its entirety on an evening edition of SportsCenter on Sunday, April 15.

Come back to Front Row for more information on updates and re-airs.

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  • Barry

    If only about 4 percent of the pieces actually make Major League quality bats, any idea what happens to the other 96%?

  • Christopher Mathis

    What is the dubstep song that is playing when the bat arrives in Louisville?

  • Luke Bogues

    Will the full version be posted? I missed most of it airing after the game!

  • Grego

    Saw this on Baseball Tonight. What are the songs in the video!?

  • Max

    One of the best things I have seen on ESPN in a long time. Really well done!

    Grego, the music at the beginning is M83 – the song is called Outro and it is the final song on “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

  • Ben

    What was the second song (dubstep i think) that came out on the full video?

  • Joe Morales

    As an environmental studies major and someone who values sustainability , this was pretty offensive. Well, I guess bring on the hate and call me a hippie, tree hugger and whatever. This was a pretty disgusting video to watch, though. Pretty disappointed as a baseball and ESPN enjoyer.

    For the record, I do understand the appeciation for the craft. It’s pretty amazing. And it’s quite a process. But damn. Kind of disrespectful.

  • John M.

    First off, how is this disrespectful? How else are major league players supposed to get their bats? I’m sure Louisville Slugger does some sort of replenishing of resources, planting more trees in place of the ones they use. And second off, how is no one else concerned on how to get your hands on one of these bats?!