NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH)–Pete Tucci grew up playing baseball in Norwalk. A San Diego Padres prospect, he made it to AAA–the highest level in the minor leagues.
But when he was released in 2002, he had to find a real job, and that began his long road back to baseball.
“It really took me a long time to get over it,” Tucci said.
He worked in the heating and air conditioning business for a few years, but then his wife suggested he try something new.
“My wife came to me in ’09 and said, ‘Have you ever thought about getting back into baseball somehow?’ And my answer to her was, I really have no time. I don’t have time to coach, I don’t have time to teach lessons,” Tucci said.
“She said, ‘Have you ever thought about making bats?’ And it kind of started out as a hobby. That’s what it was meant to be,” he said.
After going to a wood shop class and looking at some videos online, Tucci’s wife bought him a wood-cutting machine. He made his first bat in his garage.
“I turned my first bat, and it actually came out pretty good. It came out like how I would think a bat should come out. I showed a few people, and all of a sudden people started saying, ‘Can you make me one?,” Tucci said.
That hobby has now turned into a big business. Tucci’s company makes bats for more than 130 Major League Baseball players, including Pablo Sandoval, Prince Fielder, Nick Swisher, and Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki, who competed in the Home Run Derby.
Tucci recently moved his operation to a 10,000-square foot factory in Norwalk. They make about 120 bats a day.
“What drew me to the business was just the actual like, art of doing it. It was just fun sitting there and making something by hand,” Tucci said. “But then when I decided to make a business out of it and try to make a livelihood out of it, eight bats a day wasn’t going to cut it.”
“I say this all the time…I don’t know how other companies make bats. Everything we’ve done is really just, self-taught,” he said.
Tucci said his first Major League order was Miami Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
“He was the major league first guy to use our bats and say, ‘Man, I like these. I’m going to order them. That was the first time I thought, ‘Whew.’ Ok. It’s not just me who thinks these are good.”
Tucci was at the Major League All-Star game last week, catching up with some of his clients. He also makes bats for some of the players on the Bridgeport Bluefish.