We ’ v e p l a y e d i n p l a c e s w h e r e t h e r e ’s been a huge rock in center field or kneeh i g h g ra s s , b u t t h a t j u s t m a ke s i t m o r e interesting.”
sometimes. If you catch a line drive….” His voice trails off as he mentally calculates. “I’d estimate that 75 percent of our current club members have some type of finger injury. But we keep coming back.” The bases are burlap sacks. Traditionally filled with sawdust, today’s vintage bases are filled with rubber chips. They don’t play on a cut diamond, instead just using an open expanse of grass, because that’s what teams had back then. Stratton notes that sometimes the terrain offers additional challenges. “We’ve played in places where there’s been a huge rock in center field or knee-high grass, but that just makes it more interesting.” Bats are another element of the sport with a vintage spin, and the Brandywine club sources theirs from West Chester bat maker Prowler Bat Company. Prowler founder Steve McCardell is a self-described baseball guy, West Chester born and bred, who attended Henderson High School and then Shippensburg University (which he chose for its baseball program, not necessarily his academics) before returning to the borough. After college, he was unsure about his career path, so turned to his first love: baseball. “Making bats was an easy thing to start up,” he recollects. “You just need a lathe and wood. But to really do it correctly takes a good bit of money and a lot of research.” He invested the time, and today his market has grown to include customers from Maine to Tennessee to Iowa. He goes to the big tournaments with 25 teams, setting up his table to reach players there. His ultimate goal is to get bats to the Phillies, but that’s far off, because of the money required just to get the bats in front of them.
Vintage bats feature several notable differences from their modern-day counterparts. For one, they are longer, ranging from 34 to 37 inches. They also have a different shape, lacking the typical barrel definition of today’s bats. The handle is thicker and they are heavier, too. “Overall, they’re very simple in design, crafted from a solid piece of ash,” explains McCardell. Stain or dye is used to finish the wood rather than paint, and there are generally no logos added to the bat. Sometimes, players request something special, as did Alex “Cardigan” Marmelstein (outfield). His bat features a V-shaped graphic with a row of circles that runs down the length of the bat, resembling a button-up sweater. On a cool spring day early in his tenure with the club, Marmelstein wore a sweater to a game, earning him the nickname “Cardigan” from that day forward. The next year,
he requested the custom bat design from Prowler. The motif was created by taping off the design and then staining it. McCardell gets all sorts of requests, with stripes being a popular addition to vintage bats. He also uses different shades of brown stains to mimic tobacco stains that often graced old bats. “They’re so different. I love doing them. ‘Authentic’ and ‘classic’ are the words I think of when I’m designing a vintage bat.”
G E T T I N G I N V O LV E D Community support is essential to the team’s growth and outreach. One of their earliest sponsors was Levante Brewing, supporting the team since 2014. “One of our players knew they were starting up and had a conversation with them about being a sponsor,” Stratton recalls. “One
NOVEMBER 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM
Voice of the Borough