In the world of baseball, the good wood is maple, hard and full of pop, or ash, supple but strong. The best pieces come from the mill as firm and knotless cylinders, with tight, straight grains running end to end.

In the world of baseball, the good wood is maple, hard and full of pop, or ash, supple but strong. The best pieces come from the mill as firm and knotless cylinders, with tight, straight grains running end to end.

It's these choice pieces that Phoenix Bats turns into baseball lumber for local high-school players, minor leaguers and a handful of big-name pros.

"Our standards are really high," said general manager Seth Cramer, who's also a co-owner. "Our mills joke with us that we're the pickiest manufacturer. That's a badge of honor."

In addition to using top-quality wood, the Plain City company also turns bats with a Locatelli lathe, a high-end Italian woodworking tool that only three U.S. manufacturers have. It cost an astronomical, though undisclosed, sum, and Phoenix staff apprenticed for 10 days overseas before taking it home.

Their advanced process is a far cry from the woodworking shop in Charlie "Lefty" Trudeau's garage, where the company got its start more than a decade ago.

After his day job refurbishing houses, Trudeau played games with the Ohio Village Muffins, who reenact pre-Civil-War-era baseball games around the state. He started to turn a few bats when supplies ran low, and soon the business took off.

"The funny thing is that the first bat I turned was for the Canal Fulton Mules around 1996," Trudeau said. "They were here a few weeks ago, and they're still using it."

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers swings a Phoenix every day. The Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez and a number of rising minor-league prospects use them, too. Los Angeles Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero has one in his bag, and more orders are coming by the day.

"We're really seeing a big upturn with people who want a high-quality bat and understand the economics of it," Cramer said.

How it works

Phoenix Bats in Plain City offers behind-the-scenes tours of their small manufacturing facility; for info, click to phoenixbats.com. Here's how they turn lumber into some of baseball's best bats.

1. Wooden cylinders called "billets" come from a mill and are sorted according to quality, weight and type of wood. They usually start about 37 inches long and 2.75 inches in diameter.

2. Billets are loaded into a lathe. Computer-guided blades give a rough, medium and smooth cut according to customized dimensions.

3. Small wooden end pieces used by the lathe to hold the billet are sawed off the finished bat by hand. It's then sanded to a smooth finish.

4. Paint and clear coat are applied by hand-dipping, and the bat is left to dry.

5. A laser machine, which precisely burns off paint and a thin layer of wood, can add details like a player's name and number. A company logo is added.