Besides Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufacturer of the Louisville
Slugger, 10 companies are authorized to make bats for major
league players, and KC Slammer is far and away the smallest and
unlikeliest of the bunch. Whereas hundreds of workers in eight
plants turn out a total of one million wooden Louisville
Sluggers and about 1.3 million aluminum bats each year, a former
truck driver named Jon Moyer--the 42-year-old founder, president
and chief bat maker of KC Slammer--expects to produce around
2,000 of his heavily lacquered, white-ash wands this year with
only the assistance of his wife, Kay, and two women in their
Kansas City, Kans., neighborhood.
Walk into the Moyers' living room and you're apt to see a few
dozen Slammers ordered by Kansas City Royal first baseman Wally
Joyner and third baseman Gary Gaetti, St. Louis Cardinal
infielder Chris Sabo, New York Yankee centerfielder Bernie
Williams or New York Met catcher Todd Hundley. In the laundry
room there may be six other bats destined for one of Hundley's
teammates, outfielder Joe Orsulak, which will be shipped as soon
as Terry Haase has put on the lettering and the lacquer finish.
It was through David Segui, the former Met who now plays first
base for the Montreal Expos but lives in Kansas City, Kans.,
that a half dozen Mets began using the Slammer. "I tried a few
of Jon Moyer's bats in the winter of '93 and have been sold on
them since," says Segui. "They last far longer than any other
bat I've tried, and I get more carry from them."
So much carry, in fact, that Segui belted a career-high 10 home
runs as a Met last season and through Aug. 10 this year was
hitting 71 points above his career average of .257. "Jon's a
perfectionist," says Segui. "He doesn't cut any corners."
A transplanted Canadian and former hockey player, Moyer never
gave bat making a thought until another trucker, Charlie Ketron,
approached him in the spring of 1991 and asked if he could make
some bats for the team Ketron was managing in the Kansas City
Men's Senior Baseball League (MSBL), in which wooden bats are
required. "Ours were cracking left and right, and it was costing
a lot of money," Ketron says. "I knew Jon did some woodworking,
so I asked him if he could make us some bats that would last."
Eager to help out a fellow trucker, Moyer bought some northern
white-ash logs in Pennsylvania and settled in at the workbench
in his basement. Within a few weeks he had produced his prototype.
Word of the KC Slammer's durability and of Moyer's service soon
spread through the Kansas City MSBL. "In more than 30 years I've
never seen a bat last as long," says Gary Bond, who plays first
base for the MSBL Royals. "I've used the Slammer in about 175
games over three years and have broken only three bats. First
time up I hit one out. Second time up, same thing. Then one of
my teammates, Jeff Larsen, said, 'Let me try one.' He did and
hit a grand slam. Now almost everyone on our team, and a lot of
other guys in the league, use the Slammer."
By August 1993 Moyer had quit trucking and was turning out
about 500 bats a year, mainly for MSBL players and some minor
leaguers, who make up the bulk of his off-season business. After
seeing Segui swing the striking-looking Slammer so successfully
last year, fellow Mets Bobby Bonilla (since traded to the
Baltimore Orioles), Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson began to use it.
"The first time Ryan tried it, he hit a homer in St. Louis,"
Segui recalls, adding that Ryan has been a Slammer user ever
When Moyer's business doubled last year, he took on two
neighbors as part-time workers: Haase, and Toni Johnson, who did
lettering and most of the sanding until she was replaced this
summer by another neighbor, Carol Pierce. Moyer thinks the
secret of his success is his painstaking approach. Whereas
Louisville Sluggers are produced in 15 seconds on automatic
lathes, Moyer takes about 13 minutes to carve a bat out of a
27-inch square billet on one of his manual lathes. The key to
the KC Slammer's durability, he says, may be the tempering
process he uses and the many coats of lacquer he applies.
Last month Moyer moved into a 5,000-square-foot plant six miles
from his home. What with the expansion, might he add hockey
sticks to his inventory? "It's in the back of my mind," he says,
"but for now I'm too busy making the KC Slammer." And much too
busy to drive an 18-wheeler.
Jack Cavanaugh, who lives in Connecticut, has written many
stories for Sports Illustrated.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DAVID E. KLUTHO (2) Moyer attributes his success to lengthy lathe work and lots of lacquer. [Jon Moyer making bat; KC Slammer bats]