Cantonment couple hits a home-run with bat-making business

Cantonment couple hits a home-run with bat-making business. (Source: WEAR-TV)

One of the most exciting but nerve-wracking phases for entrepreneurs is when it's finally time to make their "side hustle" business into to a full time endeavor.

A Cantonment couple has been perfecting their product in their garage for four years, working on it every spare moment they could find.

All of those early mornings and late hours are paying off, as Eric and Sara Ritchie are on the verge of hitting a grand slam.

At first, progress can be hard. Eric smiled, "A lot of changes and a lot of tough decisions, but we're going in the right direction."

Eric's wife, Sara Ritchie agreed, "It was scary. I think I told him everyday, 'Oh, I don't know about this, I don't know about this."

"This" is the brick and mortar storefront for the Ritchie Bat Company. Eric explained, "Sara's not teaching anymore. Last time we were both full time teachers."

Eric still is, but the numbers and demand for their custom bats clearly showed them that it was time to "up-size" their operation.

On a recent tour, Eric pointed out the special features of his Pensacola store, "People can actually stand right here and watch the bats being made from a safe spot."

Eric designs, cuts and sands the bats, while Sara paints, stickers, ships and keeps the books. They've streamlined their process and it's working.

Sara said, "We actually have more time. We seem busier, but we have more time as a family" Sara continued "We've had our moments, we have our moments but for the most part, it's brought us closer together."

They've been asked to make bats for larger companies in recent months. Eric is flattered and is happy other bat manufacturers are recognizing the quality of his designs, but subcontracting is not an option.

He grinned, "We're focusing on us right now and our customers, cause eventually we're gonna be taking their customers."

The Ritchie's were hardly settled into their new space when the couple set a firm goal with a deadline. "We've decided to go ahead and pursue our Major League certification for the 2020 season," said Eric.

To achieve that, they must complete an extensive application process, submit at least two dozen bat samples and pay tens of thousands of dollars.

That's all just to be considered. Currently, only thirty-two bat companies are allowed to supply Major League Baseball teams.

Some M.L.B. players already practice with Ritchie bats and want to use them in games Eric is thrilled, "That's the dream from the beginning, but it's never really felt so attainable as it does now."

The Ritchie Bat Company is located at 2860 W. Navy Blvd., Suite 400 in Pensacola.

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