Whether playing the game or watching it, Randy Hartl has been a baseball fan his entire life.
Since 1982, the Chippewa Falls native has made cabinets for a living, but five years ago Hartl, who calls Bay City home, started Rally Bats, a baseball bat business.
On Christmas Eve, Hartl gave away more than 100 bats to children in the area despite a snowstorm that made travel difficult.
"We ended up giving away 120 (bats), which we thought was very good for that bad-weather day," Hartl said.
Rally Bats manufactures a "Signature Series" in which a person's signature is copied and then burned with a laser onto a wooden bat. The Christmas bat giveaway included personalized bats for all recipients.
"The smile on their faces, when they looked at their bat with their name on it, was priceless," Hartl said.
Hartl is friends with Minnesota Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, a Chippewa Falls native. Vavra, who graduated from Chippewa Falls Senior High School in 1978, attended the bat giveaway and signed autographs for children.
The idea for the bat giveaway occurred on Christmas 2007, when a woman who Hartl didn't know gave his son an autographed baseball from the late Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame center fielder Kirby Puckett.
That incident sparked Hartl to make a couple of hundred extra bats over the course of the past year to give away as Christmas presents.
Hartl enjoys working with wood, so the expansion from cabinets to bats seems like a natural fit.
"I've been in the wood business my whole life, and I knew I could make a decent bat," he said. "The big thing with wood is moisture content."
Randy's mother, Sharon Hartl, enjoyed being a part of the bat-giveaway program.
"I'm pretty proud of my kids for doing that," Sharon Hartl said. "And they did it as a family. The kids even helped make the bats."
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Rally Bats, owned and operated by Chippewa Falls native and Bay City resident Randy Hartl, makes a variety of baseball bats for sale.
A full-size signature bat costs $40, while a game bat sells for $60 in maple or $55 for an ash model. Bats can be manufactured to specific sizes and weights, and emblazoned with team logos.
The company sold 2,500 bats last year, and sales have increased through word of mouth.
"I got into the novelty stuff, and it's been a fun business," Hartl said.