Sharon Sullivan
ssullivan@gjfreepress.com
Grand Junction CO Colorado

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March 24, 2009
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Grand Valley men turn love of baseball into business

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. " Chris Rockert and Kent Cronkhite believe if you're going to play baseball, you might as well play like the pros.

That's why they use, and make, wood bats like the major leaguers use.

"A lot of kids dream to make it to the pros. One of the hardest transitions is going to wood (after using aluminum)," Cronkhite said.

"That's why at the college level there's a lot of talk about going strictly to wood," Rockert said.

Little League and high schools typically use aluminum bats because it takes a bit more skill to smack a ball as far using a wood bat. And baseball is a competitive sport.

"It gives an edge," Rockert said. "But in the long run it's an advantage to learn to use wood."

Cronkhite and Rockert met playing baseball in Grand Junction's men's adult baseball league. It was after that Cronkhite started making wood bats.

At the time the league used aluminum bats, but Cronkhite wanted to use wood. He learned to use tools in a high school wood shop class, and a neighbor had a lathe he could borrow, so Cronkhite decided to try and make his own bat.

"I thought it was kind of odd, a bunch of men using aluminum bats," Cronkhite said. "It's kind of dangerous," because of the speed of aluminum bats.

The same hit using an aluminum bat that gets a guy to first base might break a wooden bat. But that's just part of the game, said Cronkhite and Rockert.

"The bad thing about aluminum is you get in a bad rut of hitting the ball wrong," Cronkhite said. "Sometimes you can get a hit off the end of the bat, but that's not proper."

"A wood bat teaches you to hit in the sweet spot," Rockert said. "And you can hit just as far."

Rockert used to help coach baseball at Central High School, where he said the head varsity coach required athletes to use wood bats during hitting practice.

Rockert, 28, has played baseball since he could walk, he said. He played two years at Grand Junction High School and two years in college. His dream at one point was to play ball in the major leagues.

"My dream now is just to be involved with baseball somehow," he said.

Both men play in the men's adult league " a league that now uses all wood bats.

Rockert also plays for the Grand Junction Suehiro Cardinals " a tournament league that plays all over the United States.

The two men began making bats together about two years ago, selling one every now and then. The bats are made from birch, bamboo, northern white ash or maple woods " all wood imported from Pennsylvania. Cronkhite said he'd like to find a local supplier.

In January 2008, they officially started their business " Apostle Bats " and rented a workshop at the Business Incubator Center, a nonprofit offering entrepreneurial assistance located at 2591 B 3/4 Road.

"We sell them by word-of-mouth," Rockert said. "Our goal is in a couple of years we'd like to have at least one major leaguer using our bat."

Several local high school baseball players are using Apostle bats, Rockert said.

Both men are cement supervisors for Haliburton. After their hours were cut at Haliburton, they moved their shop out of the Incubator and back into their garages to save money. But they hope to move back to the Incubator at some point and eventually make creating baseball bats their full-time jobs.

"I wouldn't start something if I didn't want to make it my life," Rockert said. "I want this to be my full-time job."

A business Web site is currently under construction. Apostle Bats can be reached at apostlebats@live.com or by calling Rockert at (970) 201-3527 or Cronkhite at (970) 812-6220.

"We make bats for any age group," Rockert said, "including novelty bats like you see in JUCO."

Reach Sharon Sullivan at ssullivan@gjfreepress.com.


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The Post Independent Updated Mar 24, 2009 10:39PM Published Mar 24, 2009 06:44PM Copyright 2009 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.