NASHVILLE ON THE RECORD: JEREMY MITCHELL

Jeremy Mitchell paints stripes on baseball bats. For a living.

How did you come up with this idea for a business?

The idea to put stripes on baseball bats came to me during the summer of 2013 while I was helping re-brand a skateboard company called Salemtown Board Co. After watching them create and paint skateboards, I got to thinking about what I could paint. Baseball bats was the first thing that came to mind. So, I started drawing my bat designs on paper. I would share them on Instagram and people started asking about them. People actually wanted to buy my bats. They weren’t even real yet, just quick drawings on paper.

I took my designs into Photoshop and started to make the bats look real. I would post those renderings on Instagram, and that’s when I started getting emails from strangers. So, during the 7th inning stretch of Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, I launched a website at mitchellbatco.com and started an Instagram account under @mitchellbatco, and started posting my renderings of the bats.

Keep in mind these bats weren’t real. Before the game was over I already had a few hundred followers just by reaching out to Red Sox and Cardinals fans that were watching the game. I used the geolocation feature on Instagram to find people that were actually at Fenway watching the game. I was giving out promo codes for free shipping for these bats that didn’t exist.

Four days later, I sold my first bat. Then another. And another. Two weeks after I launched, ESPN asked me if I wanted to be in their Holiday Gift Guide. I agreed, and after that we could barely keep up.

Soon after Christmas, Ralph Lauren and Ebbets Field Flannels wanted to sell my bats in their stores. My mind was blown, and still is.

You must really love baseball. How did that love develop as a kid?

I didn’t pay much attention to Major League Baseball until third grade, when I met a kid at school named Jason Hargrove. He had an amazing baseball card collection. The first card he showed me was a 1983 Darryl Strawberry rookie card. It was in a thick glass case and I knew it was special. At that moment I was hooked. We would go to baseball card shows with his dad and spent a lot of time at baseball card shops in Hendersonville.

Separate from baseball, my mom taught me and my older sisters about American history, so the historic part of baseball appeals to me. I grew up looking at photos of players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

As a kid, I didn’t like to read, but I would study the fronts and backs of baseball cards. I would study the design of the uniforms on the fronts of the cards. I would read the short stories and statistics on the backs of the cards. I would also build sets. Lots of hours were spent putting baseball cards in number order. It’s a hobby that I miss a lot.

You do custom bats — what are some of the most interesting clients? 

The most interesting custom bat we did was the very first one. It was for Jack Daniel’s. We stained the bat with whiskey and flame-charred it to mimic the look and smell of a whiskey barrel. Plus, we added their logo. The bat was sold at a silent auction fundraiser to benefit ALS.

Giving back to charities is a big part of your business, correct?

I learned what I do by watching Salemtown Board Co. They train and mentor inner-city kids. They are changing the lives of kids. When I sat down to think of what Mitchell Bat Co. should be, I came up with “put stripes on bats and give money to charity.” The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program makes it possible for kids that might not have father figures around to be a part of a baseball program where coaches are put into their lives to help them become outstanding young men and women. We also donate bats to various charities to be auctioned off at fundraiser events

You’re a Cubs fan. Now that they’re no longer lovable losers, does that change how you feel about your favorite team? Any less fun? 

This past October at my house was very nerve-wracking. I was glued to the TV hoping and praying the Cubs would keep advancing. During Game 7 of the World Series, I thought I was going to throw up the whole time. And that rain delay almost killed me. But when Bryant threw that ball to Rizzo for the third out and the first World Championship in 108 years, I burst into tears. They did it! The Chicago Cubs are World Champions!!!

But now what? Do it again? Do we go back to being the lovable losers? Only time will tell. But, I hope we keep winning. God knows we have a lot of catching up to do.

Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss, author of “Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line.” Follow Andrew on Twitter @trublu24.