The San Francisco Giants’ playoff aspirations came to an end when the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed the National League Division Series. For some fans, that might be the end of Major League Baseball’s 2021 postseason, but a particular group of Bay Area residents is still paying close attention, and they’re not just avid fans of the sport.

The founders of Birdman Bats, a company with local roots, have made steady inroads into the majors by providing maple and birch equipment for players around the league. Armed with a passion for baseball and hand-shaping bats, a group of four friends opened up shop in 2016, and the company moved its operations from South San Francisco to Redwood City two years ago. One of those founders is Moss Beach resident Cody Silveria, a standout baseball player during his days in Little League and high school ball on the coast.

Through word of mouth, a reputation for quality and a splash of customizable color, Birdman Bats has steadily grown its presence among professional and minor league ballplayers. Co-founder Gary Malec estimates a little more than a dozen MLB players are currently using their bats. Five of those players are on the Atlanta Braves, the team the Giants would have played had they bested the Dodgers. Malec credits former Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval, who was on the Braves roster for 70 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with establishing those connections.

“He’s a big supporter of our brand and business. He ordered dozens of bats, and he gave them away,” Malec said. “He got us some big-name players through his kind words and promotion.”

On the Giants, Kris Bryant and Darin Ruf use the products. Austin Slater uses Birdman Bats “religiously,” Malec said. With a distinctive logo of a half-man, half-winged creature, the bats can be customized with color, material and weight. Malec credits their growth to several factors: establishing relationships online and having a lot of wood. Even when the pandemic interrupted supply chains, Birdman had a solid supply of materials to work with last year. They’re handing out bats to minor league players around the country, including Milwaukee Brewers 2021 Minor League Player of the Year Joey Wiemer and San Jose Giants outfielder Luis Matos, the Giants’ third-best prospect behind Marcio Luciano and Joey Bart, according to mlb.com.

“Just because you have wood doesn’t mean you’re going to sell your product,” Malec said. “But the product is as good as it’s ever been and guys are really noticing. It’s been an exciting year.”

While most of the business is custom orders for prospects and professionals, Malec said the company is expanding into retail stores at a local and national level. Last week, the team sent 170 bats to Australia. Just as a hitter analyzes a pitcher and makes adjustments, Malec and his team saw there was room to improve.

As many businesses adapted their model to the pandemic, this one committed to its online infrastructure and doubled down on social media engagement. Birdman Bats now has 28,000 followers on Instagram and more than 2,700 on TikTok. True to the digital trend, four Birdman Bats will be available in baseball’s most popular video game, MLB The Show 22, scheduled for release next April. The game’s current version, MLB The Show 21, sold 4 million copies in July.

Aside from publishing clips of the bat-making process, Malec uses the platforms as a direct line to engage with their biggest clients. He noted that the Facebook and Instagram outage two weeks ago impacted the business because it’s how he communicates with most of the top players, including Braves infielder Ozzie Albies and former MLB MVP Bryce Harper.

“Our business has been about organic growth since the beginning,” Malec said. “Good relationships, good customer service and good products. It’s been a good formula for us.”

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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