NORWALK, Conn. Norwalks Pete Tucci Jr. is back with a bat in his hands in spring training.
It is in a far different environment than when he was a bright major-league prospect more than a decade ago, but it is the path toward which he has been working since he started his bat-making company in 2009.
Tucci is in Florida to show his bats to major league ballplayers. He earned approval from Major League Baseball in January to produce bats for players for the first time, and he has been displaying his bats to teams in Florida. He got his first order from Miami Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez earlier this week.
Several Yankees, including Nick Swisher, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano and Ramiro Pena have been swinging Tucci Lumber bats, as have players from the Mets and Phillies. Tuccis company is one of only two new Major League Baseball has approved to make bats for ballplayers this year.
Everything Ive been working for has been toward getting Major League approval, Tucci said. We got that in January and we've been getting great feedback. A lot of players have been impressed with what they've seen. Im certified through March 18, and we hope to get enough guys to convince equipment managers to write a letter to Major League Baseball to get approval for the rest of the year.
There was a time when Tucci, 36, hoped to be swinging bats for a professional team rather than making them. The former Norwalk High star went on to a standout career at Providence College, and was drafted in the first round by Toronto in 1996. He hit 84 home runs and had 384 RBI in six seasons of minor league baseball before a hand injury shortened his career. Being back in Florida has kicked up more than memories.
Its a weird feeling, Tucci said. Its great to be back in the game. Its great to go back and be in a major league clubhouse and be with guys that I was good friends with. Ill be honest, theres a small part of me that wishes I was on the other side. Its great to be involved in it again.
Tucci has come a long way since he started making the bats in the garage of his Norwalk home. He opened a retail business on Strawberry Hill Avenue in Norwalk last June. One of his biggest supporters is former Met Howard Johnson, who has helped Tuccis business grow. Tucci also has kept his hand in the game as a player, where is a member of the Monroe Tophats that won the Fairfield County Senior Baseball League championship last summer.
Tucci said the Yankees have committed to write the letter that will permit him to keep his approval in Major League Baseball all season. On the Tucci Lumber Facebook page, he has included photos of Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez and other Major Leaguers using his bats. The plan Tucci laid out when he started his company has come together, probably more swiftly than he could have hoped it would.
I cant ask for anything more, he said. Were getting great feedback and were getting a lot of people to give them a try. Its what I set out and to do, and its great to see it start to come to fruition.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.