Thomas Edison once said that "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Entrepreneur and author Abel Sanchez is humble enough to shy away from the idea that he's some kind of genius, but the man has experience with sweat.
In the summer of 2007, Sanchez was in Cooperstown, touring the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time in his life. As he walked through the exhibits, one brand name kept leaping out at him—Louisville Slugger. So many Hall-worthy moments were put into motion by sticks of wood that were formed for just that purpose by the company known more formally as Hillerich & Bradsby.
As he drove around the beautiful Mohawk Valley afterward, Sanchez had an idea out of the blue: what if Louisville Slugger produced bats that commemorated some of his favorite baseball movies? Half-convinced that such a simple idea had already been done, he resolved to call the bat manufacturer and present his idea. "I don't know if I was brave or naïve," he says, "but I started calling and kept calling until I finally ended up talking to (Louisville Slugger President) Marty Archer. He liked the idea right away. He said that if I could get the studios interested, he'd supply the bats."
Armed with a single affirmation, Sanchez began grinding away at the other half of the equation—gaining approval from the studios that held the rights to a handful of his favorite baseball flicks. "There have been hundreds of sports movies made," he said. "But I wanted to focus on twelve or so that I think are really deserving."
Tops on his list was Bull Durham, the 1988 Kevin Costner flick that some consider to be the best sports movie ever made. Following dozens more phone calls and letters, and an agonizing wait until the end of MLB's 2008 season, Sanchez emerged with his first line of signature lumber—a Bull Durham line that launched his company Reel Bats in style. Slugger turned out four different models for the initial run: a Crash Davis, a Nuke LaLoosh, an Annie Savoy and one with the vintage "snorting bull" logo of the Durham Bulls. Each model has a limited run of 3,000, making the bats rare enough to be appealing collector's items.
Bats that tie in to The Natural (Wonderboy!) and Major League (Pedro Cerrano's voodoo special!) are up next as new contracts are inked. Sanchez says most bats will be a standard 32 inches, 32 ounces, but that one Hollywood mogul asked for a special model during preliminary talks. Billy Crystal, director of the Roger Maris bio 61*, likes the longer reach of the 34-incher.
"Absolutely," says Sanchez. "Anything he wants."
One of Sanchez's dream bats seems destined to remain an unrealized fantasy, however.
"One of the most famous uses of a Louisville Slugger in a film, to me, is that scene in The Untouchables," says Sanchez. "But I don't think we'll see the Al Capone bat any time soon."
Other silver screen tie-ins that are available at the right price:
Days of Thunder Chevy Lumina: Said to be one of three used in the filming of the Tom Cruise racin' movie. A nice memento of the time before Tom's meltdown and Nicole's facelift.
Lords of Dogtown—Heath Ledger Surfboard: The movie was mostly about skating, but this authentic prop reminds us that Peralta's gang also surfed. The Heath Ledger connection makes it expensive…and perhaps a little creepy.
Miami Sharks coach jacket: When it comes to Oliver Stone's football movie Any Given Sunday, this item is second only to the Dallas Knights helmets with the Eye of the Illuminati on them. Since we couldn't find any of those for sale, this is a pretty sweet consolation prize.
Glory Road basketball and uniform top: Sadly, the jersey is a promo item, and doesn't say Texas Western on it, but the ball has that nice, aged leather look to it.
Kenosha Comets Uniform: A must-have if you love the movie A League of their Own. Or, you know, if you're from Kenosha, yeah.
North Dallas Bulls helmet: Could this be the very brain-bucket that protected Nick Nolte's feathered hair in the 1979 film North Dallas Forty? The mind reels at the implications.
Permian Panther "Mojo" Sweatshirt: From Friday Night Lights. A sweet little reminder of the hamlet that would threaten a coach with untimely death should he fall short in the State Championships.
Got a collectible we just have to see? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.