U.S. Veteran Home-Based Woodturner Business Bats a Thousand

Juan Baret is a true inspiration not only in woodworking, but for the American dream.  Born in the Dominican Republic, Juan entered the U.S. at 9 years old and became a naturalized citizen when he was 21.  He has a very special appreciation for being a U.S. citizen.  He is thankful for his education, attaining his master’s degree in business administration and is also very proud to have enlisted in the U.S. Air Force supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom  Afghanistan campaigns, serving 9 years as a Staff Sergeant.  He continued his support as a civilian with 6 years currently in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for a total of 15 service years to date.

“There’s always a meaning for what I do”…Juan Baret

While growing up as a young boy in the Bronx of NYC, Juan loved the game of baseball, and is also an avid fan of the NY Yankees.  Juan’s dad would take him to just about all the games and spend many hours teaching him how to play the game, practicing and honing his baseball skills.  Today he extends that love into making baseball bats at his home in Woodbridge (Lakeridge) VA, turning them on his Nova 1624-44 Lathe with bed extension from Woodcraft of Springfield, VA.  Coming up with the idea in 2012, he started his home-based bat making business in his basement in 2013.

A self-taught woodturner of only 2-1/2 years, Juan started out with less quality tools, but soon learned that to do this professionally he would need some assistance and education which he found from Woodcraft.  Juan stated, “I’m happy now just to be able to do this.  I’ve learned to turn these bats using 2 roughing gouges, which I learned to sharpen using the Oneway Wolverine Sharpening Jig with my Rikon Slow Speed Grinder, thanks to Woodcraft.  I also use the small Easy Wood Tools Finisher for detailing the curves.”  

With my new drill press, and a 1-3/4″ cupping bit, I can create the hollowed end of the barrel.  This technique was first innovated by MLB Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, realizing  that if an ounce or less is removed from the bat’s total weight, it then has a better balance, especially when needing a heavier, higher density wood as a benefit when facing a pitcher who is throwing heat, and you’re in those sultry days of Summer, needing a fast swing speed to catch up to the pitch. Most players will request a cupped end for this reason.  Additionally the types of wood used to create the bats, include AshMaple, Yellow Birch, and something new on the horizon, American Beech, which also contributes to the density of the bat giving a different feel for the batter to choose from.

Juan also uses Woodcraft’s Transtint Dyes to create many different styles for his commissioned requests.

“Treat every player like a Major Leaguer”… Juan Baret

Juan believes that woodworking is a lot like baseball.  Give both the attention and respect they deserve.  Make an individual bat for an individual player.  Customize and style it for the specific player or customer.  Retail store bats can be inferior using cheaper materials and will not last as long.  Make it special because it’s all about the relationship, not just the money.  Juan talks to the players about how they hit, and what their needs are.  He thinks about the hitter when designing and making the bat, considering colors, styles and modifications to suite their needs.  Juan said, “Educate the user, and take care of the tools and products you have.  If your tool is a bat, clean it and keep it in a bag, not in the sun or heat of the car trunk, and not in the garage in the winter.  Wood bats expand and contract, dry out and are affected by mother nature. Like woodworking tools they also need maintenance.”

Juan’s main premise for his customer related business are founded on four principles.
1- Quality of straight grain wood
2- Handcraftsmanship
3- Product to customer knowledge
4- Acrylic Enamel Spray Seal Finish

Some other bat building considerations involve knowing how to “read the wood”, talking to the hitter about hand size, inside/outside hitter, size of barrel preference, bat speed, bat weight, and hitting location on the bat.  One example of finishing style that Juan likes to use is Flame Tempered Bats, where he takes a plumbers torch and adds burning designs very slowly as to not heat up the wood too quickly while the bat is still between lathe centers.

Juan’s 5-10 year goal is to have his bats used in Major League Baseball.  No stranger to baseball himself, Juan has the expertise on what the players need based on being a player in little league, junior varsity in high school, many Men’s Senior Baseball Leagues (MSBL), assistant coaching, being an umpire, and Juan’s favorite-Special Softball Olympics. 

Speaking of special, we would strike out if we didn’t include these last two home runs.  The first involves Juan creating a very special bat in memory of Army Specialist Sean R. Cutsforth.  Sean was assigned to the 187th Infantry Regiment, “The Rakkasans”, of Fort Campbell, KY and gave his life in the defense of our nation while in Afghanistan.  Cutsforth’s cousin Andrew Widiker, of Wisconsin commissioned Juan to create this special bat in his memorial honor.  Photo above right is Sean Cutsforth’s son Sean Jr.  The full story can be found in Juan Baret’s blog entitled, “Swinging for Sean.”

The second item is about Juan’s family.  Juan and his wife Darianella, are proud parents of three beautiful children, Gabriel, Alexis and Alexandra who are not only into playing baseball, but love to hang out with daddy and assist him in his woodshop.  Alexis and Alexandra paint the bats and Gabriel gets a big kick out of using the shop vac! Darianella assists Juan with all the social media to advertise Juan’s baseball bat business.  And of course, the kids have their own specialized baseball bats! Juan said, “I like to make it a family affair.”

Juan told us, “Being a disabled Vet, woodturning has proven to be very therapeutic after leaving the service.  If I could inspire just one person, then it makes it all worthwhile.”  He left us with a profound statement that I would like to share with you.  He asked of our Nation’s people, “Please be thankful and do not take for granted the freedoms you have and enjoy because men & women are sacrificing their lives to make sure we continue to have that freedom.”

If you would like to know more about Baret Bats or to place a commissioned order you may contact Juan directly at (808) 230-9904 or email baretsports@gmail.com.  Follow his Facebook and Instagram pages at www.facebook.com/BaretBats and www.Instagram.com/BaretBats.

Juan, thanks for all that you do, and we wish you the best in continuation of a perfect batting average in service to our country and woodworking too!

auf Wiedersehen!…Frank

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