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Batman and Batwoman

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BASEBALL HAS CHANGED SINCE Babe Ruth pigeon-toed around the bases in his baggy uniform. But amid formfitting double knits, designated hitters, and mascots dressed as chickens, there’s one thing the Bambino would recognize: the old-fashioned wooden bat that still holds sway in the majors. For a small but discriminating group of hitters, the bat of choice is firmly rooted in baseball’s simpler days. It’s handmade, by a mom-and-pop company, and it’s called the KC Slammer.

Of the 14 companies that supply bats to the major and minor leagues, KC Slammer has the smallest market share—no more than 40 major-league players use the bats, which cost from $39.95 to $49.95. But Jon and Kay Moyer, the long-haul truckers who started the company in their Kansas City (Kans.) home five years ago, aren’t crying foul. “The last thing we intended was to start a bat company,” says Kay Moyer, 38. “We were just doing a favor for a friend.”

The friend coached in an amateur senior-men’s league, and his players’ bats weren’t holding up. Jon Moyer, 42, who had worked for two furniture companies and knew about wood, researched the problem and in 1991 made a prototype on his workbench.

The bats, which not only lasted longer but seemed to deliver more power than standard bats, were an instant hit. The Moyers, who first made them part-time, had given up trucking by 1993, around the time their first major-league customer, David Segui, now with the Expos, heard about the bats from a friend. Says Segui: “They last twice as long as any bat I’ve ever tried, and I get more carry.” Last year, after such long-ball artists as Wally Joyner, then of the Royals, and Bobby Bonilla of the Orioles switched to KC, the Moyers expanded their operation to a 5,000-square-foot factory. While Louis-ville Slugger turns out a million bats a year in eight automated plants, the Moyers and their 13 employees, six of them in sales, are content to make 10,000—9 of 10 painstakingly tooled to a player’s specifications. Jon does most of the factory work, and Kay handles the books and the publicity while also batting cleanup. “I still sweep the floor every night,” she says.