As a shop of experienced craftsmen, Abbey Woodworking is able take on a wide variety of projects: everything from chairs, to doors, to beds, to baseball bats. Yes, even baseball bats! We recently uncovered a newspaper article which features Br. Hubert Schneider O.S.B. and Abbey Woodworking’s time as a bat factory for Johnnie baseball. Below you will find the article from the Saint Cloud Daily Times, dated May 18, 1945. Enjoy!
Look! A Baseball Bat Factory!
Right at St. John’s University
Baseball bats this spring have come to be regarded as prized possessions – at least in the Northwest – because the big leagues and the armed forces have first call on the entire output of such famous bat factories as the one at Louisville where the “sluggers” are made.
Many high school and amateur teams in this area are struggling along with just a few bats and at one time at least one school considered cancelling its baseball program because of a lack of this equipment.
But out at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, there is no shortage of bats because Brother Hubert, cabinet maker of the institution, knows how to make them and has the material.
He has learned how to do it this spring – although he has had plenty of experience with other forms of woodworking in the St. John’s carpenter shop over a period of 15 years. (In that span of time he has manufactured a lot of beautiful hardwood furniture for the school and if you don’t believe it go out and look some time.)
White Ash Used
For baseball purposes Brother Hubert selects white ash, grown on the Saint John’s land adjacent to the college, being careful to choose pieces without knots and with the grain just as straight as it can be found. The college has a quantity of hardwood seasoning at all times for use in making school and church furniture and farm machinery. And the wood going into the baseball bats is at least six years old.
The only difference, says Brother Hubert, between the wood in his bats and that in the professional models is that his wood is seasoned in the open air while the “big time” factories use a dry-kiln process.
It takes him about two hours to find a piece of wood, rip it to size, turn it down, dress it with oil, get the SJU trademark burned in by Brother Stephen in the college blacksmith shop and give it to the team to start counting the built-in base knocks.
And when the Johnnie fans yell “Get a wagon tongue!” at their batsmen, they aren’t kidding – much – because some of those bats they use were originally intended to become part of the poles of St. John’s farm wagons.
Below are a few photos of the various sawmills at Saint John’s. The photos date from the 1910s to the 1930s. For those with a discerning eye, in the background of the first photo you will notice the current woodshed and woodshop.