Local bat maker swinging for the stars

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Making baseball bats is something Leland Wetzel, owner of Xylo Bats, calls a work of art.

The Burkburnett native made his first bat in 2012 and opened Xylo Bats two years later.

It all started with the idea of creating something for his nephew's birthday.

"I got with my grandpa who is a wood carver, and he hooked me up with a guy that does wood turning," said Wetzel. "I prayed to the Lord that he would give me a passion for it and he did. Since then we have just taken off with it."

Wetzel has now produced about 500 custom made baseball bats. Then in July, he and his brother-in-law, Ross Harrison, built the "Bat Barn."

Harrison said he really enjoys being apart of the business.

"It's worked out well for us," said Harrison.

Now, Xylo Bats is grabbing the attention of a Major League Baseball player.

"In March we heard from Joe Mauer, who is the first baseman for the Minnesota Twins," said Wetzel. "He was interested in using our bats this year."

However, Wetzel said they have to be MLB approved for players to use their bats in the big leagues. He adds they started the process to make this happen and are hoping to be ready to go by 2018.

More good news came to the Xylo Bat team on October 14, when Wetzel and his crew were recognized again by another group of entrepreneurs.

They were named finalists for the Chip Starter Contest. A competition ran by Chip Gaines, the star of HGTV's Fixer Upper.

Xylo Bats was one of six finalists to win the top prize of $25,000.

Wetzel said he was shocked by the news.

"I just put my hands over my head and started crying pretty hard," said Wetzel.

He said he plans on using the cash to help make his MLB certified dream come true.

The next step is recruiting MLB players to use Xylo Bats.

"Our goal is to get ten professional players on board, and then we want to get at least five MLB organizations on board to buy for their minor leagues," said Wetzel.

One thing Wetzel said he will never change, is staying true to his Texoma roots, adding he plans on keeping his business in Wichita Falls.

"We love the country life, and so the Xylo Barn is staying and we will be here forever," said Wetzel.

He credits the support of his family and the Lord for all of his success and is not stopping just yet.

He hopes that next year his team can make at least 2,000 bats.

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