A lot has changed for Pete Tucci the past seven years. There are no more late nights in his garage fine-tuning the craft of making baseball bats. Afternoons are now used promoting a continually maturing business rather than hovering over the whirling sounds of machines in his 10,000 square foot South Norwalk factory.
“I’m trying to surround myself with more business minded people,” Tucci said. “Change to more of a business minded operation. Look at our goals and where we are trying to head. I’m definitely a lot busier. My days are filled with meetings. Two years ago I will still making a lot of bats or engraving a lot of the bats. Now more of my time is spent outside of our office. Trying to grow brand. I’m on the road a lot.”
The results speak for themselves. Tucci Lumber last year was fourth out of 36 companies in bat sales, according to Tucci. About 130 major league players use his bats, and that accounts for just one-third of the company’s business. Troy Tulowitzki and Pablo Sandoval are among the regular clients. Bryce Harper has used a Tucci Lumber bat. Most of the Texas Rangers’ starting lineup promote the company logo in the batter’s box.
And Tucci has just started selling gloves. Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Curtis uses one. As the company line expands, Tucci follows the same model that has made his bats successful.
“My thought process has always been your first impression is what you are going to remember so I want to come out with the highest quality first and then scale back and hit more markets at different price points,” he said. “We started on the gloves two years ago. We are going slow and easy, we want them to be as high a quality as the bats. The gloves we came out with are pretty much major league quality. Now that we have the product to where we want it we will start marketing it more aggressively. We know the gloves are expensive but you are getting the highest quality glove there is 0n the market.”
Tucci Lumber is the outgrowth of the former Norwalk High School star’s success in the sport, and the injury that curtailed his career.
Tucci, a 1993 Norwalk graduate, was one of the best players to come out of the FCIAC, earning a scholarship to Providence and, in 1996, getting drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He reached Double A ball and finished with 84 home runs and 384 RBIs in six seasons. But a hand injury in 2002 ended his dream.
Tucci now spends a lot of time in ballparks, just not in the role he once envisioned.
“Routinely whenever a team comes into New York I will go in and see them at least once,” Tucci said. “We pretty much have a player on every team so I will go in and meet with the player, make sure everything is to his liking and make sure we’re providing them with not only the best quality product but the highest customer service as well. It has helped not only to keep that player, but players talk and if they mention the product to somebody else then we pick up another one, two or three players in that lineup.”
Geography for Tucci is an equalizer to the cost advantage of his competition.
“At least two days a week I will be at the ballpark, whether it be Boston, New York or Philadelphia, sometimes Washington, sometimes Baltimore,” Tucci said. “The location of our main factory gives me that ability to service our major league clients. A lot of other bat companies are in a better location in terms of cost of doing business. They are in a cheaper location or area, whether it be Louisville, Kentucky, or Baton Rogue, Louisiana, where the cost of doing business is a lot cheaper than Norwalk, Connecticut, but at the same time it gives me the ability as CEO of the company to be able to see our players four, five or six times a year.”
Tucci said the notion of being a traditional salesman to professional players would be inaccurate.
“There’s not as much pitch,” Tucci said. “Some education; some would be surprised what makes a good major league bat. If a guy insists on a certain model we think we can make better, we are going to give him what he wants even though we have an opinion on how we can make it slightly better. Most interactions with the players are very quick. You don’t have a lot of time.”
Tucci Lumber still churns out about 120 bats a day and 20,000 annually, but Tucci said he ultimately has grander goals for his company.
“We have big plans for expansion, bring in more capital to really relaunch our brand,” he said. “Reintroduce the gloves in a more grand kind of scale, plans to come out with our own apparel and grow the brand we have created and transcend the bat business. Under Armour started out with football and now transcends every sport there is. I don’t know if we will ever get to that point, but I would like to transcend just the art of hitting and making bats and expand into other sports.”
For now, Tucci said the thrill of seeing players use his product remains strong.
“The very first year was surreal; I can’t believe this is happening,” Tucci said. “Once we got over that first shock, six months making bats in a garage, and now major league players have been using them since that second year, you get that same kind of elated feeling seeing players have success with our bats.”