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Rollins' hitting streak got boost from Minnesota

When Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies hit safely in his first two games of the 2006 major league baseball season, it extended his hitting streak to 38 straight games.

It also brought a smile to the faces of the employees of MAX Bat, a wood bat company located in Brooten.

When Rollins appeared in a recent Sports Illustrated story about his hitting streak that began last season, the photo clearly shows the MAX Bat label engraved on the barrel.

"It made us all feel pretty good," said Paul Johnson, vice president/production manager of MAX Bat. "We wished the streak would have kept going, but it might help our business anyway if other players find out what bat he used."

Rollins' hitting streak, which stopped at 38, was just six behind the National League record and 18 behind Joe DiMaggio's all-time record set in 1941.

Currently, over 100 major league players use MAX Bat, although many of them use more than one brand of bat. Baltimore Orioles All-Star infielders Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts, for example, exclusively use MAX Bat. Torii Hunter is one of several Twins who use MAX Bat on occasion.

Sometimes, the company even has to assist the enemy.

When the Twins played the New York Yankees in a recent weekend series, Johnson made the trek east to Minneapolis to meet with Gary Sheffield to go over exactly how the Yankees slugger wanted his bat made.

MAX Bat is a division of Glacial Wood Products, the largest wood-turning company in the United States, also located in Brooten.

Richard Johnson, Paul's father, is the president of MAX Bat and Jim Anderson, the founder of the company, is vice president/director of sales and is based in Minneapolis.

MAX Bat are genuinely made of maple, which is rapidly becoming the wood of choice among major leaguers.

"Maple is a lot stronger and lasts longer than ash," said Paul Johnson. "We will make ash bats if requested. Torii Hunter like an ash bat because he feels there is more spring to the wood.

But ash gets weaker with more use and maple actually gets stronger as the wood condenses with each hit."

MAX Bat is growing in popularity among all levels with one of the contributing factors being amateur baseball teams went to wood bats in 2002, the same year Glacial Wood Products began making bats.

Currently, Louisville Slugger is the top-selling wood bat among professional players. Rawlings is second. Johnson estimates that his company is currently fifth or sixth among wood bat companies.

MAX Bats can be designed by length, model, color and weight. The product starts out with a three-inch block of white hard maple. Using a computer disc, a machine then cuts the wood to the desired specifications. The bat is then placed in a second machine to be sanded until the desired weight is met.

The labels is laser-cut into the bat and the final touches are done at another location in Brooten.

When a major league baseball game is on television, most fans marvel at an excellent fielding play, a timely hit, a long home run or a precision pitch. Paul Johnson watches for another reasons.

"I enjoy the game, too," said Paul Johnson. "But I also watch to see who is using our bat."

Johnson has always been a fan of baseball. And his favorite player is Hunter. When he and his wife, Paula, had twin sons in late 2003, they named one Torii and the other Hunter.

Probably because Mientkiewicz and Pierzynski were a little harder to spell.