Gerardo was released from prison on December 17, 2014. We visited Havana in January 2015 to finally meet him face to face. Before our visit we talked a lot about baseball bats and I asked if they were made in Cuba? Turns out that Cuba had been making wooden bats in a factory in Havana since the 60's. Gerardo arranged a visit which gave us a chance to see what they were making and the equipment they were using. It wasn't hard to see that we could help. Cubacan 2020 was born. Why Cubacan 2020? Our intention from the beginning was to help Cuba produce world class baseball bats and have them ready for the Cuban team when they reached the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Thus began a long 2 year journey where we learned a lot about making professional baseball bats.
Maple is the preferred choice for professional baseball bats. In Cuba, the options are limited. Pictured above is Mahawa which is available in limited quantities. When we visited, this was the only wood they had. We learned that they mainly used maple when they could get it. Questions, where do you get maple and how much do you pay? They bought maple from Mexico. Maple doesn't grow in Mexico?? This low quality maple was costing them $30.00 per bat or roughly $240,000 for 8,000 bats. The very first thing we did was find a Canadian company which would supply high quality maple for a third of that price. A container with enough wood to make 8,000 bats cost $80,000. Better wood, better price. By the way, this was typical of what Cuba deals with every day because of the embargo.
The bat factory was started in the early 60's. Cuba purchased a complete set of used equipment. In the 50 years since, the equipment was failing. Our goal was to replace some of the key pieces of equipment, such as lathes and saws.
One item was a real challenge. The duplicator pictued above was originally used for making axe handles. We brought one set of cutters with us and had a new set made by a friend. We also found someone who could sharpen them. I found a similar machine in Ireland that was still in use. We made an effort to find the owner, without success, but was able to talk to him by email.
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