Democrat Amy McGrath, a 44-year-old retired Marine combat pilot, has officially filed her candidate papers to challenge Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November's election.
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OLIVE HILL, Ky. -- It had the trappings of a scene from The Natural. A hand-crafted bat made from scratch for Tim Johnson’s son J.T.’s summer season in the North Carolina North State League, showcase for college baseball players with big league dreams.
It wasn’t “Wonderboy” made for Roy Hobbs from a tree split by lightning. But it lickety-split earned the reputation of whim-wham lumber from J.T.’s Piedmont Whitetails’ teammates, including the winner of the league’s 2019 home run derby.
From there, word of mouth spread so fast that Tim Johnson’s woodworking hobby moved to the early stage of a budding bat production company, making customized and model bats for baseball and softball players of all ages.
Located in the northeast Kentucky hamlet of Olive Hill, the informally named Big Johnson Bat Company includes marketing maven Madison, Johnson’s niece and a softball player at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. She sells Johnson bats like they were hotcakes cooked in pork fat.
“I had to tell her to quit,” said the 54-year-old Johnson. “I couldn’t make them as fast as she sold them.”
With the assistance of his brother Shawn, Johnson fastidiously lathes blank cylindrical billets of ash or maple into sanded, customized bats, each taking three to four hours. Duplicates of non-customized bats take 20 minutes on a duplicator, a machine designed to ensure the legs on a chair are identical.
Customized bats are made to a hitter’s preferred length, weight and sweet spot. A wood-burning pen brands the barrel, then Johnson hand rubs each bat with seven or eight coasts of lacquer, a task performed in the bathroom of the family home because there’s too much humidity and dust in his workshop.
Johnson’s “plant” is his 576-square-foot garage, jammed with various machines, prototypes, raw wood, tool chests and a refrigerator for drinks in one corner. To cross the sawdust blanketed workspace, you carefully set your foot with each step.
Making bats is Johnson’s night job. During the day he’s an administrator for three area vocational schools, meaning he starts his bat-making around 4 p.m. He normally turns out two customized bats before calling it a night, though he’s made as many as five hand-turned bats in one very long night, an experience he doesn’t plan to repeat.
Johnson works on and off during the week, unless “Madison goes back to a selling rampage, then it’ll be every night.”
The Johnson customized bat sells for $125. Madison-designed bats for training, with an enlarged sweet spot, go for $75. One-handed bats cost $50. Johnson also makes long, lightweight fungo bats for hitting practice balls to fielders.
The Johnson brothers learned wood working at a young age, assisting their father, who owned a used furniture store that included refinished antiques. They also played baseball in high school and college before taking up successful high school coaching careers. That background has been helpful in bat production, said Tim Johnson.
“I know what a bat needs to feel like,” he said, “if it needs to be balanced or end-loaded, how thick or thin a handle needs to be, if you need a cupped end, a smaller taper on the barrel or a longer barrel, and what type of wood has the qualities that would be most productive with each particular swing.”
Johnson never thought his bat hobby would go this far. Yet he plans to retire from his school administrator’s position sometime next year, then decide whether to make bats for a living -- with the help of his brother Shawn, son J.T. and niece Madison.
They already have a tee-shirt slogan, “Swinging hard wood.” Now all they need is a natural like Roy Hobbs to popularize the power of the Johnson bat.
Zach Klemme, sports writer for the Ashland, Ky., Daily Independent provided details for this story.
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GREENVILLE, Texas – Two men who died when a gunman opened fire at a crowded weekend party facility were identified Monday as Kevin Berry, Jr., 23, of Dallas, and Byron Craven, Jr., also 23, of Arlington, a Dallas suburb.
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ENID, Okla. – Garfield County in northern Oklahoma has agreed to pay $12.5 million to the estate of a county jail inmate who was restrained in a chair for more than 55 hours before he died from medical neglect.
DANVILLE, Pa. - The parents of one of three infants who died from a waterborne bacteria outbreak at Geisinger Medical Center last month have hired an attorney to investigate their child's death and prepare a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital.
NORMAN — Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown’s sack of Sam Ehlinger resulted in a safety during last year’s Big 12 title game, and arguably became OU’s best defensive highlight of last season.
STATE COLLEGE, Penn. -- An elderly Penn State grad’s letter to the football team’s black captain describing his dreadlocks as “disgusting” has touched off a social media firestorm and national media attention over the message’s racial overtones.
PALESTINE, Tex. -- With more than 100 jail deaths a year, Texas leads the nation, and probably accounts for more than 10 percent of the U.S. total of in-custody
BOSTON – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker Tuesday declared vaping a statewide public health emergency and ordered a four-month ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping supplies, including those used to smoke marijuana.
McALESTER, Okla. – Prosecutors have elevated to terrorism the criminal complaints against the former McAlester High School student accused of threatening a mass shooting with her newly acquired AK-47.
BOSTON -- Star wide receiver Antonio Brown’s career with the New England Patriots ended Friday, 11 days and 1 game after he joined the team.
McALESTER, Okla. -- The teen waitress at a pizza restaurant who boasted to a co-worker and friends about her new AK-47 rifle was arrested Monday for what police said was threatening to “shoot 400 people for fun” at the high school.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Johnson & Johnson's appeal of the $572.1 million verdict for its role in Oklahoma's opioid crisis will assert the trial judge wrongly applied the state's public nuisance law.
NORMAN, OKLA. — A New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company caused an Oklahoma opioid crisis that led to thousands of deaths, and must pay $572.1 million to fix it, a Cleveland County, Oklahoma, district judge ruled Monday.
CLEBURNE, Tex. – A 35-year-old Texan wanted for the sexual assault of two small children pulled into the sheriff’s parking lot here Wednesday afternoon, then fatally shot himself in the head as deputies approached to arrest him.
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ASHLAND, Ky. -- Boyd County and its insurance carrier have reached a $1.75 million civil settlement with the estate of an inmate who state prosecutors said died at the county jail of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma caused by corrections officers.
LONDONDERRY, N.H. – Police pulled over a New Hampshire driver with an air conditioner jutting from his car’s rear right window and the generator powering it atop the roof -- but not for the reason you might think.
ELKHART, Ind. – Three people were shot dead and a fourth seriously injured Wednesday morning at an apartment complex in this northern Indiana city. Elkhart police said the gunman was among the dead.
BECKLEY, W. Va. – The helicopter carrying billionaire philanthropist Chris Cline, his daughter and five others slammed into the ocean off Cline’s private island in the Bahamas one minute after liftoff on July Fourth. All seven aboard died.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Hailed as a victory for cats, a statewide ban took effect in New York Monday banning veterinarians from declawing pet felines no matter the frustration of owners with scratched and destroyed furniture.
This Week's Circulars
Exeter, NH - Janet H. Morse, 87, of Exeter, NH formerly of Newburyport, Mass., died peacefully at Langdon Place of Exeter on January 7, 2020. Janet was born July 26, 1932 in Newburyport, daughter of the late Walter E. Milner and Mary (Gallant) Milner. She loved working at home and tending to…
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