Homegrown High-End Bats

A CURRENT SENIOR AT STONEHILL College, Jeremiah Vargas ’16 is busy—he’s finishing up his finance degree, captaining Stonehill’s baseball team, and working diligently for Tater Bats, a baseball bat and accessories company he cofounded with his father and brother in 2015.

Vargas and his brother, Freddie, Jr., at the Tater Bats shop in Waterbury, Connecticut, with some ex-Stonehill College teamma

Vargas (far right) and his brother, Freddie, Jr., at the Tater Bats shop in Waterbury, Connecticut, with some ex-Stonehill College teammates of Jeremiah’s and their father; pictured are Sal Gozzo, who plays professionally for the Phillies; Paul Gozzo, who plays for UConn; and their father, Mauro (“Goose”) Gozzo, who played in the MLB for several years.

Tater Bats was born of the Vargas family’s genuine love of baseball, and the company has come a long way since its inception. What started in a backyard shed four years ago has become a 3,500-square-foot workshop and storefront in Waterbury, Connecticut, Vargas’s hometown. In addition to custom wooden baseball bats, Tater now produces and sells batting gloves, fielding gloves, and other baseball gear to players all over the country, including Major League professionals.

“We had 12 Major League guys using our bats last year, and that number is on the rise,” explains Vargas. “Tater has been licensed by the MLB for two years now; we’re currently going into our third season.”

Major League players aside, several hundred professional players—in the minor and independent leagues—bat with Tater. This creates ample work for Vargas, his father Freddie, and his older brother, Freddie, Jr., who all work or study full time outside of Tater Bats.

“My dad is the one leading production,” Vargas shares. “The workshop is in the back of the store, and that’s where he cuts and sands the bats. A family friend does the painting, and my brother and I focus on the rest—financials, customer service, fulfilling orders, and developing new products. My mom helps out a lot, too.”

Clearly, family is a huge part of Tater Bats’ ethos. In addition to an uncompromised focus on crafting high-end bats, Tater prides itself on being a family company, through and through.

“Being a family business, we treat all of our players as we would family, and that goes a long way,” Vargas says. “It’s an attitude my dad instilled in my brother and me from the very beginning.”

Players who bat with Tater praise the company for its superior quality bats, which are each handmade from premium woods including maple, birch, and ash, and are all fully customized. The production time for a single bat—from cutting to sanding to painting to engraving— is between seven and 10 days.

Freddie, Sr. got the idea to start Tater Bats—named after the slang term for a home run—after producing a training bat with Darren Bragg, a Waterbury native who played for the Yankees and Red Sox. At the time, Vargas was an upper mid at Taft and a star player on the baseball team, which quickly began batting with Tater.

Vargas in action for Stonehill College, where he is team captain. STONEHILL ATHLETICS

Vargas in action for Stonehill College, where he is team captain. STONEHILL ATHLETICS

Today, Vargas proudly uses his company’s bats at Stonehill, where he is a pitcher, infielder, and captain of his team. And though he’s determined and excited to pursue a career in finance post-graduation, Vargas plans to keep working for Tater Bats on the side, as he has throughout college.

“My family and I are working on continuing to build Tater into a bigger brand,” he emphasizes. “Freddie, Jr. and I have always talked about going full time with the company one day, when and if that becomes possible. This year will be a big year for us in determining the potential for Tater’s growth.”

Given their other full-time commitments, running and growing Tater Bats is a lot of late-night and weekend work for the Vargas men. But they do it for the love of the game, and that passion— and dedication to creating the highest-quality bats—has proven instrumental to the company’s success.

“Everything is through word of mouth,” Vargas says. “And our players are very loyal to us. That’s how Tater is expanding.”

—Carola Lovering Crane ’07