October 22, 2021

Two former Cortland area residents swing for the fences

Gary Malec, founder of Birdman Bats, handcrafts a bat.

Photo provided by Birdman Bats

Gary Malec, founder of Birdman Bats, handcrafts a bat.

SAN FRANCISCO — Dreams of starting a businesses from scratch run rampant through California, as companies like Apple and Facebook have proven success can be born in a garage.

Matt Tucci, originally of Ithaca, and Nick Geisler, originally of Groton, have jumped on board the start-up trend by becoming cofounders of Birdman Bats — a small company in San Francisco, founded by Gary Malec, which makes baseball bats out of birch wood.

Tucci and Geisler began investing their time with the company about three months ago, after moving to San Francisco two years ago, but baseball was not what brought them to the West Coast.

The two friends, who knew each other from attending Lansing High School together, had a passion for making movies and when they graduated from college a few years ago they decided they wanted to make their own movie, Geisler said. They shot a short black and white horror movie, which got accepted into a film festival, Tucci said.

The positive response and quick success of their movie further fueled their movie making passion and they both decided their next move should be to the oasis of movie making — California — Tucci said.

While they searched for a career in the movie industry, Tucci said he also began searching for a band to play with, as he played drums in his spare time. He came across a post online, by Malec, searching for a new drummer and immediately responded. The two began communicating and realized they all shared similar passions, Tucci said.

Malec was a baseball player his whole life until a few years ago he broke his knee and could not play any more, Geisler said. For fun, in his spare time, Malec would make baseball bats on an old wood lathe he had in his garage and one day, five years ago, decided to make a special one for his brother, Mark, who still played baseball.

He made a bat out of birch wood, found a sketch his brother had made — the current Birdman logo — made a sticker of it, put it on the bat and gave it to his brother. Later that year, his brother went on to win the Junior College National Championship with the bat. And from there Malec was inspired to turn his hobby into a company, already selling bats to Major League Baseball player Manny Ramirez and many minor league players, Geisler said.

It was that story, and Malec’s overwhelming passion, which helped Tucci and Geisler join the company.

“It (the story) helped inspire me to be a part of something successful,” Geisler said.

“We were inspired to be as passionate as he is with as much precision,” Tucci said.

There are seven members — each considered a founder — of the Birdman Bat company, including Tucci, Geisler and Malec. Each have their own responsibility. Geisler handles the sales and graphic design portion of the business, as Tucci handles the marketing and social media side.

The company, however, is not yet a full-time business. Everyone on the team has a full-time job away from Birdman Bats. Geisler is a writer for wikiHow.com, and Tucci is a freelance web developer.

But plans are in motion to turn Birdman Bats into a full-time company, out of Malec’s garage, as sales steadily increase.

The lathe Malec had been using broke, which Geisler said turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“With the lathe breaking, it pushed up looking into purchasing a professional one and moving into a bigger space,” Geisler said.

Malec started a Kickstarter page to help raise funding for the new endeavors, which Geisler said raised more than $1,000 in less than a day after being created. Their goal is to raise $25,000. But even if they don’t succeed in doing so, Tucci said they have plans in place to reach their overall goal, and the Kickstarter will at least act as a good advertising tool.

Cofounding a baseball bat company is far from making movies, but both Tucci and Geisler said they are enjoying what they are doing and are passionate about making Birdman Bats a success.

“It’s a dream come true for us,” Geisler said.