Baseball has been a part of Tom Gandolph’s life since Day 1.
The third of Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer Dave Gandolph and wife Ann’s four children (following Dave Jr. and Dan and before Jennifer), Tom played at what is now known as Center Grove Youth Baseball in Greenwood and later played for his father at Center Grove High School, graduating in 1995, and then at NCAA Division II Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., graduating in 1999.
He was on a 15-year-old team that went to the World Series in Kissimmee, Fla., and played varsity ball in the junior and senior years of high school and college.
Gandolph was a shortstop and pitcher at Center Grove, but was used only as a moundsman in varsity games by SJC head coach Mike Moyzis.
There was also a 13-year run in what was once called the Indianapolis Amateur Baseball League before Gandolph put baseball on the back burner.
A woodworking hobby became Smokey’s Wood Shop — a one-man operation run out of Gandolph’s garage in Bargersville, Ind., which is near Greenwood in Johnson County.
He made some wooden American flags and they were well-received.
Suddenly, the 43-year-old full-time firefighter had a side gig — and a fun one at that.
With son Tanner (who is 6) starting to play in the CGYB, Tom was drawn back to baseball and decided to branch out and added Gandolph Bats as a division of Smokey’s in the latter part of 2020.
“I saw bat-making wood lathe videos,” says Gandolph, who promotes his businesses on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “I’ve been turning a lot of bats since October. Gandolph bats has been keeping me busy.
“I’ve gotten good feedback from friends and travel ball players. They say they’ve got really good pop and weight distribution.”
Counting display, game and fungo bats, Gandolph has produced about 75 so far and currently has orders for the next 15.
Just last week, Gandolph made plans to upgrade to an auto-lathe so he can increase his volume.
Right now, he might be able to turn seven bats from the time he gets off work and the time he picks up 6-year-old Tanner from school.
Gandolph Bats are made of Maple — a hardwood that is just a little more expensive that Ash. He is also interested in making clubs from Birch.
Now back in the baseball world, Gandolph is learning about the many travel ball teams and training facilities around central Indiana.
Good friend Jason Taulman, a SJC teammate, runs the Indy Sharks. When Saint Joseph’s shuttered after the 2017, Gil Hodges Field went to seed. Gandolph, Taulman and other friends of the Pumas, worked to rehabilitate the field and travel ball games have been played there.
Rick O’Dette, who played at SJC and was later head coach, is also a 1999 graduate of the school.
In 2014, former Logansport High School baseball players Young (Class of 1991) and Stephens (Class of 1993) joined forces to form an LLC.
Young is the bat maker. Stephens handles the business side of things.
The company grew and TItan moved to a 5,000-square foot building at 2135 Stoney Pike off U.S. 35 in March 2020.
The facility allows room for a semi-automatic copy lathe as well as new ultra-accurate MotionCat CNC machine and other necessary equipment.
“It allows us to keep up with the demand,” says Stephens. “The cupping machine allows us to take (up to) 6/10 of an ounce off a bat.”
There’s a place still tool bats by hand.
“On a good day, that’s a four-hour process,” says Young.
There’s an area for dipping bats in lacquer, painting them and applying logos.
The end of one room is devoted to the storing and caring of precious cargo.
It’s the wood that sets Titan apart. The company only uses Prime billets of ash, maple and cedar with 7- to 10-percent moisture content to turn a bat. In the wood industry, there’s Choice, Select and Prime and they all come with different price points.
“The billets are the best you can get on the market,” says Stephens, who lettered at Indiana State University in 1996 and 1997. “We could certainly buy cheaper.”
But Titan is making boutique hand-crafted baseball bats.
“We’re focused on quality,” says Stephens. “When makes us unique is that you can’t just buy wood from anywhere. We use wood that’s wedge-split that’s true to the slope of the grain.
“The wood can be too dry or too wet, which means it’s green inside and heavy. You have to have a specific bullet for a specific model.”
Titan is currently producing up to 30 models.
“We have a lot of repeat customers,” says Young. “We stick with Prime (wood) even for youth.”
Those loyal customers come back for the sound of a ball struck by a Titan.
“It stands out,” says Young.
There’s a reason the product carries that name.
Before thinking about going into business, former Logansport Church of Christ preacher Young was having a discussion with wife Tracey.
They came across the definition of Titan, which is a standout, powerful person.
“To me, that means the Lord,” says Young’
There’s sign in the shop letting visitors know that Titan is a “Kingdom Business” and cites Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”