By Andrew Sorensen
The Rawlings Bat company is as American as the game the bats are made for.
Adirondack plant manager Ron VanderGroef said, "Well the plant for making wood bats has been here since about 1948. And now we make about 350,000 bats per year."
But as VanderGroef gave a tour to local dignitaries and Congressman Bill Owens, it was that American institution at stake.
"One of the things we're trying to do is see what's going on, see how we can help bring new businesses and make sure that the businesses that are here get the things they need to stay here and prosper," Owens said.
The other business Owens toured Tuesday knows exactly what he's talking about.
Owens says Minnetonka Moccasins, which use Sunderland Leather from Gloversville, have seen their own products mysteriously coming in from China.
"That is a very serious problem. So they'll take a bat like this and they will literally copy it and make it look like a Rawlings bat, when in fact, it's not," Owens said.
Because they control the natural resources that go into this bat, that kind of counterfeiting isn't as much of a problem for Rawlings. But they say the economic issues with China could still hit them pretty hard.
"With the wood bats, we do have some bats that are made in China," said VanderGroef.
The price of those lower end bats can be affected by artificially low Chinese currency, making them competitive with U.S. plants.
"With a higher volume of bats, we could actually be more competitive," VanderGroef said.
"And that's a very important part of the process of defeating what the Chinese have done to us over the years, which is essentially driving down product costs, which takes American jobs," Owens said.
Owens said a number of efforts have been introduced to restore fair competition, including protecting intellectual property, but not much has happened so far.
Owens was also scheduled to tour a new local walking trail in Herkimer County.
That part of this rare trip to the southern part of his district was rained out.