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Gov. Rauner visits Ridgway's Dinger Bats

  • Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner inspects a bat created by lathe operator Matt Hopson (left) during a visit to Dinger Bats in Ridgway on Thursday.  Rauner tool the unfinished bat with him.  "I'm just going to set this in my office," he said.

    Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner inspects a bat created by lathe operator Matt Hopson (left) during a visit to Dinger Bats in Ridgway on Thursday. Rauner tool the unfinished bat with him. "I'm just going to set this in my office," he said.
    Holly Kee photo

  • From left, Ridgway Mayor Rebecca Mitchell, Randy Drone, Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Kyle Drone pose for a photo in front of stacks of maple that will become Dinger bats.

    From left, Ridgway Mayor Rebecca Mitchell, Randy Drone, Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Kyle Drone pose for a photo in front of stacks of maple that will become Dinger bats.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Kyle Drone, one of the owners, explains the plant operations to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who visited the small business during an economic tour.  "This is the foundation of our economic prosperity," said Rauner.  "It's important to help small business grow."

    Kyle Drone, one of the owners, explains the plant operations to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who visited the small business during an economic tour. "This is the foundation of our economic prosperity," said Rauner. "It's important to help small business grow."
    Holly Kee photo

 
updated: 12/22/2017 1:03 PM

Kyle Drone's dream of putting his small hometown of Ridgway on the map has certainly come true in 2017.

It's been a banner year for Dinger Bats, owned by Kyle and his dad, Randy, as far as media attention is concerned. In August, the pair were chosen as Grand Marshals for the Twilight Parade that kicks off the Du Quoin State Fair.

Last Thursday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner visited the business as part of an economic tour of southern Illinois.

"This place is every boy's dream," said Rauner with a grin as he looked at the stacks of bats being readied for use by professional ballplayers. "How could you not love working here?"

For the past 15 years, Dinger Bats has produced handcrafted bats for sluggers ranging from college players to MLB World Series winner. They are the sole provider of bats for the Southern Illinois Miners, as well.

Dinger Bats, which Kyle says has grown by "80 to 100 percent" over the past five years, now provides bats for a number of MLB players including Jason Heyward of the Cubs, Starling Marte and Sean Rodriquez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Matt Adams of the Atlanta Braves.

From its humble beginnings, Kyle said he hopes to top 45,000 bats this year. Those bats will come from a staff that includes him, his dad, seven full-time workers, three part-time summer employees and one marketing specialist.

Kyle and Randy also give back to the community, providing equipment and funding to community baseball teams. They hold auctions on their eBay page of various items, many donated by their clients.

Montreal Expos player Brad Wilkerson was the first Major League player to use a Dinger.

"When the team moved to Washington and became the Nationals, Brad got the first single in Nationals' history with one of our bats," said Kyle.

"You guys made the bat Kyle Schwarber used in the Chicago Cubs' World Series winning season," said Rauner. "It doesn't get much cooler Thant that."

Dinger bats earned a place in history during last year's World Series when Schwarber rejoined the team for the series after being out a major portion of the season due to an injury.

"He hit .417 for the series," said Kyle, "all with our bats."

Rauner said it's his game plan to help the company hit even more home runs.

"You've managed to remain a family-owned business, manufacturing high-quality, American-made maple baseball bats that are now sold in Mexico, Europe, Korea, Taiwan and Australia," he said. "By cutting taxes and getting government out of the way, Dinger Bats and companies all over Illinois can grow faster and create more good, high-paying jobs."