Sometimes in life, the things you dream of accomplishing turn out a bit different than you imagined.
Will Taylor dreamed of hitting baseballs for a living.
“I can hit pretty far, but I hit baseballs for a living,” Will said.
No, you won’t find him on a Major League roster. These days, you’ll find him at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend, hitting moon shots to post on his Baseball Bat Bros YouTube channel. Hundreds of thousands — and sometimes millions of people are watching.
“Between all of our platforms, I think we might be up to 2 million total followers. YouTube alone, we’re at about 500,000 subscribers,” Will said.
Sitting on stools under the lights at Genna Stadium, we went searching for the story behind the runaway YouTube success.
It’s a love story — the love of baseball.
“All I ever wanted to be was a professional baseball player, to the point where I didn’t really explore other career paths,” Will said.
That started with little league in Bend.
“I played Double-A here for the Bend North Little League for the Devil Rays,” Will said. “Shout out to my old teammates.”
Will continued in high school in Portland and on to college at the University of Utah.
“Had a decent little career. I actually batted 1.000 in my two short at-bats, fun fact, Will said. “But I mostly rode the pine. I was a pretty good ball player, but I played three years then hung it up.”
The Major League dream faded into a day job. But the love of the game never dimmed.
“When I came back from school, my brother, who is eight years younger than me — I started coaching him when I was done playing, trying to develop him. Hopefully, he can become a college baseball player one day, so we hit batting practice every single day,” Will said.
Younger brother John – better known as J.T. To Baseball Bat Bros fans — is in several of the videos.
As Will talks about John, his smile gets a little brighter.
“My brother is the co-founder and he would be involved in every single shoot. But he’s a college ballplayer, he might even play pro ball,” Will said. “He plays at the University of Louisiana right now. He’s a senior, so he’s still ballin’. He’s an active player right now. He’s super, super good.”
In 2018, the bros hopped a fence and busted out a phone.
“We just thought it would be so fun to make a video comparing two similar bats against each other, just for our personal. We’d just get a kick out of it. So it’s just me and my bother palling around,” Will said.
And their first video got such a huge reaction, an idea popped.
“At that point, the lightbulb went off. And it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. We just discovered a niche.’ Nobody is doing this. We can actually contribute something to the baseball community. We can actually be the people that do this,” Will said.
The market is huge. Statista estimates 15.6 million Americans ages six and older and have played at least one game of baseball in the past year.
“Baseball bats are a huge industry. If you don’t know, people are spending $300 all the way up to $500 for metal baseball bats these days,” Will said.
A big opportunity and an equally big risk. So, Will did what he does best — swing for the fences.
“When I first decided to go full time with this and stop my day job, it was kind of a decision based around ‘Man, if I don’t try this, at least for a year, I’m going to be kicking myself,” Will said.
Shoots typically involve two phones and one camera.
“Pretty bootleg setup as a lot of YouTubers will say,” Will said.
It’s rarely more than a handful of people.
“I do most of the stuff and then Cam is production assistant-slash-BP pitcher-slash … he has like six other jobs within Bat Bros,” Will said.
Will’s wife monitors the technology used to track the baseballs.
“My wife is an exit velocity connoisseur. Director of exit velocity,” Will said.
But the long ball is not the secret recipe for success.
“Our main mission and goal and mantra to the channel is be useful,” Will said. “Being completely honest, brutally honest with the reviews and trying not to sell out to bat companies.”
Honesty is one ingredient. But it’s not the most important one.
“I’m really so grateful to do this. To be able to hit baseballs for a living and tell people about baseball bats for a living,” Will said.
It’s the love of the game. Will shows with every swing of the bat.
“When a dad or something will recognize us in an airport and be like, ‘Hey man, I saw your video on this bat. I bought that bat for my kid. He fricking loves it.’ That’s special to me,” Will said.
Vince Genna may be a long way from Yankee Stadium, but Will’s still found a success story that’s out of the park.
“It’s definitely not, you know, me making the big leagues or anything like that. But I’m pretty happy where my baseball career has kind of landed me,” Will said.
Will said he’s amazed at how welcoming and passionate the local baseball community is in Central Oregon. He hopes to be able to continue making videos and finding ways to support the baseball community for years to come.