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The Pillbox Bat Company in Winona has now been officially licensed by Major League Baseball to make what its business is best known for: baseball bats.

In July, the company became officially licensed by the league to make other memorabilia, but Louisville Slugger retained the exclusive rights on bats.

Co-founder Dan Watson said negotiations were active again after the league and Fanatics contacted them, calling this a "tremendous" development.

"Fanatics/MLB reached out to us and said the opportunity was back on the table and if we wanted it we could have it," Watson said, noting that the business already using its license gave them a leg up on other competition.

"When I got the email from Fanatics, I jumped out of my chair screaming! Was such a great moment. My wife thought something was wrong but it was far from it."

The company made the announcement on its Instagram Tuesday.



Watson said this allows the business to be even more free and creative in doing things, specifically when it comes to professional baseball teams and players.

"Not only are we allowed to make full-sized bats, but also mini bats, any kind of wood bats and become more creative with more collaborations with artists in developing designs," he said. "People know us for our bats, so getting the licensing for the main product is a massive deal. This makes the fan experience that much more authentic."

Watson said the collaborations extend from artists, players and possibly a chance to bring their creations to the diamonds at Major League ballparks. The bats won't be used on game days in the batter's box — for now, at least — but Watson said there's other ways Pillbox Bat Company can dig in still and leave its mark.

"We could potentially pair up with a company like Old Hickory, paint a bat for [MLB] Player's Week, feature some equipment for All-Star festivities. Conversations can at least be had with those kinds of things now."

The business was started by Watson and Fellman in 2015 and was an idea they had together dating back to their youth in the 1990s. The company is licensed to make MLB memorabilia and other merchandise relating to the Negro Leagues, National Baseball Hall of Fame and the University of Notre Dame. 

Prior to getting bats officially licensed, other items such as wood pennants, coasters and everything else listed on its website has been exclusively licensed by MLB. The wood pennants can also be found on Fanatics' website.

From the start, Watson said both he and Fellman made it their goal to get licensed by the MLB. Within the first few months of being in business, they reached out to the league and began talks about licensing. Talks went on for months, then turned into years. Finally, a deal was struck July 1.

"Getting MLB licensing is huge and it's bringing all kinds of opportunities," Watson said in July.

MLB players, such as Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Joe Ryan and Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jonathan India, have expressed interest in the company. Custom bats were also made for outgoing, likely future Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals players Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.

According to Pillbox's Instagram, artist Keith Shore is focusing on a new design of bats featuring players from the Philadelphia Phillies that will be limited for purchase, just in time for the 2022 World Series.

And when asked about sales since the company became officially licensed on Friday, Watson said:

"Amazing first day! We're setting records."

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