"We just kind of blew it off, like, 'OK, we've got to make these 10 bats,"' said Greenberg, co-owner of Prairie Sticks Bat Co. "Then all the sudden ... somewhere in the middle of North Dakota, within five minutes, both of our cell phones were blinking and beeping.
"It's been crazy."
News of pitcher John Odom's trade to the Laredo Broncos of the independent United Baseball League, which became necessary when Odom had trouble crossing the border into Canada, was just a few hours old when it began to spread like a virus across the Internet. It moved to television, then even deeper into cyberspace once video became available. And at every turn, the name Prairie Sticks popped up.
The proof was in the PDA when Greenberg and Zinger woke up to resume their trip home.
"All these orders came in between midnight and 5 or 6 a.m. while we were sleeping," Greenberg said.
People from California to Connecticut wanted Prairie Sticks bats.
There have been hundreds of e-mails from friends, family, former teammates and the curious. The news led to a small but immediate bump in sales.
It also came at the right time. Prairie Sticks' owners were in Minnesota last week to put their gear in the hands of big league players.
The company sold 1,500 bats last year. Not bad for a two-man outfit that started seven years ago with a hand lathe and a pile of wood. But the co-owners think there might be more out there.
"It's just been a gradual progression in the number of bats we produce per year," Zinger said. "We're at the point now where this story has broken and we're selling to a lot of independent pro leagues and we're on the verge of picking up our Major League vendor's license."
Prairie Sticks started in a workshop when amateur men's league players in Red Deer had trouble getting maple bats from major manufacturers. Greenberg began turning bats for his teammates and friends "just like you would do in your middle school shop class" and slowly expanded the business.
Today Prairie Sticks bats are made with the same wood used by the major batmakers and $100,000 worth of equipment, including a hydraulic tracing lathe that can turn out an unfinished bat in 11/2 minutes. Add the logo and model number and you're swinging for the fences in under 5 minutes.
The company offers several models of wood bats in maple, birch and ash. The most popular is the one the Vipers demanded in exchange for Odom -- the 34-inch double-dipped black C243. They're made from rock maple grown in eastern Canada.
"Players are after the qualities of maple," Zinger said. "The grains are nice and tight and they don't flake like ash bats. And they're generally quite a bit harder."
Peter Young, Vipers president and chief operating officer, took possession of the bats Tuesday during a news conference in Calgary. He said the bats, which retail at $69 each or $66.50 for six to 11, have been inscribed with the words "John Odom Trade Bat" and numbered. They'll be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to charity.
Like the batmakers, Young was caught by surprise by the intensity of the reaction to the trade.
"It's stupid. We didn't mean it to do this," Young said. "It wasn't like a publicity stunt. It was just supposed to be funny, you know. We put it up on the Golden League Web site exactly the way the trade was listed in the document -- 'John Odom for 10 Prairie Sticks double-dipped maple bats, black.' Somebody saw it, then somebody else saw it and the next thing you know ESPN and CNN are calling."
Whether that means Zinger can quit his day job in Alberta's oil and gas industry and join Greenberg as a full-time batmaker is a question the duo has been batting back and forth during their long drives across the high plains.
"I would say it will increase business, but time will tell," Zinger said. "But so far the amount of exposure has just been crazy."