Selling bats to MLB players isn’t like working in a sporting good store:

Like a fashion designer who gives Oscar-bound starlets free gowns, a bat salesman hands out free wares, eating the $70-to-$120 cost of a high-quality bat. (After the free trial, if the player orders a bat, they’re paid for by the ballclub).

But as he ventures into a locker room, Gregory says he hands out trial bats carefully. He tries to gauge players’ moods, and superstitions, about a tool considered so vital it is treated like an extension of their arms. Trout, the marketing consultant, says the superstitions make it an even trickier sale. “These guys have all sorts of hang-ups. Some won’t step on a line or they have a ritual about always hitting a base. Can you imagine how bad they are with their bats?

Gregory says he has seen players retire a bat after a few strikeouts or, even more mysteriously, after a home run. Some are so meticulous about their bats that they weigh them down to a fraction of an ounce. BWP and other bat makers customize everything from the curve of the grip to the size of the barrel to the finish on the wood.