Entrepreneurship director plays vintage base ball

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The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is a portal to the past.

Model T automobiles and horse-drawn carriages clatter down the streets while performers in historical 1800s attire idle down sidewalks.

Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ home transport visitors through moments in American history.

In the summer, the village square is often packed with spectators watching an authentic “base ball” game, a precursor to and the original spelling of America’s pastime.

A photo of a man playing vintage baseball
Nick Moroz, director of entrepreneurial practice at the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship, plays vintage base ball with Greenfield Village’s team the Lah-De-Dahs. (Photo by Maureen Monte)

Following an 1867 rulebook, players use authentic wooden bats and wear vintage uniforms. They play without gloves and wear newsboy-style caps in lieu of helmets. Pitches are thrown underhand, and the umpire only calls balls or strikes if there is a need to move the game along.

Nick Moroz, director of entrepreneurial practice at the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship, has played in Greenfield Village’s historic base ball games for more than two decades.

“I’ve always been a baseball player and of all the sports I’ve played, baseball is my favorite,” Moroz said.

Moroz’s father, who has worked in development with The Henry Ford for almost 30 years, introduced him to Greenfield Village’s historic base ball at a young age.

As teenagers, Moroz’s two younger brothers found their first paid jobs as team members on the village’s two teams, the Lah-De-Dahs and the National Base Ball Club. Not wanting to miss out on the family fun, and “defending his primacy as the eldest son,” Moroz joined as a volunteer and hasn’t looked back.

A photo of four men wearing old baseball uniforms, one holding a small child
Nick Moroz, right, holding his daughter Zoe, has played Greenfield Village’s historic base ball for more than two decades with, from left, his two brothers, Harry and Alex, and father, George. (Photo by Maureen Monte)

“I certainly love competing. It’s a very athletic game,” Moroz said. “The many teams that we play at The Henry Ford travel from all over the nation, particularly because it’s such a fantastic venue. It’s a real honor to be part of the program.”

Nearly every weekend from June to September, Moroz plays as a volunteer team member on the Lah-De-Dahs, and he has served as the team’s captain.

The players participate in a pregame parade through Greenfield Village with their teams. The Dodsworth Saxhorn Band also accompanies the game on Saturdays. The umpire or scorekeeper provides live commentary throughout the game.

Moroz and the Lah-De-Dahs also compete against rival clubs from across the Midwest and beyond. While Greenfield Village hosts most of their games, Moroz has traveled to tournaments across the Midwest and eastern United States, and even played a few games on Mackinac Island.

Every summer, The Henry Ford commemorates Detroit’s 1867 World Base Ball Tournament with a weekend of base ball games following 1867 rules and regulations.

“The state of Michigan really has the preeminent vintage base ball community … and it’s very active. I’ve developed lots of friendships and valuable relationships over my playing career.”

A photo of a man pointing
Nick Moroz addresses the crowd before a game as captain of the Lah-De-Dahs. (Photo by Maureen Monte)

In 2012, Moroz started talking with Lah-De-Dahs teammate and fellow U-M alumnus Adam Goring about the unique aspects of vintage wooden bats and their mutual interest in improving on the typical wooden bat.

“The two of us decided to start making baseball bats, and it was quite a lot of fun,” Moroz said. “We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. … We found a source of wood supply. We had the equipment. We had the initiative and we wanted to make some very special bats.”

The two co-founded the Detroit Bat Co. and started selling authentic wooden bats that are created using techniques from 1800s furniture manufacturing. Goring had experience with carpentry, and Moroz drew upon his knowledge of machines from his history with manufacturing startups.

“I’ve not broken too many bats, but I’ve always enjoyed a new bat,” Moroz said. “And through the manufacturing starts that I helped found — a Li-ion battery startup and a variety of others — I learned, somewhat self-taught, sometimes being mentored by others, to be a relatively good machinist,” Moroz said.

Moroz and Goring spent extensive time researching the correct techniques to construct the bats. They worked with individuals for specific commissions and also sold bats in Greenfield Village’s gift store.

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“We were, and still sometimes are, making very artistic-looking bats, something that we are very proud of,” Moroz said. “Every model is handcrafted and has its own finish designed with the person who will ultimately own or swing the bat. It’s very labor intensive.”

While the Detroit Bat Co. continues to accept commissions, they stopped producing wholesale in 2017.

“What we realized was that we were making bats of such high quality that they were rarely ever breaking. So, it saturated the market in Michigan for vintage bats, at least for a time,” Moroz said.

In addition to his love for baseball, Moroz has a passion for local politics. He has been a city commissioner for Plymouth since 2017 — where he lives with his wife Leigh, daughter Zoe, and son Beau — and he served as the city’s mayor from 2021-23. Moroz said he drew upon his experiences with businesses like the Detroit Bat Co. while in office.

“Politics can often be quite similar — especially campaigning — to leading startups, building small teams that are mission-driven, hungry,” Moroz said. “And so, I felt really at home, giving back to my community, bringing leadership and getting a chance to leverage again many of these unique perspectives and opportunities.”

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