Made in Arizona: Turning passion for baseball and firefighting into creative works of art with 'Bats of Faith'

Most days, you’ll find Tony Haugen working as a fire engineer.

"I take care of the fire truck. It’s basically my responsibility for the shift."

He’s also a dad to a 17-year-old.

"He’s amazing. He’s my life."

But when he’s not fixing the fire truck, or playing baseball with his son, you’ll find him working on his passion project. He takes baseball bats and turns them into crosses.

"My love for baseball was my main thing. And then of course, being Christian and everything, was the two things that brought me to it.. and then wanting something on my wall that reminded me of my past."

Tony turned it into a business called Bats of Faith. Then, about two years ago, he had a new idea: lamps made from used up airpacks.

"I’ve had some of these SBCA [self-contained breathing apparatus] bottles we wear on our backs as firefighters in the garage for years."

He found the idea online.

"It was something I wanted personally. It was something I wanted in my house being a firefighter. And I realized, you know what? I can make these," he said.

Tony considers his fellow firefighters to be family. He says you’ll find that in every fire department.

"It’s just a bond that we have, talking like we’ve known each other for years."

The gear they use is a symbol of that family unit, and after retirement, some firefighters will keep their helmets as a reminder.

"With the lamps though, it brings another element to where they can light up their lamp every night.. whether they used that bottle or pack themselves, it’s always a memory."

Tony is always looking for new ideas. He recently started making flasks with used fire hoses.

"People order them with name, rank, retirement dates."

Repurposing the gear is both fun, and meaningful work for Tony. It’s a way to honor the people who risk their lives for their communities, and also a form of therapy.

"Seeing the looks on people’s faces when they come and look at my products and the things that I make. It’s a good feeling. It’s the memories that last in these bottles. It may not be a personal bottle that they’ve used, but it is therapeutic.. just knowing they’re going to people that will have that memory forever."

You can find Bats of Faith on Facebook and Instagram at @batsoffaith.

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