A big boost for bats: Winona's Pillbox Bat Company gets big financial lift in new partnership

Two months after earning a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball, Pillbox Bat Company announced an investment partnership with True North Equity Partners to help expand the business in products and personnel.

One of Pillbox Bat Company's newest designs honors legendary slugger Albert Pujols as he just hit his 700th career home run Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. The Pillbox Company is based in Winona.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin
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WINONA — Pillbox Bat Company will expand its employment and broaden its range of products thanks to a partnership with True North Equity Partners. The partnership was publicly announced on Monday, Sept. 26.

The investment partnership between Pillbox and a True North subsidiary, True North Sports, comes only two months after Pillbox struck a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball.

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Dan Watson, co-founder of Pillbox, spoke about how the partnership came about.

“We were looking at acquiring some funding for expansion and a banker referred me to Brian (Slipka, CEO and founder of True North Sports) as an option. We weren't looking for a relationship like this but I said I'm open to the conversation. Then Brian called me and I think from go, it was, it got more and more intriguing as those conversations went along,” said Watson.

Slipka said that Pillbox's business growth in recent years interested him in the venture.


Copies of the bats ordered by the Cincinnati Reds to gift to Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina for their final career games in Cincinnati hang on the bat rack at the Pillbox Warehouse in Winona on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

Now with the partnership announced publicly, Pillbox has high hopes of expansion above all else, both in terms of the products they produce and the number of people making them. Pillbox has already posted new job openings on its social media pages and is having conversations with the NBA, NHL and NFL about possible licensing opportunities.

“We're just scratching the tip of the iceberg of with the opportunities that are coming our way with Major League Baseball," Watson said. "Since we got that license in July, we have really been working hard to kind of get our feet underneath us. We're the new kid on the block when it comes to Major League Baseball and there's a lot of learning to do and I've never been more excited for a year in business than 2023.”

Slipka said that Pillbox "elevates the artists and collectible element of sports.

"I think it's safe to say that Pillbox desires to be one of the foremost collectible artists and brands in the world of bats," he said. "I mean, think of the Rolex of a bat, what Rolex is for a watch, Pillbox is and can be for bats,” said Slipka.

Not only is Pillbox a great investment for Slipka and his company in the sports collectible and memorabilia industry, it is also a homecoming for Slipka’s business partner, Anthony Albanese, who grew up in Rochester. Albanese was unavailable for comment for this story.

As Pillbox now enters a new phase of its business, it also is releasing one-of-a-kind products for baseball fans and Major League players themselves.

In a pre-game ceremony for a matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals in Cincinnati on Aug. 31, 2022, the Reds' first baseman Joey Votto presented Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina with custom-made bats from Pillbox as retirement gifts from the Reds organization.

With True North Sports investing in Pillbox, more opportunities like these are in the future for Watson and his business.


“I was asked once what the future holds for Pillbox. And my answer to that question was to some degree, we don't even know what the future of Pillbox holds. In light of this new partnership, we know it's going to be cool when we get there,” said Watson.

Pillbox Bat Company

460 W 3rd St, Winona, MN 55987


Website link

Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or
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