Tomahawk Bat Reviews offers a uniquely Native American perspective to the softball community

By Ardith Van Riper

Influencers use platform to promote Native American issues

     Ho-Chunk Nation tribal members Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton created a YouTube channel titled Tomahawk Bat Reviews.  The channel currently has 2.13k subscribers and targets the softball community.  Tomahawk Bat Reviews gained corporate recognition and recruitment because they offer a uniquely Native American perspective.

     Nearly three years ago, Sampson suggested to Fabian that they should start their own men’s slowpitch softball team and start playing competitively.  They were tired of playing for different teams every weekend and wanted to start something on their own. Fabian agreed and thus began their softball journey.

     Like many competitive sports, softball requires equipment.  There are multiple manufacturers of bats, gloves, shoes, softballs, batting gloves, and other gear.  Bats are sold in all sorts of sizes, weights and constructed to meet various league standards.  Many players rely on the opinions of other players to help guide their next equipment purchase.

     Sampson and Fabian were no different.  Sampson would watch bat review videos and noticed that some reviewers did not competitively play the game.  Funmaker kept telling Houghton that they could do this better.  They could start their review of bats.  The pair expanded beyond playing local tournaments and city leagues and started traveling to bigger tournaments in Wisconsin and other states by this time.

     Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton created the Warstick Bat Reviews channel in October 2019.  Per the channel description, “A couple of young Natives who love the game of softball.  We have the time, we have the equipment and we also have the commitment to get the softball community good bat reviews.  We all want to know how the equipment we spend our hard earned money on is going to perform before we buy it, we can do that for you all who tune in and watch ‘Warstick Bat Reviews’ and thank you for checking us out!”

     At some point, they gained the attention of executives at Monsta Athletics.  Monsta Athletics produces high-performance softball bats.  They claim to have the most advanced bat design on the planet with the first-ever “Multi Barrel” composite bat design.  Per Carl from Monsta Athletics, “I’m all about the game and trying to better it and build it.  So when I see guys like yourselves do what you do, it makes me smile.  As a token of my appreciation for the good toward the game, I like to reward guys and girls like you by offering an exclusive bat.”

     The official announcement aired on the YouTube channel on December 15, 2020.

     However, the name Warstick was too similar to a baseball bat company named Warstic.  When the channel gained a substantial number of subscribers and Google searches were being taken away, the Warstic baseball bat company began legal proceedings against Warstick Bat Reviews.  Funmaker and Houghton halted content to the YouTube channel in the midst of this.

     Later, officials from Warstic conducted a virtual meeting with Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton and presented several options to end the legal proceedings.  The meeting concluded amicably, and there were no hard feelings.

     Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton changed their YouTube channel name to Tomahawk Bat Reviews in July.  They decided to take this route because of the hard work they put into the channel and the opportunities that presented themselves due to the channel’s success.

     Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton resumed producing content for their YouTube subscribers and finalized the bat design for Monsta Athletics. 

     The bat design for Monsta Athletics featured Carolina blue and black colors, applique, the Monsta logo, and the word ‘Tomahawk.’  Monsta Athletics produced 300 of these bats, 100 were the 25 ounce Torch repaints, 100 were the 25 ounce Sinister repaints, and 100 were the 25.5 Torch Juiced repaints.  Unfortunately, the Monsta Athletics website currently shows these bats are sold out.

     Every year, the baseball bat company Warstic sponsors a celebrity Sandlot game to raise money for a nonprofit organization or charity.  The Sandlot game includes pros and celebrities. This year, Co-owner and CEO of Warstic Ben Jenkins asked Funmaker and Houghton to choose a nonprofit organization.  They selected MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) USA. 

     The MMIW USA’s number one mission is to bring missing Indigenous people home and help the families of the murdered cope and support them through the grieving process.  MMIW also helps families navigate the jurisdictional nightmare that they face.  Their broader goal is to eradicate this problem through education and awareness.

     The U.S. Department of Justice found that Native American women face murder rates more than ten times the national average.  The Centers for Disease Control states murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women.  In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, but the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing person database only documented 116 cases.

     The celebrity Sandlot game raised over $15,000 for MMIW USA.  In addition, Funmaker and Houghton helped spread awareness and education to those in attendance at the game regarding the epidemic that plagues the Native American people.

     Monsta Athletics requested Funmaker and Houghton design another bat after the successful Tomahawk bat.  Sampson Funmaker and Fabian Houghton are proud to announce their next bat design is dedicated to MMIW.  The design is in the final planning stages, and an official announcement will be made on their YouTube channel and Facebook page very soon.

     “We couldn’t do this without the support of our significant others,” said Fabian Houghton.  He thanked his wife, Abbi Houghton, and Sampson’s girlfriend, Shandiina Jack, for putting up with tournament weekends and filming bat reviews evenings and days off.

     “We want to be role models for Native youth,” said Sampson Funmaker.  Sampson and Fabian want young Natives to see Natives competing in the softball world and inspire young Natives to follow their passions.  Even if that passion isn’t softball, be productive, be active, and get involved.

     The YouTube channel and Facebook page are titled Tomahawk Bat Reviews.  Subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow the Facebook page to experience these young Natives’ softball journey.