If you have been following me, you know that today was Louisville and our plan was to see the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. We arrived at the address, not even sure we were at the right place. The factory / museum is nestled in between several buildings on Main Street in downtown Louisville. The first thing you see as you walk up is this incredibly huge replica of a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. The thing is at least thirty feet high but accurate in every detail. Once inside the museum you are surrounded by displays of all sorts of baseball memorabilia covering all ages and eras of the game. Honus Wagner’s glove and bat. Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Gil Hodges, Johnny Bench and Derrick Jeter are all represented along with countless others, all of whom have signed at one time or another to use Louisville Slugger baseball bats exclusively. Remember the infamous Tom Hank’s line in League of Their Own? “There’s no crying in Baseball”, well those ladies are well represented too, honored for their stellar play as they filled the gap during the war years and then long after.
This was just the museum. What followed was a guided tour through the factory as we watched every step of the process from a block of maple or ash or birch as that wood block became a baseball bat. A very select few would find their way to professional baseball where some of those bats just might become famous for that seeing eye double or that grand slam or maybe that walk off home run to win the most important game of the season. My treat was getting to handle several billets, as they are called before turning makes them a bat, that had been hand selected by Christian Yelich. Each Major League Player who has signed with Louisville Slugger will select the billets to be turned into bats just for them and delivered to be entered in “The Game.”
And oh yes, one last thrill, at the end of the tour I was able to put on the batting gloves and then take my stance at the plate holding a Christian Yelich bat that had been swung by him in a major league game. Humor me here, pretty sure it had hit at least one ball out of the park.
I grew up in the era of Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn. I dreamed of getting to a Braves game, they were still in Milwaukee back then, and maybe even getting one of their autographs. And like every kid who gets hooked on baseball, I dreamt of one day playing ball. Post script here, I made the JV team in high school where I mostly warmed the bench, but I never lost my love of the game. I lived vicariously through my daughters as they played softball competitively through high school and savored every minute of throwing the ball around in the back yard. Needless to say, finally entering the Louisville Slugger Shrine, touching baseball bats that had been held and swung by the most famous players of baseball, and reliving the history of the game through film and displays, left me feeling like that little kid again, dreaming of hitting the game winning home run just over the center field wall in a stadium anywhere the game would be played.