Thursday, May 3, 2012

5/3/2012 It’s All About the Bats!

Yep, this post is all about bats! Not this kind….

No, not that kind of bat, BASEBALL BATS! Specifically, Louisville Slugger Bats. We went to tour the factory today.

With only one wrong turn and ending up at a baseball field instead of a factory, we found the place with little trouble. We found reasonably priced parking for $3.00 for all day and the first thing I noticed when I got out of the truck was something that just struck me as strange.

How can something so pretty, so soft be growing in and around something so harsh and hard and hurtful?


Before I get into this post, I should tell you that some of these photos should not have been taken. We were all told no picture taking in the factory area. I took them anyway. I couldn’t help myself. Must be a character flaw.

It wasn’t hard to figure out which building we should go to.


We were at the right place.


This company did not start out making baseball bats, their products were in a fact butter churns, stair railings and porch columns.

J. F. Hillerich, owned a growing woodworking shop in the 1880s when his 17 year old son, Bud, began working for him.

Legend has it that Bud, who played baseball himself, slipped away from work one afternoon in 1884 to watch Louisville's major league team, the Louisville Eclipse. Team member, Pete Browning, who was in a hitting slump, broke his bat.

Bud invited Browning over to his father's shop to make him a new one. With Browning at his side giving advice, Bud hand-crafted a new bat from a long slab of wood. Browning got three hits with it the next day.


Browning told his teammates, which sent a steady stream of professional ball players to the Hillerich shop. However, J. F. Hillerich had little to no interest in making bats. He had a vision for his company and it didn’t involve baseball bats.

His son saw things differently and persisted. His father, pleased with his son's enthusiasm, finally gave in and the rest is baseball history.

In 1894, Bud Hillerich taking over from his father in the business, the name "Louisville Slugger" was registered with the U.S. Patent Office. In the early 1900s, the growing company pioneered a sports marketing concept by paying Hall of Fame hitter Honus Wagner to use his name on a bat. This practice continued with Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and so many other professional athletes in virtually all sports today. By 1923, Louisville Slugger was selling more bats than any other bat maker. Baseball was the nation's most popular sport and legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig all swung Louisville Sluggers.

Here I am with Mickey Mantle’s bat. Notice that I’m wearing gloves. No human hands ever touch these bats because of the oil in our skin. I picked his bat because I met him when I was nine years old. I was driving west with my family to Texas and he was recuperating at a Holiday Inn (he had associated his name with) from an injury he had. He was sitting out by the pool and all the other families with kids were in the pool area of course. Well, I got to stand next to him and did my parents think to grab the camera? Noooo!


Each day this factory turns out between 2,000 and 5,000 wooden bats for professional and recreational players. In addition they turn out between 4,000 and 5,000 mini bats which are given away as souvenirs.


Billets (French for tree trunk) are delivered to the factory in batches of 5,000 to 8,000.

Professional ball players order between 100 and 120 bats each season. Each player has their own bats statistics stored in the company computer. With a few keystrokes the perfect bat can be turned out for any player.

Here’s a statistic for you. One point eight million wooden bats leave the Louisville Slugger factory each year. This number includes the mini bats.


Each year 40,000 Northern White Ash and Maple trees supply the logs for the Louisville Slugger bats. Each tree is at least 80 years old.

It takes 90 seconds to make the initial shaping of a baseball bat on the computerized lathe.




Ready for shipping.


Pink bats for Mother’s Day hanging to dry.


The player’s will use the pink bats, autograph them and then they will be auctioned off and proceeds donated to breast cancer research.

Bats waiting to be stained. Each player picks one of nine stain colors for his bats.



Our tour guide getting ready to hand out mini bats to those in our group.


That big bat outside of the factory? This pic was taken from me standing at the bottom and looking up.


An interesting day, that’s for sure!

We went back to the park and hung out with our neighbors Tina and MaryLynn from New Joisey. These two are a hoot! We laughed so much with them.

Tomorrow is the Oaks Race and they are both going. This is the race where all the ladies, and gentlemen too for that matter, get really decked out with their fancy hats and designer clothes. Our friends have the fancy hats and I can’t wait to see them all dressed to go.

The park (ing lot) is really starting to fill in now. Its going to be party time tonight. It seems most of the newcomers are mostly 20-something males.

I think its going to be a long night.


Lynn Hubbard said...

I Love baseball, so your trip to the Louisville Slugger factory was fun for me too!

michael ultra said...

I have been to MM's home in Dallas. He even showed me his trophy room. I am still in awe. Remind me and I will tell you the story.