Home of Major League Baseball’s official bat
By Hope S. Philbrick
I live in Atlanta, Ga., a city where the Major League Baseball team has decided to move to the suburbs, lured by the glistening promise of a new stadium and perhaps wealthier, paler faces to fill its seats.
This dramatic news was announced while I was in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. I was wandering around downtown snapping photos and connecting on social media (where the Atlanta Braves’ announcement dominated feeds) when I saw a bat as tall as a skyscraper leaning casually against a brick building—the world’s largest bat makes the place hard to miss—so I wandered inside. It seemed to be one of those coincidences that should not be ignored.
The place is a lovely reminder of the true history of baseball, America’s official pastime.
Open the front door and you first enter the gift shop, of course. It’s impossible to look at a pile of baseball bats without awakening the child inside: Like me, odds are that you will be compelled to pick one up and, wow, it’s heavy! No plastic or metal here, these babies are solid wood. In addition to bats of all sizes (which can be personalized), the gift shop stocks a range of items from T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and other apparel to trinkets, glassware, collectables and even ‘bionic’ gloves.
Across from the gift shop is a wall showcasing thousands of signatures that have been burned into a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. The collection features famous and less-familiar names and signatures, including a special section honoring players and managers elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The half-hour guided factory tour has five stops, including a hand-turning station where I learned that it takes an experienced worker about a half-hour to turn one bat. Using more modern production methods, as demonstrated deeper into the tour, it takes just 20 seconds to create one bat, which enables Louisville Slugger to manufacture 1.8 million bats each year! The factory buzzes with activity and boasts the pleasant smell of wood (perhaps rivaled only by the aroma inside Kentucky Cooperage). All the sawdust created in the production process is put to good uses, including bedding for farm animals in Indiana. (“Your Thanksgiving turkey may have slept on Louisville Slugger dust,” noted one tour guide.)
“Louisville Slugger bats are crafted with the same pride that started in 1884,” said Danny, who may not have been here from the beginning but has worked at Louisville Slugger for 44 years.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory offers a range of hands-on activities, including the chance to hold a replica 1884 bat, mug for the camera in front of a background that makes it appear you’re playing inside a packed stadium, handle bats used by Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and other stars, and more.
You can also test your swing inside Bud’s Batting Cage, named in honor of Bud Hillerich who made the first Louisville Slugger Bat in 1884. Grab a bat (choose a model favored by a legend or current superstar) and take your best hit.
One visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory achieves (at least) two things: It’s a reminder that baseball is supposed to be a fun game. And it proves that professionals only make it look easy.
The world’s biggest bat, located outside the museum and factory, is made of steel; it weighs 68,000 pounds and stands 120-feet tall. It’s an exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger bat.
The Louisville Slugger Walk of Fame stretches one mile down Louisville’s historic Main Street and honors players with sculptures by Wyatt Gragg. Each bronze display features a Louisville Slugger bat and home plate with highlights of the featured player’s career. Honorees include Hank Aaron, “Yogi” Berra, Rod Carew, Ty Cobb, Lisa Fernandez, Mickey Mantle, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr., Babe Ruth and many more. Click here to download the Walk of Fame brochure and map.
Odds of Encountering Children: Inevitable. But so what. It doesn’t really matter here.
Adults $12, Seniors (60+) $11, Children (6-12) $7 (infant-5) free
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is part of the Heartland Historic Baseball Trail, which is comprised of six baseball landmarks along the I-64 corridor in Southern Indiana and Louisville, Ky. Click here for details.
-Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.