We started our Louisville weekend in the heart of downtown at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. This museum is dedicated to the game of baseball because this is where they have been making baseball bats for players and teams for over a hundred years. In 1856 the Hillerich family set up their family run woodworking business, but it would not be until 1884 when the owner’s son convinced his father to make a bat for the legendary baseball player Pete “The Louisville Slugger” Browning that their success would skyrocket. John Andrew (Bud) Hillerich loved the game of baseball and started making baseball bats for his friends to play with. The 17 year old went to watch the Major League team the Louisville Eclipse and when Pete Browning’s bat broke, Bud offered to make him a new bat. In the next game, Browning had three spectacular hits and from then on out those were the only bats that he would use. The baseball bat then became their signature item as their popularity around the world grew. Since then, this is the place where baseball players from the celebrity status on down to the neighborhood little league come for their bats.
The museum is a small space next to the factory where it talks about how the Hillerich family came to play such a monumentous part in the sport of baseball. It also talks about some of the greats and their baseball bats- such as Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth- and the present day all star players that all rely on the bats from here. They have sections about the first women in baseball and the first Latino baseball players. And the back wall is a fantastic timeline of baseball and the role that these baseball bats have played in that history.
After wandering through the museum, then it is time for the factory tour where you get an up close look at how the bats are made. You see that a lot of players will select their own wood billets to have their bats made from. The great machines that perfectly mold the bat within seconds and the finishing process to make each bat ready to use. The factory makes bats for individual all stars as well as making bats for an entire team. They make specialty bats and personalized bats. Watching the process is really interesting. Players love these bats so much that they come to the factory to select their bats and be part of the process of making them. You can see signatures of all stars and notes they have written on the machines as you walk through. There is no question that this is where America comes to get their baseball bats. The tour lasts only about 20 minutes and at the end everyone is given their own miniature baseball bat to take with them.
This is such a great tribute to the favorite American pastime and a great part of the history of Louisville. And it should come as no surprise that this is also the home of the world’s largest baseball bat that stands proudly outside of the building. For more on the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, go to :: sluggermuseum.com