Every baseball season, the dust is shaken from the tools of the game — bats, balls and gloves. With today opening most teams’ seasons, it seemed appropriate to celebrate Opening Day.
With spring training underway, and having watched my first Cardinals game of the season today, I thought turning my attention to one of my bats was appropriate. This bat was one of the two I had customized during our visit to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum last year.
I made this image with my Canon 7D and Canon 24-105/4L, finishing it in Photoshop CS4E and Nik Viveza.
With a couple of days of rest behind us, and a bit of wanderlust still in our veins, we decided to extend our roadtrip a bit, and add another unplanned stop on the trip: Louisville KY.
Why Louisville? Bats.
For years, I’ve wanted to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. I’m a baseball junkie, and have been since I was a kid. As I told Beck, there are three baseball meccas for me: Cooperstown, Field of Dreams and the Louisville Slugger site. This was the attainment of one of my baseball dreams.
Louisville is a quick drive from The Lou, and seemed like a easy place to add to our roadtrip. We left early, and hit the road — this time, eastward.
The drive across Illinois and Indiana was really uneventful. There’s not much to see, and few places to stop with much civilization. We decided to stop for lunch just west of Louisville, and that was the most entertaining stop of any we’d had on any part of the trip. Just across the parking lot from our lunch spot was an incredibly decked out van towing an old VW bug.
We parked the Jeep, and took a look at this weird combination of vehicles. They were touring from Art Car Agency in promotion of a film called Automorphosis. The California Fantasy Van had almost any kind of brass object you could imagine, along with about $15,000 of change riveted to the body. It was definitely eye-catching! The VW that was in tow, named Pico de Gallo, was musically themed and had all kinds of musical instruments and contraptions attached to it. There was even a stage atop the bug.
We watched a dozen or more people stopping to look at this strange configuration of vehicles while we were there. A few people were photographing them too, but most people just swung by for a look, shook their heads, and drove on. For me though, there was so much to photograph. I think you could spend weeks photographing the widgets on the California Fantasy Van alone.
Eventually, we hit the road again, and continued on to the Louisville Slugger site. The building is an old-style looking brick building in Louisville’s museum row, and has a gigantic Louisville Slugger bat leaning against the building. There’s no missing that. In fact, if you look on Google Maps and zoom in close, you can see the bat:
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We went inside the building, and bought our tickets for the factory tour. While we were waiting for our tour to start, we looked around the museum a bit. I looked at a bat from Babe Ruth, which was amazing to see. But the biggest thrill was getting to hold a Mickey Mantle bat. There’s a special section where you can don some white cloth gloves, and hold a game-used bat from one of a few major leaguers. I had to go with Mantle’s bat, and it was awesome to hold a piece of history like that in my hands.
Our tour was pretty cool. They wouldn’t let us photograph inside the factory, but we got to see the whole process, including the carving of bats, both retail/minor league bats (about 30 seconds each) and major league bats (about 40 seconds each). We watched the application of signatures to some major league bats, and learned about the different wood and finishes authorized by Major League Baseball. It was a great tour, and taught you just about everything you’d need to know about baseball bats.
We ended our day with a stroll through the gift shop, where I arranged for my own bats! If you look through the photos from the trip, you can see one of them as it is processed and engraved. The other bat will come in a couple of weeks. That one’s a signature bat, and apparently it takes them a little while to get my signature on it. Can’t wait for it to show up!
The visit to the museum and factory was wonderful — I learned a bunch, and was in awe of the sense of history in the place. Definitely worth the drive!