Home Town Bats

2016 Minor League Season. Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds Triple-A affiliate) host Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate) at Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville, Kentucky). It’s a slow Thursday night in “Derby City” but the low turn-out at the ballpark has a calming effect. Its easy to confuse this newly found peace with boredom. For some, its Church. Here in the town of Bats, this is more like the calm before the storm as Louisville has festivals planned throughout the month of May in celebration of the Kentucky Derby and Bourbon. They come from around the country with their own reasons to party.  Louisville is mostly known for the Kentucky Derby, Bourbon, and the University of Louisville Cardinals. The Louisville Bat Factory, another icon on Main Street, has been filling bat orders for virtually every Major League Baseball Player. The business started with Hillerich & Bradsby, first bat was made for Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse in 1884.

Major League Baseball roots runs deep in Louisville. Ballclubs met here to eventually form the National League (1876). Louisville Grays were one of eight charter members, folded in 1877 when four players were banned for gambling. In the early years, the Louisville Eclipse (1882-1884) also known as the Louisville Colonels (1885-1899) were a part of the American Association and later joined the National League in 1899. Ownership problems led to massive losses, many of them against the upstart Baltimore Orioles. 1900 was the end of Major League Baseball in Louisville, as the new owner of the Pittsburg Pirates signed 14 of the Colonel players, including Honus Wagner. The American League was formed in 1901. After that, the National League would be better known as the “Senior Circuit.”

For minor league affiliates, Cincinnati Reds have Arizona League Reds (Low-Rookie), Daytona Tortugas (Low-A), Dayton Dragons (Advanced-A), Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A), and Louisville Bats who play here at Louisville Slugger Field. It’s a mile and a half from Louisville to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. For a Cincinnati Reds prospect, this is typically the last stop before being called to “The Show.” They can probably smell Cincinnati from here. Its quiet nights like this when the work gets done. On this same day, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter against Cincinnati Reds, at Great American Ball Park while the Cubs line-up scored 16 runs in the game, a sign that these Reds Triple-A affiliate players may get a call sooner than later.

Indianapolis Indians @ Louisville Bats

Louisville Bats defeat Indianapolis Indians 6-5. Photos taken on Thursday April 21, 2016 by Miguel A. Sanchez.

Great American Ball Park

Washington Nationals @ Cincinnati Reds

2015 Regular Season. A spring visit to Great American Ball Park. I was on a road trip from Chicago, Illinois to Raleigh, North Carolina and stopped in town to catch the Cincinnati Reds hosting the Washington Nationals in a Sunday afternoon game. This is the seventh home field for Cincinnati Reds since their inception. There’s more baseball history here than in the urban legend of Cooperstown, New York and Abner Doubleday. Harry Wright Managed the first professional baseball team here in 1869. It used to be that the official first game of the season was always in the Cincinnati home field. In fact, Opening Day is practically a holiday in the Queen City.

Besides Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the Old Crosley Field is a park that, if it were possible, I would go back in time to visit. Growing up in Cincinnati, Pete Rose would go to games in Crosley Field with his dad. Its where he debuted in 1963. That was also where the first MLB night game was played in 1935.

I did get to see Riverfront Stadium in 1998. It was actually called Cinergy Field at the time. That was the site of more great baseball, when the “Big Red Machine” was dominant in the 1970’s. One of my early memories of baseball was watching that team on NBC Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek.

Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. A subliminal sign of Pete Rose, the banned “Hit King,” was created by the Architect beyond centerfield. An arrangement or placement of seven bats at the top of each of the two smoke stacks together add up to 14, the number of Pete Rose during his baseball career. In June of 2016, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and, in the following season, his statute was unveiled along the other legends featuring him posed in his trademark head first slide into the base.

It was an odd entry into baseball the record book. Cincinnati first basemen Joey Votto walked on three balls in the seventh inning and nobody noticed, not the umpires, not the score keeper, not the broadcasters, or even the coaches. Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 2 runs batted in. When it comes to a baseball pilgrimage, this layover was well worth it.