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.

Louisville Bat Factory Closes

Associated Press reported that Louisville Slugger Bat Factory & Museum, otherwise known as Hillerich & Bradsby Company, officially closed on Sunday April 19, 2020. Due to the economic affects of COVID-19, the company furloughed 90% of its employees or 171 workers.

It’s a primary source of baseball bats for Major League Baseball. The Factory has been in operation for 176 years, about as long as the history of the game itself. It produces an average of 2 million bats a year. Closing it only adds pressure to their mill in Pennsylvania. “If the company doesn’t soon crank up its Pennsylvania mill–and MLB has no timetable to start its season–then some of the set to become bats might spoil,” said CEO John Hillerich IV to “The Louisville Courier Journal.” The situation remains fluid.

The tours started in the actual factory, where no cameras were allowed, a safeguard against spies trying to steal trade secrets. As our tour guide introduced himself, nearby workers were filling actual orders. When we visited, the presence of pink bats served as a clue for the time of year. MLB Players would use these bats for Breast Cancer Awareness on the upcoming Mother’s Day Game. This place has obviously evolved with the game over the years. One giant milling machine was used exclusively for the bats made for all the MLB Players. All the precision cuts per specification were made there. Countless players have personally visited and placed there autographs on this machine.

Among many of the strong connections to the game, Louisville Bat Factory & Museum had the latest Major League Baseball Standings for each division as a testimonial to the hits and runs being produced by players using Louisville Slugger bats. Also on exhibit were recent display additions to celebrate the induction of Ken Griffey Jr. into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame (during the summer 0f 2016) in Cooperstown, New York.