This morning it felt like I walked into a Manolo Blahnik store with the gals from Sex and the City.
I went on a tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum with a group of PawSox including nine players.
You can’t miss the museum in downtown Louisville because the world’s largest baseball bat leans against the five story building.
The bat is 120 feet tall and weighs 34 tons (68,000 pounds). It’s too big for even the most notorious steroid user.
Our tour guide was Chuck Schupp, the director of professional bat sales for the company, and the first thing he did was take the guys shopping. He guided us to a huge rack filled with a wide variety of makes and models, and each player was allowed to pick out six bats that were paid for by the Red Sox.
Just picture shoppers tearing through bargain bins on the day after Thanksgiving at Filene’s Basement.
Several players held the bats up to their ears and hit the barrel with the base of their hand to listen for “good wood.” Lars Anderson gave Hyder and me a demonstration and told us that the higher the sound the better. I was skeptical, but you could actually hear a difference.
Daniel Nava wins the good guy award. He said that Ryan Khoury was disappointed that he was sent to Double-A Portland just before this road trip because he was looking forward to the factory tour and picking out some free bats. Nava made sure that his box of six freebies included a few for Khoury.
PawSox hitting coach Gerald Perry found his name on a wall featuring signatures of all of the players who have been under contract to Louisville Slugger over the years. In 1978, Gerald was offered $200 or a set of golf clubs to sign with the company. He took the cash, and received made-to-order bats that featured his signature for the rest of his career.
We were also greeted by Brian Hillerich, the great-grandson of Bud Hillerich who made the very first Louisville Slugger bat 126 years ago. Brian told me that his son has started working for the company, meaning the tradition of making baseball bats has made it through five generations of Hillerichs.
“I hope it’s in the family for another 125 years,” Brian said.
After walking through the factory and getting a quick lesson on how baseball bats are made, our final stop was the museum. It includes a big photo of Ted Williams kissing his bat, along with a classic quote:
“I’d have been a .290 hitter without a Louisville Slugger,” Williams wrote in a 1993 letter to the company.
As one of our players pointed out, “.290 sounds pretty good to me.”
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We have a tremendous pitching match-up to look forward to on Monday night in Louisville, as Felix Doubront squares off against Aroldis Chapman.
After defecting from Cuba last summer, Chapman signed a 6-year, $30.25 million dollar deal with Cincinnati in January. The 22-year-old lefty has reached 103 mph on the radar gun, and is 5-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 52.2 IP.
Doubront is 1-1 with a 0.77 ERA in his first three outings for Pawtucket, and if you combine his AA and AAA stats, Prince Felix is 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA. Furthermore, Portland and Pawtucket are a combined 10-1 in the 11 games he’s started.
First pitch is at 7:05 and I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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