Dan's Dugout: Louisville Slugger Museum is a Big Hit • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Louisville Slugger Museum is a Big Hit

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LOUISVILLE – Baseball fans thinking about coming here for the Kentucky Derby in May should add the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory to their must-see lists.

A local fixture for more than a century, the museum attracts more than 300,000 people per year and more than occasionally brings in ballplayers of past and present.

Less than two hours from Cincinnati, the museum includes a theater, gallery, signature wall, bat vault, batting cage area, and gift shop, not to mention regular guided tours of the factory that allow visitors to see bat-making in action.

A life-sized statue of Babe Ruth stands in the Louisville Slugger Museum

Exhibits include current bat models used by active players, game-used bats used by Hall of Famers, and life-sized statues of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, and Derek Jeter.

A pitching simulator allows visitors to test their pitching skills, while an exhibit called Feel the Heat lets guests learn what it’s like to face a fastball delivered at 90 miles per hour.

The museum displays thousands of autographs, each of which was burned into the bats ordered by the signing players.

Honus Wagner signed the first Louisville Slugger contract in 1905 but the factory actually started earlier. It began in 1884 when J.A. (Bud) Hillerich, then 17, made a new bat for Louisville Eclipse star Pete Browning, who had broken his prized possession during a game. Browning got three hits with the new bat, ordered more, and told his friends.

The rest is history.

Now in its fourth location, including one across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana, the museum is a treasure trove of baseball history.

There’s a bat vault, where guests can see a room stuffed with models and replicas of all Louisville Slugger clients.

There’s a theater featuring the film The Heart of the Game, narrated by James Earl Jones.

And there’s the guided factory tour, which visits six locations in 20 minutes and culminates with a souvenir miniature Louisville Slugger given to each participant. Visitors not only smell the burning wood but wear goggles to protect their eyes from dust and flying splinters.

Art Shamsky finds his name on the wall of honor at the Louisville Slugger Museum
Credit: Bill Menzel

Special events include presentation of an annual “Living Legend,” launched in 2007. Recipients have ranged from Ken Griffey Jr. to Hank Aaron and Tony Gwynn.

Ted Williams, who passed away before the award was created, would have been a multi-year winner. He was particularly fussy about his bats, often visiting the factory to personally ensure his exact specifications were met.

The long-time Boston Red Sox icon could tell when his bats were off by just a fraction of a centimeter and proved it by ordered his bats to be re-cast.

Even less prominent players maintain a relationship with the museum. Former Mets outfielder Art Shamsky, in town during a stop on a baseball theme cruise, was pleased to find his autograph on the wooden signature wall, an enormous barrier that brick-like blocks of Louisville Slugger clients. Even some pitchers are there (National League pitchers still have to hit).

Finding the museum is easy: perched along Museum Row on West Main Street, its exterior is marked by a 120-foot steel bat that weighs 68,000 pounds. It is a giant-sized replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger.

The museum also houses an oversized glove, large enough for kids to climb up and slide down.

Visitors see bats made at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Even the pink bats used by big-leaguers on Mother’s Day come from the famous factory. They were conceived by John Hillerich IV, chief executive officer of the Hillerich & Bradsby company that owns the museum and factory (Wilson Sporting Goods now owns the Louisville Slugger brand name).

Artifacts and exhibits from the Louisville Slugger museum have been traveling the country since 2013, making stops at more than a half-dozen ballparks. The mobile museum was also present at the 2015 All-Star Game in nearby Cincinnati, where one of the most popular demonstrations showed how old-time bats were made.

For further information, contact Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, 800 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202 [www.SluggerMuseum.com].

Open seven days a week, the museum offers longer hours during the summer months. Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $8 for children aged 6-12.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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