Driving down Main Street in Louisville, Kentucky, it would be pretty hard to miss the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Outside the museum is the world’s largest baseball bat.
Standing at 120 feet tall and weighing 68,000 lbs., this giant bat is a scaled replica of Babe Ruth’s bat. As you can tell from my picture, it’s so big that I couldn’t even fit the top of it in the picture. It’s made of steel, but painted to look like wood.
Inside you can view the museum exhibits and take a tour of the factory. You’ll received a timed ticket for your tour when you pay your admission. While you’re waiting for your tour to begin, you can view the exhibits. A great place to start is the exhibit on A Tree’s Journey. You’ll learn that their baseball bats are made from ash and maple that are grown in forests in Pennsylvania and New York.
The trees are taken to a mill where the logs are cut into cylinders of wood called billets.
The billets are dried and shipped to the Louisville Slugger Factory. The factory tour tells the rest of the story. Most visitors are not allowed to take pictures during their tour, but they gave me special permission to take photos so I could give my readers a virtual tour. Billets are graded and only the highest quality billets are used for major league players’ bats. This stack of billets will be made into bats for minor league players.
A machine called a lathe shapes the billet into a bat. Your tour guide will show you what lathes looked like before computerized machining was available.
The factory has different types of equipment for different quality bats. As you might expect, there is a separate department for pro bats. They even have separate storage for billets for each player.
Here you can see the billets for Cincinnati Reds player, Joey Votto.
The billets get put into a computerized lathe that has programs loaded for each pro player. Each player can have unique specifications for his bats.
Here’s a closeup of the machine shaping a bat.
This is what it looks like after it comes out of the machine. It still has nubs at the end, but they get cut off later.
The bats get heat branded with the Louisville Slugger emblem, and, for pro players, their signature. Yes, that’s smoke you see.
Then comes the finish. They have a variety of different finishes–clear, stained, or painted. Once a year, on Mother’s Day, the players play with a pink bat for breast cancer awareness.
At the end of the tour, everyone received a souvenir mini-bat. My kids took their bats and posed with Babe Ruth out in the museum.
You can then spend as much or as little time as you would like exploring the museum. Die-hard baseball fans could probably all day looking at all the exhibits and watching all the videos. Some of the exhibits are specifically about bats, like this exhibit where you can weigh and compare both an old-style bat and a modern bat.
Other exhibits cover other baseball topics, like this hot topics area.
You can see famous players’ bats and other baseball memorabilia. Be sure not to miss the film, The Heart of the Game. There’s a batting cage if you’d like to practice your swing and small T-ball practice area for little kids. And don’t pass up the photo op with this giant 34,000-pound baseball glove that was carved from Kentucky limestone.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is open Monday – Saturday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sundays from Noon – 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids (6-12), $9 for seniors, and free for kids 5 and under. I recommend allotting at least 2 hours for your visit.