See How the Wood Chips Fly at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Babe Ruth 1927 Louisville Slugger bat detail (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Babe Ruth’s personal Louisville Slugger bat logo detail. See the notches for each of his home runs in 1927? (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

On your next trip to Louisville, Kentucky, don’t miss a visit to the place where they made “lumber for the Splendid Splinter” (lanky player Ted Williams) and still make an extraordinary array of baseball bats today – the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory right in downtown Louisville on Museum Row.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, or even a sports fan, it is full of interesting stories and Americana. The museum has worked hard to raise its profile, and the result is record-breaking visitor numbers in recent years.

Maybe stop in as you try to finish the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail?

It is hard to miss the exterior, with the giant 68,000 pound, 120-foot-tall steel bat that is casually leaning up against the brick building….

Entrance to Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory with giant bat (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Entrance to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory with its giant bat. Did you know that it’s a to-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch bat? (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Allow about 30 minutes for the factory tour itself – it’s US$15 for adults, less for kids and seniors – and another 30-45 minutes to explore the museum exhibits. The tours start every 10-30 minutes, depending on the time of year.

Cameras are not allowed on the factory tour, but you’ll see glimpses of it in the very short video at the end of this post.

I was fascinated by all the details of how a tree becomes a bunch of bats. It is quite a process.

How bats are made exhibit at Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Part of the “how bats are made” exhibit at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The tour moves along quickly; you will see the pride that factory employees take in every meticulous step of bat-making, from raw wood to smoothing and sanding to dramatically burning on the logo and finally a dip into a giant vat of sealant.

The most interesting tidbit for me was how particular each professional baseball player is with their personal bat specifications. There’s a Ted Williams anecdote describing his complaints about the handles on one of his bat orders, and measurements showed that, in fact, the bats were 5/1000th of an inch off from his preference.

He could tell just by holding the bat.

The museum follows the factory tour, and you’ll have a chance to match up two display bats yourself that are based on the story, and see if your hand can feel the difference, like Ted could.

Louisville Slugger museum section with famous players (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Louisville Slugger museum room with mannequins of famous players around the floor. Look up! (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There are detailed displays that will appeal to all sorts of visitors, including fans of the movie A League of Their Own, about the women’s pro baseball league during World War II.

Beware the Museum gift shop – it’s full of temptations that will seem pretty irresistible after learning so much history and seeing the bats made. I spoke with one employee who was a local Louisville guy; he said he enjoyed working at the shop and meeting baseball enthusiasts who come from around the world to this shrine to Sluggers.

“Yeah, growing up here, sometimes you forget to appreciate this place, and how cool it is to have this right here in our town,” he said.

Personalized bats in the gift shop at Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Get personalized bats made for yourself or someone else, in the gift shop at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There are all sorts of things to do in Louisville – it will surprise you if you’ve never visited. I was struck by all of the attractive brick buildings downtown, lined up along the Ohio River.

Sure, all the local bourbon options were a winner, but seeing the Louisville Slugger Museum was a highlight of my trip.

If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is toward the top of the right sidebar. Thanks! 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.