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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Louisville Mighty!

~Saturday, April 17, 2021~

Day 307

What an outing packed day. The first part of the day was a tour at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, KY. ⚾️And you can’t miss it with the 68,000 pound Big Bat (the world’s largest baseball bat),

located just in front of the museum. With COVID, they required that timed tickets be purchased ahead of time. While we waited for our tour to start, we checked out the museum for a bit, and had to pinch myself, that we were actually seeing Babe Ruth’s first home run Louisville Slugger bat and a slew of other bats used by retired professional players. A little bit of history about this awesome museum………

In 1842, J. Frederick Hillerich emigrated with his family from Germany to Baltimore, Maryland, then moved to Louisville in 1856 where Hillerich began a woodworking business, mainly in the making of shutters and steamboat interiors. His son, Bud, worked as an apprentice in his shop, but also played amateur baseball and made his own baseball bats, as well as those for his teammates. At 17 years old, young Bud made the perfect bat for Kentucky’s major league megastar Pete Browning whose nickname was “The Louisville Slugger” . Bud never looked back even though his father wanted no part in the bat making business. He thought the future of their business was in making butter churns. But as Bud continued to improve the bat-making business, even receiving patents on a few inventions, the business grew and the name “Louisville Slugger” became their registered trademark in 1894 with the business name J.F. Hillerich and Son. In 1911, a successful salesman named Frank Bradsby joined Hillerich with marketing expertise and drive, changing the company name to Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Over the years, the Louisville Slugger bats became the “stick” of choice for the greatest players in the game: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and the list goes on.

The bat factory tour was terrific (see video) along with seeing amazing artifacts. We also learned a lot about the forests, where it all begins, in finding the perfect tree. The better the tree, the better the bat. It’s nice to hear that the forests are replenished faster than they are harvested. We also learned how different types of wood affect the performance and feel of the bat, with most bats today made from white ash or maple (lighter bats). An interesting bit of trivia…..on average, a professional player will order approximately 120 bats in a season.

Famished after our tour, we found a neat little joint in downtown Louisville called the Mussel & Burger Bar for a late lunch before we headed to our next tour. Jeff had a mushroom/cheeseburger with steak cut fries that were so delicious, he wants to duplicate them at home. For me, I had a beet/quinoa burger that was probably the best vegetarian burger I’ve ever had.

Filled up and now ready for our next tour at The Kentucky Derby Museum 🐎(2 weeks before the Kentucky Derby-something I would love to experience one day).

The tour was called “The After Hours Tour'' , booked in a group of 25 people. We took a brief tour of the museum on our own, while we waited for our tour guide to begin. What an enthusiastic, dynamic guide we had, with no need for a microphone. We loved his energy and passion about the history of Churchill Downs, and all things Derby. In its 146-year history, there’s never been a year missed, but last year was unlike no other… attendees. How difficult that must have been to have a race and no spectators, or even moreso, a winner, and no roaring from the crowd.

All horses that compete must be 3 years old. If a horse is born let’s say 3 months before the fiscal year of the Kentucky Derby (January), then the horse would be 3 years, 3 months, they would still qualify in that age range and have essentially more time to train. Each year, 20 horses have the once in a lifetime chance to run in the Kentucky Derby. The top four finishers from designated races at tracks across the country and around the world are chosen until cumulatively, 20 contenders have been reached.

We were privileged to tour Millionaire’s Row, the Stakes Room, a stop on the balcony

next to the Twin Spires overlooking the track (near where Queen Elizabeth took her seat about 5 years ago), and to see all of the previous winner’s names as you enter the arena, including the Triple Crown Winners. What a great insider view of the non-public areas of Churchill Downs!

What a fabulous day, highlighted with 2 of the best things to see while in Kentucky. We look forward to revisiting this bluegrass state very soon!

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