Saturday, 24 April, 2010
While it's true that Arthur Doubleday didn't invent the town of Louisville, he probably was it's reason for such a wonderful spirit. As every young lad that has held a Louisville Slugger in his hands, and every young lass that has swung that bat to discover a supremely satisfying kerthwack of energy in the ball leaping from a stick of wood, to arc high in the air, Baseball and Softball will always ignite something beautiful in the soul of those who love the game.
And when in Louisville, there is no better place to discover, or rediscover, that same spirit in yourself, while remembering those long ago dreams, than in the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. This shrine is a testament to the American Pastime, and all the truly amazing people that have piqued our attention, and amazed us with their prowess. Baseball, and yes Softball too, is a game like no other. Oh sure, our Brit cousins have Cricket, which is reputedly a fine game, but simply not even close. They also have Rounders, which is closer to our Baseball, but still not in the same league. Baseball has become a world Class game, with Major Leagues in just about every developed, and some not so developed, countries.
Each and every player will happily tell you that there is only one true bat to be used, a genuine Louisville Slugger! They've been crafting the bats of our Professional teams for well over a century, and there is no other bat that comes close to the proper feel, and swing of the real deal!
So, Slugger, when in Louisville, a trip to the home of the best bats in the world is no strike out. In fact, you really don't need to be an avid fan of the game to enjoy the tour. My dearest beloved Barb, who really can take or leave sports in general, had a wonderful time, and enjoyed herself quite a bit. The tour is a real treat. You get to walk thru an honest to gawd, working factory, and learn some fun factoids along the way. The factory has an air conditioning, venting, humidity controlled system that allows both workers, and tourists alike to walk thru without having to breathe massive amounts of wood dust. No small feat in a plant that produces as many wooden bats in a day as they do!
As you amble thru the production process, you notice just how clean the environment is, and also learn about the various steps in making the bat to a tolerance of 1/1000th of an inch! Wood species, weight, configuration, grading, and also each particular`player's unique specifications, all play an important part. For you Baseball aficionados, Ted Williams (a major hitter back in the day, for you non aficionados) once turned a bat back in, because it didn't feel right in the neck area. The bat in question was taken back to the factory and measured. It was, in fact, 5/1000th of an inch out! This just demonstrates the relationship a hitter has with the bat. At various points along the way, you get to see short videos describing a particular step in the process, and some well known players giving a quick anecdote about "his" bat. To a player, they all used the same phrase about how the bat feels in your hands. Seems they all very much enjoyed "having some good wood in your hands". Of course we giggled!
After the tour, you get a free (never mind the cost of the tour) souvenir, mini bat. If you wish to pay for it, you can even get it engraved with your own signature. Nothing says success like your very own John Hancock on a little stick of wood after all!
The Museum part is also a celebration of both the company that makes the bats, and the players that use them. I actually held a 1918 Babe Ruth bat, and also a Mickey Mantle! I turned down the David Ortiz for the Mickey Mantle as the sweet young thing that was ogling after David Ortiz had no idea. Then outside for some pictures at the largest bat in the world (120 ft tall, 68,000 lbs) and time for us to take a 7th Inning Stretch.
We collect Ace the DufusDog from our car, along with the GPS'r and PDA, to do a bit of Geocaching downtown. Barb had picked out a particularly fun cache, one that afforded us a great panoramic view from the 9th story of a parking garage, and led us to another parking garage. Happily, we didn't hafta huff and puff up 9 storeys this time! She cleverly finds the cache that was quite well hidden, and then it's off to find food for us.
We happen along the main street of town, which was quite busy with the 13,000 High School students (and their attendant Adults in tow) of the DECCA conference. These students are all involved in a business oriented competition, and the girls outnumber the boys by at least three to one. Lucky lads. So Barb, Ace, and I find a Pizza by the Slice eatery, with outdoor tables. Barb bravely volunteers to go inside and get us food, while Ace and I sit and defend our table from any would be intruders. Of course, while my intrepid wife is standing inside, and making those all important luncheon decisions, Ace is the star of the sidewalk! Elvis himself would have been demoted to a mere background item as each and every girl that sauntered by would have to stop and pet the puppy! and I gotta tell ya, they build em differently than when I was in High School!? Not that we didn't have our own beauties, mind ya, but each and every one of these girls was stunning in her own right! Not easy being me, really.
After a fun lunch, and much loving for Ace, and more giggles for Barb and I, we finally leave town for the next part of the journey. I drive thru some very hard rain, thunder and lightening. As we approach Nashville, we stop at a Welcome Center to relieve our
Bladder-O-Meters, and call ahead on our cabin. But what is this? Our reservation doesn't start until the next day?! What! Oh frack! Breathe... ok, so maybe they can get us in a day early, despite the owners having something of a family get together. With all the thunderstorms going thru, they had postponed their event, and already had our cabin set up, yea! Somewhere between my uber busy, but well intentioned (and still the bestest wife in the world) and the sorta ditzy, scatter brained wife owner, the dates had got jumbled up. but once again, fortune was on our side, and God smiled on us. We were happily greeted, and warmly received into our little Southern Chalet.
The rest of the afternoon, and evening we dined on frozen pizza, chips and salsa, and enjoyed a majestic thunderstorm! Yup, Life is good, and we're quite happy to enjoy our blessings! A very comfortable bed, with a very real down mattress awaited our tired bodies, and the peacocks serenaded us as we smiled at each other, and knew that love, once again, had provided.