Harvey’s Grand Slam Day

“The next time someone whines that baseball doesn’t have enough action, you can do two things: first, explain the planning, strategizing, calculating, and deception that take place before every pitch. Then quote Hall-of-Fame announcer Red Barber: ‘Baseball is dull only to dull minds.'”~~~Zack Hample, Watching Baseball Smarter:  A  Professional Fan’s Guide for  Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks


What is it with baseball? There is just something timeless about the game. No sport has been vaunted more than baseball. And that seems really odd since we live in such a fast-paced, give-it-to me-now world. Who’s got time for a baseball game? Yet baseball is used as metaphor and an analogy for anything and everything. You can find hundreds of quotes that bear this out. I think we love it not in spite of its snail’s pace, but because of it. Baseball makes us slow down. It’s like being in a rocking chair on my grandmother’s front porch on a Sunday afternoon when I was a kid. Face it. You aren’t going anywhere. You are going to be there for a while; may as well calm down, kick back, and enjoy. And it’s always been this way. With grandmothers and with baseball. It was no different a hundred years ago.

Bud Hillerich was crazy about baseball. He played on an amateur team in Louisville, Kentucky back in the 1880s. That seventeen year old kid also apprenticed in his father’s woodworking business where he made bats for himself and some of his team members. One fine spring day, he cut out of work early to go to an Eclipse baseball game; that was Louisville’s major league team. Their star player was a fellow named Pete Browning and his nickname was “The Louisville Slugger.” Browning broke his bat and Bud offered to make a new one for him. Well, as luck and lore would have it, The Louisville Slugger got three hits with his new bat.

J. Fred Hillerich, Bud’s dad, didn’t share his son’s love of baseball and thought adding baseball bats to his company’s product line would strike out. He just didn’t see any future in it. He was most enthusiastic about his swinging butter churn and wanted to keep the focus of the company on that patented and popular product. Still, J. Fred was OK with Bud making some bats on company time.

Then a strange thing happened. The bat business soared. Bud actually patented his design. “Louisville Slugger” became a registered trademark in 1884 and Bud became a partner with his dad in 1897. They hit one out of the park when they signed a contract for product endorsement with a shortstop by the name of Honus Wagner, AKA “The Flying Dutchman” from the Pittsburgh Pirates. This was the first time a professional athlete ever endorsed a product and his name was the first (but not last) to be engraved on a bat. The little Louisville woodworking company continued to make excellent business decisions through the years and the results are evident in the big league business still headquartered in Louisville today.

We used to take the kids to Braves games from time to time. I remember just walking out of the hotel and being swept up in the throngs of people wielding foam hatchets and finding ourselves at the stadium as if transported upon a palanquin. No need to ask directions; just go with the flow. And when you get high up in the stands, you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement, especially if the beer guy comes around frequently. (Pro tip: bring lots of small bills for tipping the beer guy!) Seriously, every kid needs to go to a major league game at least once. It’s Americana to the core. I love this quote from Katie McGarry in a book called Dare You To: “Baseball isn’t just a game. It’s the smell of popcorn drifting in the air, the sight of bugs buzzing near the stadium lights, the roughness of dirt beneath your cleats. It’s the anticipation building in your chest as the anthem plays, the adrenaline rush when your bat cracks against the ball, and the surge of blood when the umpire shouts strike after you pitch. It’s a team full of guys backing your every move, a bleacher full of people cheering you on. It’s…life!”

These are the billets used to make bats.


Harvey was fascinated by the guy demonstrating how a bat is made by hand.


We wanted to surprise Harvey with a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. He loves sports. We’ve watched him on a soccer field, a basketball court, and a baseball diamond. We think he will love sailing and this summer, he will try his hand at the tiller on the Beaufort River. It was a hoot to see his reaction when we walked up to the front of the museum and he got his first look at that 120 foot long bat. The museum was great fun to a boy who loves baseball. He hung on every word as the tour guide walked us through the factory. I’ll admit that it was pretty impressive, but I like watching the machinery operate. It takes a machine 48 seconds to make a bat; a skilled factory worker takes much longer. We left with mini bats for Harvey, Winston, and Sullivan which can be used with much adult supervision; these little bats can pack quite a wallop and those three lead a rough and tumble life in the backyard. The three mini bats loaded the bases and then Harvey made a play for a Louisville Slugger shirt and hat, so it was a grand slam! Funny, we returned to our hotel, and as I watched snow flurries outside our eighth floor window, I suddenly realized, much to Harvey’s delight, that we can see the top of the bat from our room.



  1. Pam Morgan on February 18, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    A trip Harvey will always remember when he sees a real bat!

  2. Judith Evans on February 18, 2023 at 4:03 pm

    Bonding time!

  3. Sarah Guida on February 18, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Wonderful story! What a memorable trip for Harvey, you and Rick!
    Learned so much from your posting. We have never been to Louisville.

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