LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- I took my first baseball road trip in 2003, when I was 11 years old. My family and I traveled from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Chicago, to experience Wrigley Field.
The first stop on that trip was the Louisville Slugger Bat Museum.
Eleven years later, not much has changed. After traveling six hours, and finally arriving in Louisville on Thursday night, I visited the Louisville Slugger Bat Museum on Friday morning.
Yes, new machines have been introduced to help with the efficiency, but one would be amazed to see how hands-on each worker is in the factory.
For example, each bat is branded with the Louisville Slugger seal by hand. Yes, by hand! Following the branding, each bat is dipped in the player-preferred finish, by hand, and then checked, and left to dry.
This business located in our country's heartland is the No. 1 bat producer in Major League Baseball and, from the looks of it, about 90 percent of its work is done by hand.
While on the tour, I was able to watch Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton's bats being made. Each big-league player is made anywhere from 80-120 bats per season. The bats are made in groups of 20, because players in The Show like being able to change the style, shape, ect., of the bat when things are not going correctly.
Yes, because the bat is the reason they're in that slump ...
Whether the bat is or isn't the reason for great hitting, during my visit I was again reminded of one of the reasons I love baseball: To this day, I am blown away that big-league players can even hit the ball.
At Louisville Slugger, there is a batting simulator. You can stand at the plate, and watch an MLB player throw at you and see, feel how fast the ball comes on you. ... On Friday morning, Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels threw me an 90 mph fastball that I didn't even see coming.
What's the hardest job in sports? Guarding LeBron James? Taking a hit from Jadeveon Clowney? Teeing off at Augusta National?
To me, it's standing in that batter's box and having to decided what to do when that ball gets close.
I think I would be using that Louisville Slugger for protection.