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lou-brock-signature

I’m not much of a museum person. But this one is different. It’s a baseball museum. Precisely, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. For $10, you get to see the museum and take a tour of the factory where the famous Louisville Slugger bats are made. If you’ve ever played softball or baseball, chances are you’ve swung one. (I have. I batted cleanup on my softball team in the sixth grade and played a decent third base.)

I knew this was going to be a great day when I walked into the lobby and saw a wall of small wooden tiles with signatures; the signatures of the players who were under contract with Louisville Slugger, made from the plates that were used to stamp the signatures on the players’ custom bats. The first one I looked for — and found — was one of my favorite players of all time, former St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

When you enter the museum, one of the first things you see is an area that is staffed by an attendant. There are actual game-used bats from several baseball legends, which you can hold if you put on a pair of gloves. This is me holding a bat used by Mickey Mantle. I’m not a Yankee fan by any means, but Mickey Mantle is … Mickey Mantle.

Mickey Mantle's bat

I love this one, as I followed Hank Aaron’s home run challenge to Babe Ruth’s record closely back in the day. This is the bat Aaron used to hit the 700th home run. This was pretty darned thrilling.

Hank Aaron's 700th home run bat

This bat was used by Babe Ruth; it may not be visible in the picture, but you can see the notches Ruth made in the bat for each home run he hit. Chills.

Babe Ruth's bat

Ok, now here’s a little confession. I broke a rule. You are not supposed to take photos inside the factory tour. But I just could not help it when I saw these billets (cylindrical pieces of wood) that will soon become St. Louis Cardinal Lance Berkman’s personal bats. So I snapped this on the sly with my iPhone during the tour. I know, I know …

Lance Berkman's future bats

And, even though I hate pictures of myself, I love this one. It’s me holding Mickey Mantle’s bat. Yeah, I know my stance could use some work. It’s been a year or two … or 40.

Holding Mickey Mantle's bat

If you’re ever in Louisville, don’t miss the chance to visit this place — even if you’re not a huge fan, you’ll love the simulation of a 90-MPH fastball. It features a video of Phillies ace Cole Hamels winding up and a machine that shoots a fastball right at you as you stand behind a protective wall. There’s a reason Albert Pujols gets the big bucks.

Special note: It’s only appropriate that I post this on this date; it would have been my Daddy’s 77th birthday, and he was the one who instilled in me the love of baseball. He loved the Cardinals and his favorite player was Stan Musial. Though I never got to see Musial play, he’s one of my favorites as well.

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