Tag Archives: baseball

Just Because: What is A Louisville Slugger Anyway?

From trees to tees

By Brody Beaupre

Louisville Slugger. Even if you don’t know the bat, you’ve probably heard the name or seen the iconic logo. For those who don’t know, Louisville Slugger is a brand of baseball bat. This legendary brand got its start around 1880 when a man named Andrew “Bud” Hillerich apprenticed at his father’s woodworking business and learned the tricks of the trade. Hillerich grew up playing baseball and rather than go and buy bats, he would simply make them instead. He did this for some of his teammates as well.

Company legend says that in 1884 Hillerich’s bat made it to the major leagues. Pete Browning, nicknamed “The Louisville Slugger”, is credited with being the first person to use one of Hillerich’s bats in Major League Baseball. By 1894 “Louisville Slugger” was a patented business and producing big league bats. These bats changed the game forever.

Honus “The Flying Dutchman” Wagner, esteemed shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, became the first MLB player to sign a contract for a bat. Wagner also started the now common trend of having the players’ signature inscribed onto the bat.

The bats start as a tree then through the factory gets shaved down and shaped into the bats you see in the other photos

With the endorsement of two major league sluggers “Louisville Slugger” was taking off. The only issue was the company was run by woodworkers not salesmen/managers. That’s where Frank Bradsby came in to really launch Louisville Slugger. With a quick rebranding the company “Hillerich & Bradsby Co.” was born and to this day continues to produce the same quality Louisville Slugger bats.

My Experience

This past 2023 spring break I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the factory and see some of the work that goes into making a bat. There was so much to learn as a ballplayer and so many amazing insights and hands-on portions for everyone.

I have been playing baseball for most of my life, and as an avid user of Louisville Slugger bats, it was truly a wonderful experience. Being someone with aspirations to make it to the Major League level, seeing all the bats from billet (the raw uncut wood) to something some of my favorite players have seen and used in game was so motivating. It makes me want to have my name on a bat that some kid picks up and goes “Oh wow! This is so cool!” Experiencing the factory from a fan view really makes me want to be on the player end more so than I already did. It’s the experiences like the ones that I had which is what makes the Louisville Slugger factory such a spectacular place.

There is just so much history I couldn’t cover it all in one story, but I highly recommend if ever given the opportunity, to go and see it all firsthand.

If the MLB Playoffs Started Today

By Brody Beaupre

When most people think about October one word comes to mind: Halloween. Unless, of course, your favorite Major League Baseball (MLB) team is in the playoffs. October was not only made for ghosts and ghouls, but for homeruns and high scoring games. In the 2022 postseason, there are bound to be many great matchups and upsets.

The Good, the Bad, and the Angels

This season has been full of some very high highs, and some very (very) low lows. There are many examples of this throughout the baseball season, but my personal favorites are the Angels and the Braves. First the good, a.k.a. the Braves. The Atlanta Braves went on one of the hottest winning streaks in baseball this year. The team won 14 straight games. This streak, which started June 1 and ended June 15, was one of the main reasons the Braves are in the playoffs. For a large part of the season, the Braves have been two to four games behind the New York Mets for the Divisional Series spot but were able to make a good run for the Wild Card spots. The younger team led by head coach Brian Snitker has a very solid chance at the NLCS, if not the World Series. Now for the not so good, a.k.a. the Angels. The Los Angeles Angels went on one of the worst losing streaks in the MLB this year. A straight 14 games without a win. This is oddly ironic, because two of the biggest names in baseball are on the Angels. This would be Mike Trout (#27) and Shohei Ohtani (#17). Mike Trout has been on the cover of many MLB video games, and Ohtani was recently the cover of “MLB The Show ‘22”. Unfortunately, the superstars could not save the team from a very low spot in the rankings. 

If the postseason started today:

Brody’s Official First Round Predictions:

All of the teams in the playoffs this year have the ability to beat their opponent but there can only be one winner. 

Seattle Mariners @ Cleveland Guardians – Seattle
Seattle has not seen the playoffs since 2001 and now that they have a shot, I believe that they will claw and fight for the series win.

Tampa Bay Rays @ Toronto Blue Jays – Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is starting to spread its wings as an organization. They have good pitching and some quality hitters, whereas Toronto is lacking in the quality pitching department.

Philadelphia Phillies @ St. Louis Cardinals – St. Louis
If I pick Philadelphia, there’s a high chance Ms. Alvarez will fail me (kidding…kind of). St. Louis has star catcher Yadier Molina and designated hitter Albert Pujols, both of whom are retiring after this season. They will have extra incentive to go all the way as one final hurrah.   

San Diego Padres @ Atlanta Braves – Atlanta
Atlanta is coming off a World Series win in 2021 so the extra motivation is there for the Braves to go back-to-back.

The Savannah Bananas: Not Your Average Baseball Team

By Brody Beaupre

Even though baseball is a sport that dates back more than one hundred years, a small farm league in Savannah, Ga. has changed the game forever. The Savannah Bananas have remastered baseball to a fully immersive fan experience. “Banana Ball” has a completely different set of rules designed to make sure there is never a dull moment during the game. I recently had the privilege to see a Banana Ball game, and it was an experience that I will never forget. 

A Little History

The Bananas call Grayson Stadium home. “Historic Grayson Stadium” as it is known to some, was built in 1926. This smaller stadium only holds 4,000 people, but the stands are always packed full of adoring fans. This stadium has been the home field for many teams such as the minor league Savannah Indians, the Savannah Sand Gnats, and many summer league teams throughout its many years of operation. Owner Jesse Cole bought the team and saw that ticket sales were down. In 2016 he turned some rundown team and stadium into the major attraction it is today. The Bananas have already gone on tour once and are doing it again, playing against their rivals the Party Animals (which is the equivalent of the Bananas).

Banana’s catcher Bill LaRoy (L) is a fan favorite among the banana faithful

The Big Draw

During my experience there were so many memorable moments, but of course none of that would have happened if there wasn’t a massive draw in the first place. The main thing that sets Banana Ball apart from regular baseball is the extremely different rulebook. Some drastically different rules are the foul ball rule, no walks rule, and the no balks rule. If a fan catches a foul ball in the stands, it is ruled an out, which has only happened twice in Banana Ball history. In regular baseball, when the pitcher throws four balls (pitches not in the strike zone), the batter may “walk” to first base without the opposing team having the opportunity to get them out. But in Banana Ball, every player must touch the ball before it is live. This could result in a walk being a homerun. The third rule is the “no balks” rule. There are many different ways a pitcher can have a balk[1] in regular baseball, but not in Banana Ball! Pitchers can do whatever they feel like doing on the pitcher’s mound, and batters cannot step out of the batter’s box. These are just some of the crazy rules that make Banana Ball the special experience it is. The Bananas are an ever-changing organization. They believe in “fans first” in every aspect of the game. If a fan makes a suggestion or request that is just spectacular, the Bananas will give it a try. This allows for them to always make it a pleasurable and unique experience every single game.

A breakdown of Banana Ball

My Experience

When I went to watch the Bananas play, it was a truly spectacular experience. There wasn’t a dull moment. From the Banana-nanas (yes, it is a group of grandmother-cheerleaders) to the Man-anas (a group of “dad bod” cheerleaders), and the mid-game shenanigans, I was completely immersed in the game the whole time. The athleticism of the players is also crazy to watch. These players made spectacular plays that regular baseball players wouldn’t dare to attempt in a game. If anyone has the opportunity to go to a Bananas game, I strongly recommend it. 

[1] When a pitcher makes an illegal move on the mound. This causes the batter to get a ball and the baserunners to freely advance one base.

Varsity Baseball Team Benefits From Younger Players

By Shailey Klein

Two months ago, the Oak Hall baseball program didn’t know if there would be enough players to field a varsity team. Now with one week left in the regular season, the baseball team holds a 9-4 record with losses only to P.K. Yonge and St. Francis Catholic.

The Eagles are led by seniors Andrew Pickens, Matthew Leber, and Levent Eldem. The trio was celebrated for senior night on April 7 before facing the Hawthorne Hornets at Roger Maris Field. Reaching the run rule in the fifth inning, the Eagles dominated the Hornets 10-0 after opening up the game with six runs in the third inning, sending the seniors out with a memorable victory. 

The underclassmen on the baseball team have benefited from the leadership of the seniors this season. Freshman Harrison Beach especially appreciates how the seniors have mentored the younger players throughout the season. 

Despite the departure of these three key players, the future is very bright for Oak Hall baseball. Under the guidance of Head Coach Kevin Maris, the team has a plethora of young talent with plenty of time to develop over the next few years. “I believe that the young core of our team is in good hands with Coach Maris and Coach Hill, and they will do really well over the next few years,” Leber commented. “Our team is mostly freshmen, so they have definitely contributed to our success this season,” he added. 

The Oak Hall baseball program has the additional benefit of fielding a middle school baseball team to introduce young athletes to the sport and give them game experience before reaching the varsity level. 

The Eagles’ district consists of St. Francis, Aucilla Christian, Redeemer Christian, and St. John Lutheran. The last meeting between St. Francis and Oak Hall went down to the wire and resulted in extra innings. Unfortunately, the Eagles fell short after the Wolves sealed the game with three runs in the ninth inning. The Eagles are prepared to potentially take on the cross-town rivals again in the district tournament after the heartbreaking loss earlier this season. “I’ve loved competing with the guys and I’m really excited about what we can do in the postseason,” Pickens stated. “I really think we’re going to turn some heads,” he added. 

The Eagles play its last home game on Thursday, April 22 at 4:15 p.m.

Spring Sports Underway

By Shailey Klein

As winter sports reach the conclusion of the regular season and enter into postseason, spring sports are already underway. The varsity boys weightlifting team, led by long-time coach Jim Margerum began lifting with its first practice on Jan. 11. The varsity girls and boys tennis teams, as well as the varsity baseball team began practicing Jan. 18. On Jan. 25, the last spring sports hit the ground running with varsity girls and boys lacrosse and track & field.

The varsity girls tennis team is the first to swing into action on Feb. 11 against Eastside High School at home. The varsity boys lacrosse team kicks off regular season competition with a game on the road at St. Augustine High School on Feb. 16. The first home boys lacrosse game shortly follows on Feb. 26 against Tallahassee Maclay. The boys varsity tennis team hits the court for its first game at home facing Eastside High School on Feb. 16. On Feb. 17, the boys varsity weightlifting team heads to Bronson for its first competition. The boys and girls track and field team runs into the beginning of its season with a home track meet at the Olinger Track on Feb. 17 as well. The boys varsity baseball team swings into action with its season and home opener on Feb. 22 at Roger Maris Field facing Cedar Key. The varsity girls lacrosse team opens its season on Feb. 23 at Newberry High School and plays its first game at home on March 5 against district foe Menendez High School.

Although official practices have begun for all spring sports, many teams still struggle with the overlap of winter and spring sports. With Oak Hall being such a small community, there are many athletes that participate in both winter and spring sports. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) requires athletes to fully complete their winter sports season before beginning their spring sport. This rule is put in place in order to prevent winter sports teams from suffering from losing players as the team enters postseason, because of the start of spring sports. Much of postseason for winter sports such as basketball and soccer plays well into many spring sports seasons.

This overlap particularly caused an issue with the varsity girls lacrosse team, as eight players are members of the varsity girls soccer team. Five of those eight players are returning starters to the lacrosse team, making up a decent amount of the starting lineup. The original varsity girls lacrosse schedule, which was assembled months in advance had to be completely rearranged in order to accommodate the soccer postseason schedule. The first three games of the season were pushed back on the schedule, all of those being important district games. This makes for a tough regular season with often three games per week later in the season, but fortunately it allows the entire team to be together for the beginning of regular season play.

All spring sports programs are extremely eager to participate in competition as seasons were cut short a year ago, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Some teams like the girls lacrosse team only had the opportunity to compete in one home game and four games total. The varsity baseball team only played five games. A year of off-season training has prepared every spring athlete to make up for lost time. 

Check out https://www.oakhall.org/athletics/athletic-schedules for the most updated athletic schedules for spring sports.