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.
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.