Saturday, July 7, 2007

Day 39


I woke up today with a 39 minute run around the neighborhood next to our hotel. I felt great - it was hot but I managed to get out at 9:00 and stay in the shade for most of the way.

I then got ready, had a quick breakie and we drove into town to see the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

Outside the front doors is the world's biggest bat - 120 feet tall.

And next door (ironically) is the Kentucky Mirror & Plate Glass.

And of course inside is the factory where the baseball bats preferred by most professionals have been made since 1884. And a museum with lots of different exhibits. You can read about the origins and history of the game, see all the stars and their accomplishments through the years and take part in some activities. You can select a pitcher and then stand behind home plate while he throws at a make believe catcher. It's quite cool because you are watching a projection of the pitcher and when the ball reaches the release point a machine shoots a ball out of the wall at 90 miles per hour. You are behind plexiglass which is good because some of the pitchers have control problems. You only have about .4 of a second to realise what is happening. By the time your brain catches up the ball has already either hit the catcher or (in the case of a ball) the glass in front of you. In between pitchers, is a recording of Ted Williams explaining why he thought that hitting a baseball is the hardest skill to learn in all of sports.

We also took a tour of how the bats are made but were not allowed to take any pictures inside the factory. All of the bats come from either Maple trees or Ash trees that grow in northern Pennsylvania and across the border in southern New York. A company cuts the trees down and uses a lathe to create billets. A billet is a block of wood that is about two feet in length and weighs about two pounds. The billets are shipped to Louisville (and arrive every Monday morning) to be made into bats. The billets are sent through another lathe that creates a bat in about 45 seconds. Different lathes are used for commercial, amateur and professional bats. Each pro is allowed to order their own bats and based on their contracts can get between 8 and 13 dozen bats each season. The lathe that cuts the pros' bats has a hard drive with over 1000 variables that can be applied to create a custom made bat for each player. After the bat has been formed, it is checked for quality control and then the Louisville logo and player's signature are burned into the bat. The bats are then heated to bring out the wood's natural color and finally dipped into a clear or colored lacquer to provide a finish. Only nine different colors are available and it is one of the variables each player must choose.

When the tour ended, we watched a short film about the game that featured interviews and footage of some of the greats through the years. It was interesting to hear the players explain how they prepare for an at bat and what methods they employ to actually hit the ball.

We collected our miniature Slugger souvenir bats and where out the doors in search of some rub a dub. We came across a place called Bristol Bar & Grill. I had a posh Johnny and a double espresso to fuel me for the rest of the day.Leaving the restaurant, we walked up to view the Ohio River.

We then made our way to the Muhammad Ali Center for a quick look around.

There is a fee to see the exhibits but we managed to wander around the gimp shop and then upstairs without being noticed.

There is a gallery of paintings by LeRoy Neiman done throughout Ali's entire career. If you look closely at the bottom of the second picture you can see the sign saying Ali Neiman in the reflection of the frame.

We also checked out another photo exhibit by Ali's best friend Howard Birmingham and went up to another floor where you could watch any of Ali's fights on TV screens around the room.

Running a few minutes behind schedule, we got the flock out of Looeyville and onto 71N to Cincinnati. In a mad rush, we found a hotel off 71N in Kentucky, checked in, got back on to 71 into Cincinnati, parked up, bought tickets in the 500 level for only fifteen bucks and ate some pizza all before 7:00!

We took our seats and settled in for the game. The Reds took the lead, lost the lead and came back in the 8th to win 5-4. It was a good game but the atmosphere was a bit stale. But that is probably because the Reds suck. That's not what I think but that is what the media think and by the sounds of it most people in the ball park as well. They have inconsistent hitting, fielding and pitching. They fired their manager earlier this year and have the worst record in baseball. Still, they won and nothing beats hanging in the ball park on a hot summer evening.

The shadows were tall.

The mascots were out in full force.

A guy called Homer was the starting pitcher for the Reds.

Ken Griffey Jr didn't pass Frank Robinson in the all time home run list.

The sunset was great.

There were lots of pitching changes.

The guy next to us was Statsie O'Loughlin.

And of course, there was the traffic on the way home.

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