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BaseballThink correspondent Jim Storer visited Louisville Slugger last week as part of the Innovator’s Road Trip.

louisville_slugger_logo

We had a great “behind the ropes” tour with Rick Redman, the VP of Customer Communications at Louisville Slugger. It makes the most sense to start this post where our tour ended, in the Slugger Museum. Inside the front door there’s a butter churn.. huh, what’s that got to do with baseball bats? Well, that’s what we asked and here’s what Rick told us.

Louisville Slugger – Beginnings (click link for audio recording)

We found this to be an amazing story that really highlighted what we’d been hearing throughout the Innovators Road Trip – innovation usually comes from improving or building something based on a product that already exists.

Back to baseball.

In the early days of baseball (and still today), players would try anything to get a little edge. Rick told us a story about how players traveling in the area playing games would often sneak out of the hotel early in the morning and wait outside the Slugger factory so they could get in first (and get the best wood) when they opened the doors. Talk about competition!

Early on the company hand-turned all of the bats they made on a lathe. This relatively time consuming process limited their production capacity, but the personal attention they gave each player helped them build a strong brand that’s kept them in business for 125 years!

During our tour, Rick introduced us to Tom, who had been working in the factory for 39 years. He’s currently working on MLB player bats (all done with a computerized lathe), but he started out hand turning bats on a lathe and offered to show us how it’s done. Check out the video.

Now take a look at how long it takes to produce the same bat with today’s technology.

Making a major league bat takes even more precision. Slugger has one machine that they use to produce bats for MLB players. It cost them $1M and uses a computer to store all of the individual players specific characteristics and make bats to match.

Pretty cool stuff, but not as cool as seeing the pile of wood stock that Pedroia’s going to use to bring Boston another World Series title this year. 🙂

Pedroia's Lumber

Jim

Note: Cross-posted on innovatorsroadtrip.com

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