Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We Went Batty – National Parks Senior Pass

(Chesterton, IN) -  It was cloudy and trying to rain all day.  When we got up we didn’t have a clue about what to do today.  Because of the weather we ruled out the beach.  We decided to head to nearby Valparaiso.  Recently we watched a TV show called “How it’s Made” and they had a segment about making baseball bats.  The company they featured was "Hoosier Bat Company" of Valparaiso, Indiana.  Jim is a baseball fan so he called them and found out they offer tours.  We headed out and, with our GPS leading the way we found the small building.  We were greeted by Debbie, the receptionist/tour director.  It's a really small operation, only five workers in the factory.  They build close to 49,000 bats a year, and they have "30 to 40" major leaguers under contract.  Two Hoosier bats are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, including the one that was used by Sammy Sosa the year he and Mark McGwire had their home run race.

Double click on any of these photos to see them full size.
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There's a small gift shop in the lobby with all sorts of baseball gear and paraphernalia, including of course bats.
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An overall view of the factory.
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These are all the different model bats that they make.  They're ordered by model number, which indicates the type of wood and general size.
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Here's the lathe with a bat starting to be formed from the handle end.  They have only one lathe, so it runs pretty continuously.
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This is the end of the lathe process.
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These are bats that have gone through the lathe and are waiting to be sanded and have the extraneous wood on the ends cut off. 
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Bats ready for the sanding machine.  Notice the straight round pieces that look like tubes.  Those are the raw pieces that go through the lathe.  Most of their bats are made from ash, but they also use maple and hickory.
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This is the painting room. The bats are dunked into a tube of paint and then hung to dry.  They'll paint a bat whatever color you like, but the major leagues only authorize black, brown, or natural.
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We picked out a bat and had it personalized with our names, Jim & Dee.
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Our own personalized Hoosier bat.  We don't play baseball, but a baseball bat can come in handy for other reasons.  :)
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All Hoosier bats have three rings around the middle of the shaft.  This is an easy way to identify if a batter is using one when you watch a game on TV.  This was such a wonderful experience, and an example of what full time RV'ing is all about.  We're looking forward to seeking out other, out of the way factories.  Even if it's a product that doesn't interest us, it's always fun to see how things are made.

Since we were close to Highway 30, we decided to drive over to Merrilville for another visit to the Albanese Candy Factory.  We loved the samples we got last time, so got a few pounds of candy this time.
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We stopped at Culver’s for lunch, then on the way home we explored some of the Indiana Dunes National Seashore.  There's a rustic campground a few miles north of our park that's part of the National Seashore.  There's no electric, water, or sewer, but if you like boondocking, lots of trees, and nothing around then this campground would be perfect for you.  We decided it’s not a place where we would choose to stay.  We stopped by the National Seashore/State Park Visitors Center and I got my National Park Senior Pass.  They call it the “Earned Pass.”  Ah, the joys of becoming a senior citizen!  :)

When we got home Jim got out the grill and we had a yummy chicken dinner.  The end of another great day of the RV'ing good life.

8 comments:

-Nellie and Jonathan said...

Chicken dinner?? You were supposed to fill your bellies up with candy at the factory! Well, I'm sure that's what I'd have done! :)

Gin and Syl said...

We enjoy watching "How it's Made" also. Network tv isn't what it used to be.

FYI..the La. State Parks website says they honor the Senior/Access Pass. They at least have water and electric at most of their parks.

Syl

Jessica said...

Haha - when I saw your title, I thought I was going to be looking at pictures of bat caves today!! :)

Laurie and George said...

Yours is the reason I can't wait to full-time. We both watch that show, and others like it, and keep 'earmarking' them to go see.

Laurie

Tom and Marci said...

What a nice day for a "rainy day"! I didn't know about the baseball bat factory - - I guess I just assumed that all the big leaguers used Louisville Sluggers. Next time we're at Indiana Dunes, we'll have to check it out! Bryce is a big baseball fan. Of course, we love the Albanese Candy Factory, and are jealous that you got there twice in one trip. The Ranger-led walk at the Chelburg Farm and Bailey Homestead is a nice one (we blogged about it back in June - check it out).

Sandra said...

I saw the bat show on How It's Made. Neat to see it done. That would be cool to go around and see how stuff is made.

smdrm said...

Hi Denyse and Jim,

Are you familiar with this webiste?

http://www.factorytoursusa.com/

This one http://www.factorytour.com/tours/index.cfm is centered around a book, but may have some helpful info.


Selene

pidge said...

I was going to mention the Louisville slugger factory too. We are from Southern Indiana, so are very familiar with that plant. Stay safe