Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bats and Glass

(Shepherdsville, KY) Hi 77 Lo 58 – Today we headed to downtown Louisville. We visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, and then walked around the corner to Glassworks, a design studio where they do amazing things with glass.

The first thing that greets you when you arrive at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is the "Big Bat" in front of the building. It's made of carbon steel, is 120 feet tall, 9 feet in diameter at the bottom, and it weighs 68,000 pounds. The hollow interior has a capacity of 30,000 gallons. That's a BIG bat!
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Here's some facts about Louisville Slugger (the actual company name is Hillerich & Bradsby): They make a total of over a million bats per year. Louisville Slugger bats are used by 60% of major league players, and each player has personal specifications as to length, weight, and balance. All the players' specs are on file in their computers and they can produce a new bat for a player and have it to him within two days. Major league players go through about 100-120 bats in a season, and the $60-$80 cost per bat (depending on if it's made of ash or maple) is paid for by the teams. That's about $97,000 to $130,000 per season for each player, and a total team budget of $2.4 to $3.2 million per season. Yikes!

We took the half-hour tour through the production area. Unfortunately weren't allowed to take photos during the tour. It was interesting to see how computerized everything is. Their computer lathes can turn a billet (the raw, round piece of wood) into a bat in about 30 seconds. The rest of the production steps are sanding, burn branding the labels, and dipping in clearcoat and paint. One interesting bit of trivia: If a players name on the bat is a reproduction of his autograph it means he's under contract with the company. If the name is in block letters he's not under contract. I would guess those under contract get their bats for free, although it wasn't fully explained.

After the tour we wandered around the museum.
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They had many game-used bats of famous players, including a bat used by Babe Ruth during the 1927 season when he hit 60 home runs.
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There was one area where an attendant let you actually handle game-used bats from famous players of the past. Here's Jim "at bat" with a bat that was used by Mickey Mantle (one of his boyhood heroes). He had to put on batter's gloves to protect the bat.
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After a little browsing in the gift shop...
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... we headed back outside, where we got a nice lady to take our picture in front of the Big Bat.
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We walked around the corner to The Louisville Glassworks. Glassworks is a multi-use facility dedicated to the art of glass. It has three working glass studios and two glass galleries. I used to collect glass eggs, so I was really looking forward to seeing some of the amazing things that can be done with glass. We took a self-guided tour that had three stops. First up was the Hot Shop, where we watched "flameworkers" create a decorative piece of glass by placing a long rod into a furnace, pick up a roll of glass, blow in the tube then stretch it out, curl it around another rod, cut, shape then put the whole thing in a cooling container. The guy in the black shirt is wrapping the molten glass around a rod. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)
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Each worker has a part in the process, and they only have about 1 1/2 minutes to shape the glass before it hardens.

The piece is ready to cool
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The guy to the left is taking a bulb of glass and placing it on top of the curled piece that he just created. The two to the right are taking out a new piece of glass to do the same thing as above.
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Upstairs we visited the Payton Flameworks Studio. The owner, Mark Payton, is self-taught and has been doing glass art since 1989. He creates works of art from as small as a tree ornament, to as large as a floor-standing sculpture. He was out for the afternoon so we didn't get to meet him or watch him work. However, we did get to meet and watch Amy Lamaire, who creates beautiful beadwork and other jewelry items. She was making a bead necklace, and she explained the process to us as she worked. She starts out with glass rods that she buys from Venice, Italy. She said Venice is the birthplace of glass art, and they make the finest glass in the world.
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Rather than a large furnace, she works with a small propane burner.
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Mark's and Amy's works are on display and available for sale at the gallery. They were much too expensive for us, not to mention too fragile for life in an RV. :)

Here’s a few of my favorites.
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These are oil lamps, they’re beautiful.
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In another section was the workshop of Architectural Glass Art (AGA). AGA designs and creates large-scale glass work for commercial buildings. They had some small-scale models of their work on various buildings in Louisville and other cities. This is the room where their ideas are born and prototypes are made.
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It was a great day visiting two very interesting and different factories, one for Jim and one for me. We got a bite to eat and went back home to relax. It’s been a great week so far, with a lot more to come.


Jim and Sandie said...

I watched a special on Sluggers just last month. Fascinating to learn that each player can have the bat made to their specifications. The glass is beautiful.

Speedy said...

We drove by the bat factory years ago but did not go in. Looks like we missed some cool stuff.

Joe and Sherri

Donna W. said...

great blog. watched glass blowers at silver dollar city and its amazing how they make such beautiful things. Amy is very talented. but you're right bounching around in an rv isnt great on fragile glass

John and Carol said...

We recently visied the Corning Glass Museum. It was fasinating too.

That is one big bat! We'll have to check that out in the future.

Jill said...

Your notes on the bat factory were quite interesting. I'll need to go there sometime.

daxkitten said...

Last year we toured the Louisville Slugger Museum. Very interesting!

Love your blog!