About a year and a half ago, I went on a tour of the Louisville Slugger bat factory in (where else?) Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve written about it briefly here, but it’s well worth a visit if you find yourself anywhere near Louisville. Consider that before the company came along, batters would hold things like table legs when they went up to bat. I think we can all agree this company is an important part of baseball’s history. In fact, Rawlings might be the only competition they really have in this area.
As you might expect, the bat factory has a gift shop, where hats, shirts, and all other manner of items with the Louisville Slugger logo are available for purchase. Everyone who takes the tour gets a minibat with the museum’s logo on it, but if you want to get one with your team’s logo, fortunately they’re available, too. The company uses the term minibat as one word, without a hyphen, so I’ll adopt their usage here as well.
Or at least, they’re supposed to be available. Maybe this one visit was an anomaly, and it just happened to be on the day that things were this way. But since I’ve never gone there before this day, and may not ever get there again in my lifetime, I’m taking this experience to be representative of the way things generally are. For whatever that’s worth.
Every team in the major leagues has a bin with its name above it at the Louisville Slugger gift shop. And in those bins, there’s enough room for approximately 50 minibats, each one bearing that team’s logo. So if you’re visiting from Tampa, and you want to pick up five or six of these things to pass around the office when you get back, they’ll take care of you. For five bucks apiece, that is.
I didn’t really need that many minibats, and one would have been fine for me. So I look for the Cubs bin, and…empty. Every other team in the majors were filled to overflowing, and there wasn’t a single Cubs minibat to be had. The Louisville Slugger Museum minibat I already had was going to have to be enough for me.
Could it be that the Cubs’ souvenir shop called in with a special order? I suppose so. And is it possible that someone scooped up all the Cubs minibats for their buddies back in Chicago? It seems like a long shot, but I suppose that could happen, too.
Or is a more likely explanation that the Cubs have a large fan base that is willing to shell out five bucks for something like this? I think that’s entirely possible. Louisville Slugger wants to sell the goods that they make, and an empty bin for them means they’ve already had a significant level of sales for that team. And it also means they’ll need to make more in order to keep up with the demand.
Don’t Yankees fans, and Red Sox fans, and Cardinals fans, and all the other teams’ fans want one of these team minibats, too? I can’t imagine that it’s only Cubs fans who would want something like this. And yet they were the only team that was sold out, or anything close to it, on the day that I was there in the gift shop.
While I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a minibat with a Cubs logo that day, I was also heartened that the Cubs appeared to be in such great demand. It’s definitely the sort of glass-half-full approach that a Cubs fan needs to have in order to survive.