By Chris Meiman, Curator & Exhibits Director
Louisville is thrilled to host the 2017 ACC Baseball Tournament at Louisville Slugger Field. Though our hometown Louisville Cardinals are a relatively new addition to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville Slugger has been a big part of college baseball for a long time.
Most know that college players today use metal and composite bats. Louisville Slugger is proud to provide bats to many top programs, including four in the ACC – Louisville, North Carolina, Florida State and Wake Forest. Those schools have combined for 22 ACC Championships and 36 trips to the College World Series. What most don’t know is that Louisville Slugger has been making bats for college players going back decades. We’ve found wood bat orders for schools going back to our earliest bat records in the 1920s, including Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
For a couple of programs, Louisville Slugger even created custom b models, just like the pros! In 1936, Louisville Slugger worked with the University of Notre Dame (whose 1993 manager is pictured below with other managers visiting our California factory) to create the U22 bat. A few decades later in 1957, Louisville Slugger and the University of North Carolina created the N25 model.
Once players leave school and turn pro, we start making bats for them personally. Some of the biggest names in baseball have come from schools now in the ACC. Recently ascendant stars like Louisville’s Adam Duvall, Notre Dame’s AJ Pollock, and NC State’s Trea Turner have already set the baseball world abuzz. Stars from the past few decades include Georgia Tech’s trio of Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Mark Teixeira, Florida State’s two-sports star Deion Sanders, and Miami sluggers Pat Burrell and Ryan Braun.
While putting together our original exhibit, ACC Baseball: Legends & Legacies, which features batting helmets, history, heroes and fun facts from each school, we learned there are some interesting tales from the histories of schools now in the Atlantic Coast Conference. For instance, Boston College’s Pete Frates was one of the originators of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness and money for ALS. One of Pitt’s most famous alumni, Mike Ditka, played baseball in between his time on the gridiron and was described as a “good right fielder.” Another fun story comes from Duke’s Lawrence Davis, whom you may know better by his nickname, “Crash” (listed as the team’s captain towards the bottom of the document pictured above). His tale was immortalized in the 1988 comedy, Bull Durham, though what was real and what was Hollywood tends to blend together. Here’s one fact that definitely is real: We made bats for the actual Crash Davis, and for the Crash Davis character, played by Kevin Costner in the film (you can read more about our ties to Hollywood here).
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is proud to participate in the ACC Fanfest at Louisville Slugger Field during the 2017 ACC Baseball Tournament, where you can see that exhibit. At the ballpark, fans can also stop by our booth and hold game-used bats, authentic bat models and replicas from top players and legends like Buster Posey (FSU) and Ryan Zimmerman (UVA). Folks should be sure to check out the offerings less than a mile down Main Street at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where we have special pricing for ACC fans. No matter which team you’re pulling for, all ACC fans are welcome at The Big Bat!