By Amy L. Hatch
When I met my husband it quickly became clear that he was a baseball fan.
And by “baseball fan,” I mean someone who watched 18-and-a-half hours of Ken Burns’ “Baseball” on 18 consecutive evenings — with me sitting beside him in a sports coma.
It was sink or swim time, so I set out to learn how to swim. We’ve been watching baseball together ever since, and when our kids were born it was part of their birthright — and they got a good taste of it over Memorial Day weekend when we took a weekend road trip to Louisville, K.Y., to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and see the Triple-A Louisville Bats play a game in Louisville Slugger Field.
We had a great time in Louisville (despite the heat, o the heat!) and it wasn’t that long of a drive from Urbana. Granted, on the way back we had to take a longer route to avoid driving through Indianapolis during the Indy 500, but the trip down was a straight four-hour drive. It was long enough that we felt we were on vacation and short enough that we didn’t spend the college fund on gas and road snacks — and that we could stay overnight and still feel like we got our money’s worth.
If you’re looking for a quick trip this summer, be sure to consider Louisville. In just 24 hours you can see and do a lot of great stuff for families.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory was great fun, and very interesting, to boot (bat?). There are displays and exhibits about the history of the famous bats, and you get to tour the factory that makes most of the bats used today in the Major League. Each player selects the billets, or the piece of wood, that their bats will be made from. I got to hold Derek Jeeter’s bat, fresh off the lathe. I’m not a Yankees fan, but it was still pretty cool.
The bats are made to order, with very specific measurements that are accurate down to the millimeter, which is pretty cool. The museum also houses a collection of bats that belonged to baseball legends. My husband is still in awe that he got his photo taken while he was holding the bat that belonged to Mickey Mantle.
There’s a nice little gift shop, and you can get bats made with your or your kid’s name engraved on them in the Louisville Slugger style. There’s a special play space for toddlers and younger kids who might be bored with the museum, and the admission won’t break the bank: The cost is $11 for adults, $6 for kids 6 and up and $5 for kids under 5. We spent a good three hours here, so you get your money’s worth.
Did I mention the air-conditioning?
Of course in between attractions we had to eat, and we came across a spot that we liked so
much we ate there twice. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe is an ecelctic spot with a huge menu, on which are several dishes that have shown up on various TV shows about food — and deservedly so. I had a plate of French toast that also included burbon sauce and bourbon whipped cream. Yum! The kids menu offered the usual fare but more adventurous kids could share an entree with mom and dad, because the portion sizes were quite large.
Last but not least, we caught a game at Louisville Slugger Field, which is the home of the minor league Louisville Bats. Even though the heat was just about unbearable (90-degrees at 7 pm., seriously?) the stadium was terrific. I hail from a Triple A city with a great minor league team so I’m predisposed to enjoy this type of environment, but if you have kids this ballpark is a dream.
Plenty of food and treats, of course (beware, however: I paid $9 for a drink just so I could get a cup with a lid), but this park also boasts a kids’ corner with not one but two playground structures and an honest-to-goodness merry-go-round. At the seventh inning stretch we moseyed over and the kids played for the last few innings while we still got to take in the action on the diamond. Tickets are affordable, making this a professional baseball experience that most families could afford.
While we only stayed a short while, we really enjoyed our time in Louisville and hope to go back!