Can a new Louisville Slugger salvage the season?
Our troubles were over – at least I thought so, anyway.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my desk pretending to look busy when Tim Kurnos from the ad department peeked his head around a nearby filing cabinet and whispered, “It’s here.” I proceeded to follow him downstairs, my heart pounding incessantly. Then I saw it – the one piece of equipment that we all hoped would change the fortunes and attitude of the Times staff. No, not the popcorn machine. The new rec. league softball bat. Surely it was equipment failure, not a complete lack of athletic prowess, that had plagued us in those early games. I picked up the aluminum Louisville Slugger Championship Series bat for the first time; the sense of confidence was overwhelming. The full grain leather grip melded seamlessly with my hands. The bat, 34 inches in length and 28 ounces, provided the perfect balance of power and stability. And boy was it shiny.I couldn’t wait to give the bat a test drive in the game that night. There was only one problem: Kurnos left the bat at the office – some manager he is. We made one “lucky” employee drive back from the ARC to fetch it for us.
When it arrived, time seemingly stood still (think slow-motion sequence in a major motion picture). All of us turned to look as the bat was propped up against the dugout fence for the first time. I was envious that I had to watch someone else take that first swing.What happened next was unexpected. The unusual barrage of offense we had produced during the game’s early innings was suddenly shut off like a faucet. Two of our most promising hitters, their egos no doubt inflated, struck out swinging (for the sake of maintaining team moral, they shall remain anonymous). I walked up to the plate expecting to hear the familiar ping of metal striking leather; what I heard was more of a thud as the ball grounded weakly to third base. After a pop-up to second base in my next at bat, I contemplated going back to the “Hammer,” a bat which, judging by the various scuff marks and indentations, was as old as the Times building.
In the weeks that followed, I gained more confidence with the Louisville Slugger. The bat did make fly balls travel a few feet farther. And it seemed as though balls did bounce off its aluminum face with a bit more force. But it was hardly the panacea we had clamored for. We began to realize that maybe our expectations were a little lofty. Neither this bat – or any other – can transform rec. leaguers into Major Leaguers.There was a reason I warmed the bench during high school. I thought this bat would make me hit like Manny Ramirez. In reality, I still swing like Barbara Streisand.
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“Deluge which hit up in Tourtelotte fills Durant buildings with mud,” proclaimed a headline in The Aspen Times on Aug. 3, 1939.