Lessons About Leadership Learned (and Lost) in Louisville

***Stop #10 on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Louisville (KY) Bats***

There are a bunch of sports related monuments around Louisville, but my favorite stands in front of Louisville Slugger Field – the home of the Louisville Bats (Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds).

Yosef, Lynden, Vivi and Everett in front of Pee Wee Reese’s statue.

The bronzed figure making an off-balanced throw in front of the stadium’s main entrance is Harold “Pee Wee” Reese of Brooklyn Dodger fame.

I have heard of Reese but I’m no baseball historian – I wanted to learn more.  So, I took notice of a plaque on the base of the statue which, I thought, would list his accolades on the diamond.

To my surprise, though, the statue didn’t spend much time on Reese’s Hall of Fame worthy statistics, All-Star appearances, National League pennants or his World Series title.

Instead, the plague told us the story of an underdog, team captain and leader – a man whose small stature became meaningless relative to the impact he made to the teams he captained.

Pee Wee Reese was “The Captain” before Derek Jeter.

I read the plague to my kids during a 45-minute rain delay.  Not only were they interested in Reese’s story, they, more importantly, wanted to understand how he was able to lead so many successful teams.

To bring Reese’s legend to life, I pointed out several examples of leaders on the field as we waited for the game to start.

Directly in front of our seats was Bats’ Manager, Delino DeShields, encouraging his guys to “hustle up” as he jogged onto the field.

I took notice of Bats’ Assistant Coach, Jody Davis, on the bench out of the corner of my eye.  I explained the leadership he exemplified for the Chicago Cubs teams I watched when I was just a kid.

Our seats were close enough to see live examples of leadership on the field – like the Bats’ young center fielder clapping gloves and yelling, “That a baby!” to his right field

The plague describing Reese’s connection to Louisville and his legendary leadership ability.

counterpart who made a diving catch to end the third inning.

My children seemed to take the leadership lesson in – for about four innings.  In the fifth, my 11 year-old caught a ball from our seats and turned to show his new treasure to his 4 year-old brother.

Obviously dismayed at his lack of his own souvenir, Everett (4) grabbed Yosef’s ball and a tug-of-war ensued – ultimately ending in two crying kids and an early, tired exit for us.

The spirit of Pee Wee Reese is alive at Louisville Slugger Field.  I hope that it makes a cameo in my home soon.

Until then, though, I will remember the living examples of the leadership of Pee Wee Reese, brought to us tonight by the Louisville Bats, a rain delay and seats close enough to take notice.

A day with kids in Louisville, KY

Our first expedition in Louisville was the legendary grounds of Churchill Downs – a 10 minute drive from the heart of downtown.  I was candidly surprised of the park’s proximity to everything – I assumed it would be located on the countryside.

Although we couldn’t see the infield, the size of the facility was mind-boggling.  The grounds were immaculate and provided for plentiful photo opportunities.  My kids elected to stand in front of Barbaro’s bust, the 2006 winner of the Kentucky Derby.  

As an added bonus, if you’re a sports nut, the drive to Churchill Downs takes you through the University of Louisville’s campus of athletic facilities – Cardinal Stadium (football) as well as the baseball, soccer, track, weight training and softball facilities.

Each of the University of Louisville Cardinals’ facilities appeared state of the art – no wonder that each is among the top in their respective sport each season.

After returning to downtown, we took to Main Street and Louisville’s “museum row” – first stopping at the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts (KMAC).  I worried, at first, about KMAC’s classic art museum look as we entered the free of charge museum.  I was relieved to learn that, alas, the interactive kids activities are neatly kept in the back.

Everett and Emersyn at a faux stained glass exhibit at KMAC.

I ushered my kids through the breakables and toward several, staff-led tables of activities.

My three oldest kids made stick shadow puppets and ink-blotted stencils as my 4 and 1 year-olds created a stained glass feature and attached felt shapes to a felt-clad wall.

While leaving KMAC, we noticed a large, gold replica of the Statue of David and a building topped with several pink penguins, called 21C.

C21 is an art museum and a hotel.  There are several contemporary art galleries with a scavenger hunt for the kids.  Be warned, there are pieces of art that will have the older kids chuckling at their exposure (if you know what I mean).

Don’t miss a hidden gem of 21C – the first floor bathrooms.  The men’s restroom has a water wall that doubles as a urinal.  Let me tell you, my sons spent more time peeing in the waterfall than on the art-based scavenger hunt.

Our last stop on museum row was the Louisville Slugger Museum – easily distinguishable by the 120-foot wooden baseball bat near the front door.  The Slugger museum provides tours of the bat manufacturing process, an interactive LEGO room and a wall of emblazoned signatures listing all past and present Slugger-sponsored ball players.

A stop at the Slugger gift shop provides the chance to customize an authentic wooden bat or to buy a bat blemished during the finishing process.

The Louisville Slugger Museum.

Staying in downtown Louisville was perfect for us – there is so much to do and, based on several visible construction projects, there is so much more to come.

About Louisville, KY:

We’re an entirely different type of Southern. From boundary pushing twists on Southern cuisine that have made us one of the “10 Best New Food Cities” in America to our one and only Urban Bourbon Experience, featuring the world’s only, city-wide trail filled with award-winning micro-distilleries, exhibits and craft cocktail destinations.

Then discover one-of-a-kind attractions like the legendary Churchill Downs, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, and the Muhammad Ali Center. And that’s just your first day here.

***The next stop on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Chattanooga (TN) Lookouts***

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