Louisville Slugger Field

From BR Bullpen

Home of Louisville RiverBats / Louisville Bats, 2000 to present

BUILT: 2000

STATED CAPACITY: 13,131

FIRST GAME: April 12, 2000, vs. Norfolk Tides (Tides 8, RiverBats 5)

LARGEST CROWD: 14,658 - April 21, 2018

Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, KY, is the home of the Louisville Bats, the Cincinnati Reds' International League farm team. In 1982, the former Springfield Redbirds moved into the University of Louisville's cavernous football stadium from Illinois and immediately shattered the single-season attendance record for all of Minor League Baseball.

Shattered, indeed: The old record, set in 1946 as ballparks re-opened after World War II, was 670,563; the 1982 Redbirds drew 868,418. The next season, they took the next logical step by becoming the first minor league club ever to draw 1 million fans in a single season.

This ballpark hosted a Major League exhibition that does not hold its one-date gate record: The Reds and Baltimore Orioles drew 13,131 to a 2002 spring-training game, but the Bats themselves topped that with an April 21, 2018, crowd of 14,658 for a game that was played on the same day as the annual "Thunder Over Louisville" fireworks event .

The stadium is of course named for the iconic locally manufactured Louisville Slugger bat in a naming-rights deal with Hillerich & Bradsby.

Originally a St. Louis Cardinals' affiliate, the Redbirds switched to the Milwaukee Brewers when St. Louis opted to hook up with the Triple-A franchise Memphis, TN, landed in 1998. The Louisville club took RiverBats as their nickname. In 2002, that became just "Bats" as the team moved into "The Slug" - where a million would require a season of full houses every game with no rainouts - and joined the Reds' farm system.

In 2022, the same season so-called "robot umpires" made it to Triple-A, The Slug became the first professional baseball playpen to use a robo mower.

Louisville is one of two original National League cities without big-league baseball today; the other is Hartford, CT. There was a near miss at getting back into MLB: Four seasons before Charlie Finley moved the Kansas City Athletics to Oakland, CA, in 1968, American League owners voted 9-1 against his moving them to Louisville.

Given its current success and that history, the city's spotty professional baseball track record is perhaps surprising. After the NL's Louisville Colonels folded following the 1899 season, the Derby City went entirely without affiliated baseball in 1900, 1902-1967, and 1973-1981.

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