Louisville Slugger Launches Player-Designed Bats in Pro Prime Series
Didi Gregorius really took to the opportunity to design his own Louisville Slugger wood bat as the brand debuts its new Pro Prime series. The Yankees’ shortstop embraced his pride of being knighted, sketching out his own design to adorn the bat that launches the new Slugger line.
Louisville Slugger will showcase the personality of five MLB players this season with this brand-new Pro Prime bat series featuring player-designed wood bats available to consumers and for the MLB players to swing in practice. The Gregorius design kicks off the program, launching March 6, followed by an April launch of the Christian Yelich design, a May launch for Adam Jones, a June launch of the Ronald Acuna design and wrapping with an August launch of a bat designed by Cody Bellinger.
“Louisville Slugger has so much history, and it was one of the first bats I used when I came to the States from Curaçao,” said Gregorius. “It has always felt good in my hands. When they asked me to help design my Pro Prime bat, I was excited to work with a company that trusted me to create something so special to me. I’m honored to now be a part of the Louisville history of unique and special bats.”
The limited-edition series offers both the player-designed bat and an exact player model with the specs the player uses in-game — from the decals to the finish — as a two-option offering. Slugger will also keep the price, $150 on Slugger’s website and at select dealers, the same as all of its MLB Prime offerings.
“My goal is I want these in as many kids’ hands as possible,” said Mike Butler, Slugger’s wood bat product line manager. “I want to run through the first (offering) and move to the next model and sell through. There is no reason to upcharge.”
Butler said the team discussed the program for quite some time, starting with the idea of making sure fans could swing the game models of some of their favorite players. But Pro Prime took a personality-filled twist by adding the second option where players represented themselves in a fresh way. “We wanted to let their personality shine and let younger kids get a glimpse about what really connects them and inspires them,” he said.
The two-part project started with Gregorius and Yelich visiting the office to work on designs, then led to Jones and Acuna models and the recent first meeting between Butler and Bellinger to get that design moving.
The concept was new to players at first, as the MLB keeps a tight grip on colors allowed during the game. “They are not used to designing a bat like this,” Butler said. “They are used to naturals and black and hickory colors, but once they understood it was all about them and getting younger kids to connect with who they are, their eyes lit up and they wanted to have fun with it and give kids something they don’t normally see. They love interacting with the kids.”
Gregorius launches the line with his knight-inspired aesthetic. The bat’s design came from a drawing the MLB player created himself, allowing the design team to take his shield and put it in the knob medallion along with his number. The upper body and head of the knight is in the center brand. And Sir Didi, with the knight’s swords, adorn the end brand on a bat done in a navy and silver colorway to match the tones of the Yankees.
The upcoming Yelich design comes inspired by Zuma Beach in his native California and Acuna has a Venezuelan-themed design to pay homage to his hometown. The Bellinger design is still taking shape but expect him to pay tribute to his youth with ties to the Arizona desert. Jones took a different tact, showing off his love of junk food, tacos and French fries with what will turn into a full taco bat for the outfielder.
“It is a mix of where they grew up, things that interest them and what they like to eat,” Butler said. “It was super fun.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.