First, it was the chance to ride in the Reds Opening Day Parade.
Second, was a week of Reds’ baseball camp ending with the chance to meet Reds’ catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Finally, the end to Covedale Athletics summer with FOX Sports Ohio?
A trip to learn about ‘The Heart of the Game’, the crack of the bat.
On Wednesday, the youngsters from Covedale Athletics loaded up on the Reds Fan Express and headed down to Louisville, Kentucky to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum.
The day started out with an in-depth tour of the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory where the boys and girls got to see how baseball bats for both the major leaguers and for aspiring pros like themselves are made.
"We learned how the bats were made. How much work it actually takes. And how fast they can build the bats and how different kinds of bats are made differently. The Major League bats are made with a different machine than a high school or college players bat," said Covedale’s Teeyon Grote.
The Major Leaguer’s bat being made when Covedale went on their tour?
Why Reds’ right fielder Jay Bruce’s of course!
Not only did they get to see one of their favorite player’s bat being made, but also the boys and girls got to hold a model of the first bat Louisville Slugger ever made.
Following the tour, each player got to take home their own ‘nub’ from the production line, and a miniature replica of a Louisville Slugger bat.
Then, the teams headed to the museum where they got to look at game-used bats from the likes of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, and also hold game-used bats from other MLB superstars.
While most of the youngsters chose to hold Reds Joey Votto’s bat, or former Reds great Johnny Bench’s bat, head of Covedale Athletics Jeff Barnett went straight for the Yankee great Mickey Mantle’s.
Barnett even remarked that this trip was just as cool for the coaches as it was for the kids, if not cooler.
Although most of the day was filled with joy and smiles, there was one part that brought a couple of screams from the Covedale kids. The Louisville Slugger MLB pitch simulator led to a few oohs, ahhs, and even some shrieks from the group. But hey, seeing a ninety-mile per hour fastball up close for the first time can do that to anyone!
Once they’d learned how the bats were made and seen some lumber from some of the finest ballplayers to step on the field, it was time for the Covedale players chance to show off their own skill in the Louisville Slugger batting cages.
For Bruce Weaver, getting to test himself in the batting cages marked the best part of the day.
"My favorite thing was watching them make the bats. Watching how the factory works, and mainly going to the batting cages."
As for how he did in the cages? Well, as for most of the kids, the speed took a little getting used to, but after awhile they all caught on.
"I did pretty good, but I was having trouble at first, but then I kept trying and found out how to do it," Weaver said.
After working up a sweat in the cages, the teams got to cool off with a pizza party.
Just after scarfing down their fill of pizza, our host for the day, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Louisville Slugger, Rick Redman, gathered the kids around and revealed the biggest surprise of the day, a personalized Louisville Slugger for each player.
The bats had each players signed name on it just like the pros, but unlike the pros, the bats included a special FOX Sports Ohio logo on the barrel.
Weaver, like all the other players, was shocked to receive his personalized Louisville Slugger.
"I was really surprised because at first we got these little tiny bats and I was thinking like, ‘Is this the big surprise of the day or something?’ Then my friend was like, ‘I don’t know’ and I was like ‘Hopefully it’s not because it’s not really surprising.’ Then they showed us the bats and I was really happy and surprised."
Well, even though it seemed like the day couldn’t get any better, the Covedale teams got yet another surprise when they took a spur of the moment trip to the Louisville Bats stadium where the Reds just happened to be having a tryout.
The Bats’ staff took the group through a tour of the stadium including stops in the Louisville Slugger suite, a trip to the visiting clubhouse, and ending in the visitor’s dugout.
When the group reached the dugout, the most important debate of the day broke out, what system has better baseball graphics, PS4 or Xbox?
As most things do, the dreamlike day finally came to an end, and Covedale Athletics headed back home on the Fan Express, but not before each player was given a Louisville Bats’ baseball to take home.
It’s been a long summer of excitement, learning, and memories for Covedale Athletics.
Now, thanks to the help of FOX Sports Ohio, the Reds Community Fund, and the folks at Louisville Slugger, each of Covedale’s players has plenty to write in that ‘What did you do on your summer vacation’ essay at the start of school.