The Bats Are Back In Town

The crack of the bat, the sizzle of the grill and the thunderous roar of the crowd have returned to Main Street.

On Friday, April 13, at 7:05 p.m. the sound of America’s favorite pastime will emanate from Slugger Field as the Louisville Bats, the city’s AAA baseball team, face the Columbus Clippers in the first home game of the season.

Already having battled the Clippers – last year’s AAA National Champion – in early April, the Bats are looking to exact revenge on their current 1-3 record against the Cleveland Indians’ farm team.

But, with a 73-71 record in 2011, there’s plenty of reason to have faith in the Bats ability to bounce back as they vie for their seventh consecutive winning season.

“It’s going to be a fun season I think,” said Kristopher Negron, the Bats’ shortstop. “We’ve got a good group of guys. We played well in Spring together, and a good mixture of younger guys and older guys, so it’s going to equal out nicely.”

In addition to the sheer excitement of the sport itself, Louisville Slugger Field will provide an array of entertainment including the fan-favorite dollar beer night, Dog Day, fireworks, Zumba Night and Ladies Night.

But if that’s not enough to keep the crowd pleased, a few Bats players are likely to provide some additional amusement with their on- and off-the-field antics.

One such player is Negron, whose sense of humor is exemplified this season by his enormous Afro similar in size to the one Oakland A’s outfielder Coco Crisp debuted last April.

“I’ve actually done it a few times,” Negron said. “My wife’s not a big fan of it, but I think it’s pretty funny. I just do it to lighten up the mood a little bit and stuff like that, but it’s getting pretty long.”

Beside the attention Negron is sure to steal from the crowd, Denis Phipps, outfielder for the Bats, has been making quite an impression with his skill in right field and at the plate.

Named Cincinnati’s 2011 Minor League Hitter of the Year, Phipps achieved a .380 batting average, 5 home runs and 26 RBIs for the Bats last year after being called up from the AA Carolina Mudcats – former team of new Bats manager, David Bell.

Bats Manager David Bell.

Bats Manager David Bell.

“Personally, I’m from Cincinnati so I feel like this is kind of home,” said Bell, of his move to the Bats this season. “It’s a little different because it’s AAA – it’s one step away from the Major Leagues – but when it comes down to it, it’s the same game and a lot of the same players. I pretty much know everyone on the team because the last few years, they came through AA, so I got to know them which helps a lot.”

With an exciting season ahead, the Bats will enter their 13th season at Louisville Slugger Field having averaged 9,114 fans per game since its opening in 2000. Last year, the Bats ranked second in all of Minor League Baseball in attendance with 8,716 fans per game and have brought a total of more than 7.7 million fans through the last 12 years.

Yet, regardless of their successful attendance ranking, the Bats’ number one priority is keeping fans happy with a winning season and the possibility of offering the Cincinnati Reds some assistance on their roster.

“The expectation is to win as many games as we can,” said Bell. “Of course, we’d love to win a championship here and contribute to the Major League team and their success, and I’m sure we’re going to do that. There’s a lot of guys on this team that will go up and help them.”

For information on the Louisville Bats and the 2012 schedule, visit

Tickets are available at the Louisville Slugger Field box office, on-line at or by calling the Bats ticket office directly at 855.228.8497. Regular hours at the Louisville Slugger Field box office and for ordering tickets by phone are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Tickets are also still available for the 2:05 p.m. game on April 21 during Thunder Over Louisville. Gates will open at noon. Fans with tickets will be granted re-entry and have access to facilities throughout the day, including restrooms and concessions.

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at