Over a century of family ownership of Louisville Slugger bats is going … going … nearly gone.

The company that makes the iconic bats gripped by generations of ballplayers – from Babe Ruth to David Wright – announced a deal Monday to sell its Louisville Slugger brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods Co. for $70 million.

For 131 years, the family behind Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has supplied bats for games from the sandlots to the big leagues.

H&B CEO John A. Hillerich IV said keeping the bat business in family hands had been a dinnertime topic for years. But as the competition’s lineup grew in recent years, the family became willing to listen to offers to acquire the brand.

“It’s always been the family’s desire to keep the brand independent and family owned,” Hillerich said. “It’s worked extremely well for 131 years.

“But we’ve seen things change and we had to make a very tough decision. We’d rather the brand go on and have somebody else own it than potentially put it in jeopardy by keeping it in the family.”

Hillerich is the great-grandson of John A. “Bud” Hillerich, who churned out the first Louisville Slugger bat in 1884 for a renowned baseball player in his day, Pete Browning.

Under terms of the agreement, H&B will continue to manufacture Louisville Slugger wood bats at its factory in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.


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