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Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Louisville Slugger factory — the oldest bat manufacturer in the world — has temporarily closed due to COVID-19, with 90% of its staff being furloughed and all remaining employees taking a 25% pay cut.

By the numbers: The factory produces 1.8 million wood bats annually, with pros ordering between 100–120 each season. According to the company, 80% of all batters in the Hall of Fame were under contract with Louisville Slugger.

The origin story: In 1884, 17-year-old Bud Hillerich took a day off work from his father's wood shop to catch a Louisville Eclipse game — the city's major league team.

  • Their star player, Pete Browning, broke his bat in anger amid a slump, so Hillerich asked if he could make a new one to whatever specifications Browning wanted.
  • In his first game with the new bat, Browning knocked three hits and was hooked for life. Browning's nickname? The Louisville Slugger.

The big picture: For decades, just about everyone used Louisville Sluggers. Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, to name a select and elite few.

  • But these days, though some stars still use them, Louisville Sluggers are hardly the only quality choice.
  • In fact, Louisville Slugger (13.67%) was just the third-most popular bat brand among MLB starters last season, behind Marucci (23.83%) and Victus (18.36%).

The state of play: New contenders often enter an established space to shake things up, and Marucci Sports — which owns both the Marucci and Victus brands — is no different.

  • In 2017, Marucci recognized Victus as a challenger and acquired the upstart brand. Then yesterday, it was announced that Marucci has been acquired for $200 million by a private equity firm.

The bottom line: Louisville Slugger is still the official bat of Major League Baseball, but unlike all uniforms being made by Nike, or all balls being made by Rawlings (which, by the way, MLB owns), players can choose their bat-maker.

  • In the past, that competition played right into Louisville Slugger's hands. But they no longer stand alone at the top of the bat-making industry, and the 135-year-old company now faces its biggest challenge yet.

Go deeper: Baseball's uncertain future

Go deeper

Mark Meadows will stop cooperating with Jan. 6 panel, attorney says

Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will no longer cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, his attorney told Fox News Tuesday.

Why it matters: Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel last month, is believed to have insight into former President Trump's role in efforts to stop the certification of President Biden's election win.

Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.