Axis Bat’s Lou Ledoux Teaches Me The X, Y, And Z of Hitting A Baseball
For my baseball ears, there is nothing quite like the sound of a baseball hit off a wooden bat. When a batter makes good solid contact and I hear that unmistakable “THHHHWACKKKK,” that is sweet music to my ears. Personally, I love that so many collegiate leagues (NECBL, Cape Cod Baseball League) as well as local youth leagues (Connie Mack) and many summer showcase tournaments have instituted rules that allow wooden bats only. For this baseball fan, nothing beats the sound of baseball crushed by a wooden bat at a packed Cardines Field or a championship game at Cranston Stadium or my hometown Lischio Field, other than a great baseball story.
I received an email from Joe Lezon, a RI baseball Dad and contributor to my Rhode Island Baseball Experience pages, with a photo of a bat called the Axcelerator and the caption “great training bat.” Joe mentioned in the email that the bat was made by Fall River’s Axis Bats and that meeting owner Lou Ledoux would definitely be a great story. So, I hopped on to the official website of Axis Bats (www.axisbats.com) and found Lou’s email, sent him a message to get back to me about a visit to Fall River. Lou got right back to me. We exchanged emails and agreed to meet up Friday morning for a tour of his factory and a chat about baseball bats.
Located at 28 Anawan St. Fall River, is the baseball bat factory for Axis Bats. I arrived just before 10am on Friday, walked in the front door and was greeted warmly by owner Lou Ledoux. Before I could even open my notebook to take my first notes, Lou had a baseball bat in his hand and was off and running talking about hitting. “You see that spot right here? This is the sweet spot of hitting, this is where you want to hit the baseball,” as Lou pointed to a spot on the bat. I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be fun.’ The first questions didn’t come from me, the reporter with pen and paper handy. They came from Lou, “Do you like math? Did you know that math is used in just about everything in life? My father taught me that. That is how I got the name, Axis Bats.” Lou was on a roll and I wasn’t going to get in his way. Except when he picked up one of his signature wooden bats and began to swing it in front of me.
A baseball swing, from a math perspective, can be explained on a graph you might see in math class using X and Y and Z coordinates. As Lou stood in front of me, teaching me the mathematics of hitting the sweet spot, I was just blown away by his knowledge and passion for one thing – he wanted to make bats that made hitters better. I mentioned the email introducing the Axcelerator and deposited his instructional bat into the display rack in the lobby and picked up the Axcelerator for my next lesson. Seriously, I thought I was in some cool baseball hitting class and Lou was my professor! “This is a very unique bat because it is a weighted bat that is designed to work with your current swing, not to alter it because of the weight difference. Plus, we made the sweet spot stand out,” Lou stated, “so hitters can see just where to concentrate their efforts swing wise. You hit the mark, you will see it. You miss your mark, there is the proof.” If you have ever swung a bat with weighted donuts on it, you might notice your body adjusting to the heavier weight of the bat, thus your swing adjusts to compensate. Lou and the Axcelerator aim to keep your swing just as it is, and improve your hitting accuracy in the process.
Lou was in charge. “Hey you want to see how the bats are made?” Again, I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be fun.’ I said yes and we walked through his office area into the baseball bat factory where hundreds of bats were in lined up in bins. Lou pointed to the corner of his factory, “come on, I’ll make you a bat” and walked me over to the rack of (wood) billets next to this huge wood cutting machine (lathe) attached to a computer. “Stand over there, you can get a good shot of how it gets run through the machine and becomes a bat!” After making tens of thousands of wooden bats for professional athletes, collegiate players, summer leagues, AAU kids, Lou Ledoux appeared visibly giddy about making a wooden bat for someone. He went over to the machine, turned it on, went to his computer, opened up the software/bat making program, hit start, and stood with me as a wooden bat was made in the machine. Keeping his teacher’s hat on, Lou explained the precision cutting, how the shape of the knob is determined, why the bat is cut a certain way, the fact that he can customize a bat for someone by reshaping it in the computer prior to starting the machine, and even what Axis Bats does with the sawdust and excess material cut off the bat. And here is the bat just out of the giant machine:
“The sawdust ends up a local cow farm, apparently the sawdust is no good for horses,” Lou the teacher was excited about the excess waste not going to waste. “The ends are cut off and distributed to local businesses that burn wood. And here are some bats ready for the next phase of production,” which according to Lou, were getting prepped, sanded, painted, re-sanded, re-shaped, and so on.
After my tour of how a bat was made and some of the manufacturing steps in the bat making process, I sat down with Lou to ask him some questions about Axis Bats and the bat business. However, we shifted briefly towards his passion for community service, volunteering, and family. We exchanged stories about family (we have a common bond with family members who are on the Autism Spectrum), the Ledoux League in Fall River which his father orchestrated, and the important charity work Lou himself has been involved in the city of Fall River. Starting with the amazing concept of the Ledoux League to his work with the Red Sox Foundation to the “Batting for Average” program with the Fall River Police Department, the Ledoux family has an unbelievable history of community service in the Fall River area and honestly it stretches far beyond. He got up from his desk to show me a framed photo of him at Fenway Park accepting the 2017 Volunteer of the Year award.
Lou is a fascinating character with a ton of great baseball stories, so I let him get through a number of them before getting back to Axis Bats. “So, let’s say I’m a parent who wants to get a bat or set of bats for my kid for summer baseball, what are the steps I need to take,” I asked Lou. Lou, putting his teacher/salesman hat back on, “First thing to know is that we have samples here to try out. We have bats with different knobs, different weights, different lengths, different cuts. Most people go to the shoe store and try on a pair of sneakers. We feel that bats are like that in a lot of ways. You should come in and try out our bats.” Lou went on to explain that a skinny 8th grader would be advised towards one bat, whereas a power hitting Junior in High School may want something completely different. In each case, the quality of the swing and the performance aspect of the bat are paramount to Lou and Axis Bats. “We are really focused on performance and training and successful swings here. That’s why we work with kids and parents and coaches on customizing the right bat, the right balance for your swing.” I loved that comment – balance!
After our meeting was finished, Lou and I shook hands and promised to get together soon to chat more about baseball, family, volunteering, and the X,Y, Z of hitting a baseball. Lou has worked with professional athletes, collegiate summer leaguers, youth baseball teams, and AAU programs for decades and his industry knowledge is incredible. I loved the math lesson and how passionate he was about explaining just how math is used to hit a baseball in what Lou called “the sweet spot” and the references to his Dad, the math teacher. His production area was impressive, I loved watching the bat being precision cut and learning about all the processes involved in making a wooden bat. Our office chat about family, volunteering in the Fall River community, the Ledoux League, the Red Sox Foundation, and all the great community service work could be a story/article/book in and of itself. Lou was a gracious host and a fantastic teacher who taught me a lot more than just how bats are made. I highly recommend a visit to Axis Bats for a lesson on how an Axis Bat can help your swing this upcoming season.
Big thanks to Lou Ledoux for the tour and the chat. And thanks to Joe Lezon for the tip on Axis Bats and the Axcelerator. Here is how you can learn more about Axis Bats:
Website – www.axisbats.com
Email – email@example.com
Address – 28 Anawan St., Fall River, MA, 02721
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