September 25, 2014
But the storied company did something today that it’s never done in its 130 years in the game. It retired a bat model in honor of a player. In an unprecedented display of respect and admiration from a sporting goods manufacturer, Louisville Slugger announced it is retiring Derek Jeter’s famous P72.
“Derek has swung one bat model from one bat company his entire career,” said James Sass, Director of Professional Baseball Sales for Louisville Slugger.
“Derek has made over 12,500 plate appearances in his 20 seasons in MLB, and every single one of them has been with a Louisville Slugger P72. With Derek’s impending retirement, we thought it was fitting to retire his bat model in recognition of his brilliant career. We are grateful for his enduring and unwavering loyalty. We won’t be making the P72 anymore – in honor of Derek.”
Louisville Slugger officials gave Jeter an award to commemorate the retirement of the bat model. It has “The Last P72” mounted on the base to commemorate the company’s decision.
“I signed out of high school, and I was looking for a wooden bat,” Jeter said. “Louisville Slugger, it goes without saying, how reputable they are, how long they’ve been around, how much success people have had with it. In terms of the model, I just picked the bat that was shaped like my aluminum bat. It was the P72, and, in my entire career, I’ve never swung another bat.”
The P72 has been one of the more popular models with MLB players over the decades. In addition to Jeter, it has been swung by Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., and Robin Yount, among others. The specifications of the P72, with its medium barrel and balanced swing weight, will still exist for players to order, but under a new model name.
“Currently, guys like Lyle Overbay and Kelly Johnson in MLB and a few guys in the minor leagues swing the P72,” Sass said.
“They’ll still be able to order the specifications of the bat but it will have a new name. We’re going to call it the DJ2 in recognition of Derek and his incredible career.”
The DJ stands, obviously, for Jeter’s first and last initials while the number 2 signifies his uniform number.
There is one potential exception where Louisville Slugger will use the P72 name on bats again. The company says it will invoke a grandfather clause to use P72 for any descendent of the player for whom the bat was originally made: Les Pinkham
“The P72 was created in 1954 for a minor leaguer named Leslie Wayne Pinkham from Elizabethtown, Kentucky,” said Tyler Sibley, Pro Bat Sales Assistant for Louisville Slugger.
“Les Pinkham never made it to Major League Baseball, but his bat sure did – and it became one of the greatest models of all time. If any member of the Pinkham family makes it to professional baseball, we’ll be honored to make them bats using the P72 model number if they wish.”
While that may sound far-fetched, in reality it isn’t. The Pinkhams are a baseball family. Les, for whom the P72 was created, had a son named Bill who also played professional baseball. Bill Pinkham was in the Reds organization and he swung a P72. Sadly, Bill is deceased, but he had a son Zeke who is a very good prospect. Zeke Pinkham plays for the 17U Evoshield Canes that just won the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association championship and is expected to play Division I college baseball.
“Zeke is playing at a high level in travel ball and he’s going to play at a high level in college, so chances are very good that he could get drafted to play pro ball in a few years and we’ll be making him P72s,” Sibley said.
“We hope we have to. And as good as the P72 has been to Derek, we doubt he’ll mind if we pull the model number out for the family the P72 is named for.”
In addition to retiring the P72 model number, Louisville Slugger will also honor Jeter by giving him the final seventy-two P72 bats to be produced to raise funds for his beloved Turn 2 Foundation.
The company is recommending that Derek sign and number the bats, 1 through 72, and auction them for his foundation.
“We know how much Derek’s Turn 2 Foundation means to him, so we wanted to do something significant to help the organization as it works to positively impact young lives,” Sass said.
“So we’re giving Derek the last 72 of his P72s to use for Turn 2. These bats will be amazing collector’s items, and, once they’re signed by Derek, they should help him raise a lot of money for his foundation.”
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory will purchase back the first of the last P72 bats to exhibit in its main gallery in Louisville. The museum provided a check for $5,000 to Jeter’s foundation for the bat, and to set the bar for these rare and collectible Derek Jeter P72s as Louisville Slugger supports the Turn 2 Foundation.