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Factory that makes Louisville Slugger bats resumes production

Major League Baseball may be weeks away from playing again, but the factory that supplies bats to many of its players resumed production Monday in Kentucky.

The Hillerich & Bradsby plant that makes Louisville Slugger bats had been idled for nearly two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Workers started filling orders for some big leaguers as parts of Kentucky's economy reopened Monday after weeks of shutdowns.

The company said Tuesday it put 171 furloughed employees back on the payroll after receiving a loan from a government program aimed at helping small businesses.

The company did not disclose the amount of the loan it received under the Paycheck Protection Program. But it said the cash infusion was instrumental in restoring all 171 furloughed employees -- or about 90% of its work force -- to the payroll last week.

"Ending furloughs and putting everyone back on payroll was made possible when H&B received funds from the PPP program," Hillerich & Bradsby spokesman Rick Redman said in a statement Tuesday.

Auto and boat dealerships were among the sectors allowed to relaunch in-person service. Also reopening were manufacturing, construction, office-based businesses, pet grooming and photography businesses. Horse racing tracks also can now operate but only with essential employees and no fans, with revenue generated through off-track betting.

Hillerich & Bradsby resumed bat production with new health and safety protocols that include twice-daily temperature checks and masks for its employees and social distancing standards.

Bat production resumed on the same day that Major League Baseball owners signed off on a proposal to the players' union that could lead to the coronavirus-delayed season starting around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks without fans.