This week I’m on my first road trip this week with the BlueClaws. This opportunity ranks high on the checklist of getting real experience in the broadcasting industry. More than that, traveling with a professional baseball team is an opportunity that
few people ever get in their lifetime– and one that many sports fans could only dream of ever doing.
Newspaper beat writers gain access to teams in the clubhouse every day, and they get to gain a certain connection to the players they cover every game over the course of a season. National network broadcasters travel the country on the dime of CBS, ESPN and Fox as they cover the week’s biggest games, but they don’t build a rapport with the coaches and players whose games they cover only a handful of times each year.
However, radio broadcasters in minor league baseball travel with the team. We work with the team on a daily basis and get to see the behind-the-scenes as these players whose incredible baseball talents have landed some of them six-figure signing bonuses get to act like the 19-to-24-year olds that they all are off the field.
Yes, these players all have batting averages and ERAs attached to their names and these coaches have spent time in the major leagues, but they’re all still traveling the country together on a bus grinding out a 140-game schedule—and having a blast while they’re doing it.
As we board the bus at 11:30 p.m. Sunday following that night’s 7:05 p.m. game against Hagerstown, everyone settles-in for the nine-hour bus ride through the night to Charleston, WV. The players and coaches are all in sweatpants and t-shirts locating their pillows and blankets, and getting as comfortable as possible for the long ride ahead.
For those of you who will never get the chance to ride the bus on a road trip with a minor league baseball team, here’s a sample of some of the “Highly Classified” conversations that takes place on a bus full of professional baseball players:
- A coach on the team telling the players how his “Boise” noise-cancelling headphones will cost less than a dollar a day by the time next season is over, only for the players more than twenty years his junior to break out into laughter and tell him that they think he means “Bose”. As they’re laughing, he asks the group, “You know what the great thing about these are?” and he puts them over his ears and turns back towards the front of the bus.
- Before taking off from Lakewood the coaches ask around the bus to find out how old a reliever is who isn’t on the bus yet. He has only been with the team a week and this is his first road trip, but they need to know his age to determine when he picks his seat on the sleeper bus. A fellow reliever pipes-in, “He’s 24, but he looks like he’s 18 so put him at the bottom of the list.” One of the coaches looks at the 22-year old who said that and fires back, “Well you look 16 so I guess he still gets to pick his seat before you.”
- A position player whips out his iPhone that is playing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. He turns to anyone who will listen and asks, “How can you say this isn’t a good song?” He is then challenged by a reliever to make that is walk-up song when they start their next homestand… he said he’ll think about it.
- A reliever sees that I’m reading Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and I’m expecting some ribbing for having a Young Adult novel in-tow for a baseball road trip. Instead, he says, “Come on, bro. You’re only on the second one?” We discuss the first book at length and talk about how he finished all three books in a week and how much he used his new Kindle Fire during spring training.
Expecting mandated silence for the players after Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Suns? Expecting hours of secretive strategy conversation among the coaches hammering out a gameplan for the next three games against the West Virginia Power? Sorry to disappoint you.
Needless to say, conversations died down shortly after midnight and no one was in much of a talking mood when the bus rolled into the Holiday Inn Suites in Charleston at 8:30 a.m. Monday. After a quick stop at the continental breakfast, everyone headed off to their rooms to get as much sleep as possible before the bus took them to Appalachian Power Park at 3:00 p.m. (BlueClaws lost, 4-3)
The BlueClaws and Power battle in the second game of their three-game series tonight at 7:05 p.m. The BlueClaws will send Ervis Manzanillo (0-3, 6.00) to the mound against Robby Rowland (2-1, 3.60) in Game 2 of a seven-game road trip. Manzanillo has not pitched for the BlueClaws since May 11th when he tossed four innings at Greensboro and allowed five runs.
Listen to all the action on WOBM 1160-AM and WOBM 1310-AM or online beginning at 6:50 p.m. with the BlueClaws Beat pre-game show.