Thursday, July 22, 2010

Helmet Throws And Other Temper Tantrums

"Get mad, then get over it." ~Colin Powell

At every baseball game the PA announcer is required to read a statement of liability saying something to the effect of, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please be aware at all times for balls and/or bats flying into the stands at any time during the game." I've seen both happen. I've seen little old ladies eating their hot dogs only to be surprised by a foul ball in their laps. I've seen grown men scramble for an illusive bat that slipped from the batter's hands on a rainy day and landed 12 rows deep. Baseball can be dangerous too. I've had the displeasure to see fans get hit in the mouth with a blistering foul ball traveling 100+ mph, and others fall from their seats in attempting to catch said foul ball. As baseball fans, we get it. Bring a glove, watch the game, don't spill your beer...pretty simple really.

What you don't know is the liability statement we each have to abide by in the dugout. In addition to batted balls and wayward bats, we must also be aware of bouncing helmets, post inning glove throws, not to mention the verbal rampages. Baseball players tend to be like thread on a spool. Every failure winds them up a little tighter until one puts them over the edge and they snap. For hitters it is most typically the helmet throw, sometimes in combination with a bat toss. They stomp into the dugout and you can see it in their eyes. They toss the bat aside as if it's defective and then take the helmet in hand. Finding a perfect spot on the ground and focusing in on it, the world around them seems to go dark. They raise the helmet to the sky cursing the "baseball gods" and send the equipment crashing to the ground in a cathartic explosion. While they are wrapped up in their childish antics, the rest of us just happen to be crowded into the same 20 ft dugout covering our faces and jewels so as not to become casualties of failure along with the helmet.

What really gets to me, though, is the unnecessary blow up. A pitcher throws 7 shutout innings only to give up 2 in the 8th. Not really cause to throw your glove across the dugout and scream obscenities in the direction of the family of four seated in the first row. In the same way, a hitter slaps a scalding liner off the pitcher's foot that bounces straight to the first baseman. Two steps out of the box then right back to the bench. While i'm in the middle of giving some encouraging cliches, I see the helmet whizz by my face only inches from smashing the thing it's made to protect. A player to be named later did just this yesterday, and I kinda lost it. This was the 4th or 5th time i've been threatened by flying helmets this season, and it's just a matter of time until one finds me. I picked up the discarded helmet, brought it back to the player, and slammed it on the bench right beside him. I yelled, "You hit the ball hard! What are you mad about?" I tossed the helmet to the other end of the dug out and told him to put it away like a good boy. Call me dramatic, but my self preservation instinct is unpredictable. Nobody said don't get upset. Everyone has the right to be disappointed. Just do it in the clubhouse, wait until no one is around, and get it all out without endangering anyone. Get mad, but please get over it when my face is nowhere near your helmet.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Get Away Day

Every last day of each road trip we are forced into the skill of the "get away". Hotels are notorious for making sure their rooms are vacated in time to clean and flip them for their next customers. Sometimes (if you're my dad) you can work your way into a late checkout, but when your a 25+ man baseball team taking up 15 rooms in typically small to medium sized hotels, then your negotiating power drops significantly. We are forced to "get away" in organized chaos.

The night before, our trainer will announce 3 rooms that will receive late checkout. It's like a mini lottery for us. All of us are sitting in the edge of our seats saying "come one lucky number 323...come on!" Inevitably I don't win, and when I don't win I have to follow the protocol the next morning. Here's how it goes.

9:00 am - The maid will come by 2 hours early hoping that she can clean this room early. She bangs on the door until I can muster up some sort of YELP that vaguely sound like "go away".

9:50 am - I realize that I have 10 minutes until breakfast is finished and therefore must make the decision to stay in bed for the next hour or get food. Always choose sleep.

11:00 am - The "head" maid comes by and tells us that if we don't get out in the next 5 minutes she will kill us...or at least that's what it sounds like in spanish, or russian.

11:05 am - Throw all my clothes in my suitcase, assuming that they are all too dirty to bother folding. Make sure that I don't forget my computer, charger, phone, charger, pillow, charger, or toothbrush...or my charger. Move it over to the lucky lottery winner's room where he is still sleeping. Bastard.

12:00 pm - Realize I'm hungry and should've eaten when I had the chance. Find food. Fast food. Stomach ache.

1:00 pm - I still have 2 hours before we leave for the field. I'm officially homeless so I become a squatter in the hotel lobby, praying that the internet works. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, repeat.

3:00 pm - Bus pulls up and we pile in. Now our day actually begins.

10:15 pm - Game ends. Leave for home.

2:45 am - Finally get back home to Savannah. Yikes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Greenville Drive's Fluor Field

This is where we're playing for the next 5 games. Amazing ballpark. Fenway park replica stadium. Boston Red Sox Low A affiliate.

Dynamics of a Good Team

We've only just begun our second half of this season, yet it seems like a brand new team. 71 games with basically the same players, few roster moves, ups and downs, a playoff push, and a pennant...now 8 new guys to replace 8 of the old guard. I'd be lying if I said it is an easy pill to swallow. Not that the new players are in any way inferior to the one who left, but you spend so long developing relationships, that it really does begin to feel like a family. Our manager, Pedro, told us from day one that we are a family. The philosophy still remains the same, we just have new brothers that we don't know so well. In this case the dynamic of the locker room has changed dramatically. We had players who had been in Savannah before, who knew the way things worked there and who genuinely enjoyed being around each other all day. We had Latinos who knew got along with Americans and American guys who knew and liked the Latin players. We trusted each other, and trust takes time to build.

With a new crop of players brings new challenges. The greatest of all of them will be the willingness to open up, to get to know each other the way we all did before. Guys will have their comfort zones and stick close to those who don't threaten them. But like any well functioning family, we must all become comfortable with the group as a whole. We miss the guys who left, they were brothers. This is the Minor Leagues, though, and brothers leave all too often. But the show must go on and we still have to win...nothing changes.