Blogging from the road, one picture at a time. First stop: St. Louis.
(Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter)
Typically, fans are given a first-hand view of only one aspect of baseball: the game on the field. You see players in uniform, signing autographs, doing sprints in the outfield, taking batting practice. Occasionally, you might catch a glimpse of them walking into the ballpark on a game day.
But getting through a season is much more involved than simply showing up to the clubhouse and putting on the uniform, especially on the road. The process begins and ends with bus rides and plane trips, with lengthy hotel stays in between.
The Astros left for a three-city trip on Monday, and in this blog you’ll find a play-by-play of sorts as we share the ins and outs of road tripping in the big leagues. A columnist friend once told me that fans are as interested in the process of covering a team as they are reading about balls and strikes and wins and losses. Hopefully, you’ll find this day-to-day pictorial diary entertaining and maybe a little informative. Check back early and often.
Making sure everyone is on the same page. Literally.
This is one section of the itinerary that is handed out to each member of the traveling party prior to road trips. It details everything one would need to know in terms of bus times, flight times and game times as well as hotel information and Will Call locations. In St. Louis, the hotel is in walking distance to the ballpark, so no bus is needed. Instead, a time is given when players are required to report to the clubhouse.
The team usually travels on a game day, leaving 45 minutes after the last out is made. But this time, the Astros had an offday in between their final home game and the first game of the road trip, and that becomes the designated travel day.
Luggage had to be on the truck by 4:45 p.m., and the buses left for the airport at 5:15. Teams use two buses — one for players only, and the other for everyone else — manager, coaches, traveling secretary, broadcasters, strength and conditioning coach, media relations rep, TV production crew. (And me.)
Also, any players traveling with their families ride the non-player bus.
Although teams don’t go through airport security, they do have TSA reps who come to the ballpark and do a full screening. Occasionally, the screening will be done on the tarmac at the airports but for the most part they’re done at the stadium.
The buses then pull right up to the plane and the team files on.
Hunter Pence, Sammy Gervacio.
Darin Erstad, Jessica Erstad (among others).
Bud Norris, Jason Michaels, Geoff Blum, Felipe Paulino.
First class: Manager, coaches (pictured: Jose Cruz, Ed Romero, Dewey Robinson), general manager, traveling secretary, clubhouse manager.
Brett Dolan, Dave Raymond.
Preparing for takeoff
While everyone gets situated and delves into the cheese and crackers/potato chips/peanut butter and jelly sandwich/Lunchables spread waiting for them in the first row of coach, the equipment crew gets to work, loading the plane. This, of course, does not involve just luggage. The bulk of the items involve equipment — bats, uniforms, shoes…anything a player needs on a roadie (including golf clubs) is transported from the stadium on the 16-wheel equipment truck and loaded on the plane.
Each player and staff member then finds his or her name among a group of envelopes containing a room key and rooming list displayed on a table near the entrance of the hotel (you can see the suspicious hotel manager in the background wondering who the strange lady is snapping pictures).