Blogging from the road, one picture at a time. First stop: St. Louis.

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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.

0824_itinerary.jpg

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.

Leaving home

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.

0824_truck.jpg

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.  

0824_boarding.jpg

 Darin Erstad, Jessica Erstad (among others).

0824_stairs.jpg

Kaz Matsui.

0824_kaz.jpg

Bud Norris, Jason Michaels, Geoff Blum, Felipe Paulino.

0824_group.jpgThe plane is a regular Continental jet chartered by the team. Seating-wise, here is the standard protocol:

First class: Manager, coaches (pictured: Jose Cruz, Ed Romero, Dewey Robinson), general manager, traveling secretary, clubhouse manager.

0824_cheo.jpgFirst half of coach: Non-players (see above list — broadcasters, athletic trainers, etc.)

Brett Dolan, Dave Raymond.

0824_bcasters.jpgSecond half of coach — players.

Preparing for takeoff

0824_snacks.jpgWhile 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.

0824_unload.jpgOnce the team lands, the buses are parked right on the tarmac ready to transport the team to the hotel. The equipment truck is then loaded and arrives to the hotel about 30 minutes after the team.

The arrival

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).

0824_keys.jpg

24 Comments

That has to be JD ahead of Darin and his wife on the steps. The 5 o’clock shadow on the back of his head gives him away!

Allyson,
As a Die hard fan, I want to thank you for letting us, the fans, see what goes on in between games. I always wondered how you never saw players at airports…it makes sense now. Great article…I love pictures…tons of them!

This was a great idea! Your columnist friend was right; we really ARE interested in this kind of thing. Keep up the good work Alyson!

Jubbies — You are correct sir!

I like the pictures. This article shows all the work and planning that is done in the backstage; truck, hotels, flights, etc. the games are just the tip of the iceberg.
Don?t get in trouble Ms Footer; that hotel manager sure looks upset.

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson, Thanks for the great read, this is the kind of stuff the fans have been wanting to see for a long time. Thanks for giving us the behind the scenes tour. I am assuming you will be with the team in Chicago? My Fiance and I will be leaving this Friday from San Antonio to watch the ‘Stros at Wrigley on 8/31 (bleachers) and 9/2 (dugout boxes, right next to the astros dugout, 2nd row near the astros on-deck circle) Any tips for Chicago? Things to see? What to do? We will be staying with a friend over the weekend in wrigleyville, then on the magnificent mile starting Tuesday. Let me know, Thanks in advance!

Alyson,
We do LOVE the behind the scenes look at what goes on!! Keep it coming. The players all look great in their suits/jackets – what’s up with the coaches – no requirements for them? Thanks for all the great pics!!

Alyson,
Thanks for the pix and the comments. Looking forward to the entire trip report. Remember, it’s not a great photo shoot unless you get a bruise, scrape, cut, fussed at, hassled, or arrested!

See you at the BOB (or whatever it is called now) Saturday and Sunday celebrating my buddy, Scott Crosby’s 55th birthday. Section D Saturday and front row section 112 Sunday. Thanks for the great pics.

Stephen…you will have a great time in Chicago. There is an endless stream of restaurants and nightlife everywhere you look. Rush and Division Streets are fun for out-of-towners, and I’ve been to Harry Caray’s restaurant many many times over the years and have enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. There’s a ton to do in Wrigleyville after the games as well. The great thing about Chicago is you really don’t need to have a game plan ahead of time; just get out and start walking. Enjoy.

SKgator — my best guess is the coaches hung up their jackets after boarding. The dress code requires jackets.

Thanks for the behind the scenes look, Alyson. Reminds me what a revelation it was to read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, or Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay, to get a sense of the day to day life of an athlete.

Do they still do bedchecks?

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Alyson, Thanks for getting back to me. I will check out some of the places you mentioned. Look forward to seeing ya’ll on Monday and Wednesday. I’ll be the outcast on Monday, dressed in brick in the bleachers and we will be in customized astros BP jerseys on wednesday right next to the astros dugout…look for #10 & #2 near the on-deck circle!

Blum has the BEST hairdo!

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