One of my many awesome baseball memories was travelling around the Southeast and the East Coast with the South Atlantic League that year; Greensboro, Lakewood, Savannah, two Charlestons, and the rest. It was a blast, it really was.in 2008. There are not terribly many clubhouse managers that get to (have to) travel with their teams, I was one of the lucky. I got to see most of the towns in the
Nothing can prepare you for that kind of work though, it’s pretty much learn on the fly. I had to figure out how to get the laundry done and how to feed a team while in a different city, thirteen different different cities, actually. Honestly, I’m surprised I survived the first road trip. Our first stop wasto face the . After the second game of the series, I went out for a “few” drinks, got schlamboozled, and took a faceplant in the street. Prior to this moment, right now, I had just told everyone I tripped over a curb, relatively sober at the time, to explain the raspberry on my right cheek.
The second stop of that roadtrip was Lexington, KY, home of the. That’s where this story picks up……
Get on the Ground, [Expletive]!
April 12, 2008
The former clubhouse manager of the Lexington Legends decided not to comeback not long before the beginning of the 2008 season. Rather than quickly track down an experienced clubbie, the Legends just delegated a couple of interns run the clubhouses. This was their first homestand in the job, just as it was my first road trip. The defacto visiting clubhouse manager was a guy by the name of Chris Boots. Boots, If you’re out there, hit me up and verify this story!
The ‘Jackets beat the Legends 9-4 . There was a day game the following day. With the day game, there would be a quick turnaround that night, a lot of things to do. Rather than go back to the team hotel and get some sleep, I decided to stay at the ballpark to help Boots and the home clubbie out, then catch a ride with Boots back to our hotel. We had vacuumed and cleaned up both clubhouses, restocked supplies, and were hanging the last of the laundry in the coaches locker room in the visiting clubhouse. It was probably around 2:00am and we were about ten minutes from being done.
Then, we heard a siren, it was close by, but not really close enough for us to be concerned. Boots decided to check it out anyway, by poking his head out the door, while I finished the last tiny little bit of laundry hanging. I heard Chris say, “I don’t see anything,” but I couldn’t see him or the door from where I was standing. Not two seconds after he says that, the door slams open, and I hear…..
“Get on the ground, [expletive]!”
“Get on the [expletive] ground!”
“Do not [expletive] move!”
I could see Boots’ face turn white and he laid down flat on his stomach faster than I would have believed was humanly possible. I was cool as a cucumber in the crisper drawer. No way it was the police or robbers, it was obviously just a couple of players messing with us. I stood there, sort of in disbelief, kind of in suspense waiting to see who it was. UNTIL…. I saw the barrel of a handgun on the other side of the door frame…..
“I said GET DOWN!”
“Who the [expletive] are you!?!”
“What are you doing here!?!”
Attached to the barrel of that handgun, was the hand of one of the largest police officers I have ever seen in my life. His partner behind him was equally as big. These two gigantic protectors of the public looked like they would have been just as comfortable in an MMA match or as characters in a video game, as they were behind the badge.
Boots and I, as our hands are being handcuffed and ginormous knees are put in our backs, tried to explain to them….
“We work here! We’re allowed to be here!” We shout to them, trying to shout louder at them than they are shouting at us, just so we can be heard.
“Bull[expletive]! The game ended hours ago! Who the hell are you?!” is the response we get.
The cops cooled there jets, slightly, and finally started to listen to us. “We work here. We’re the clubhouse managers. We work late. We’re here extra late tonight because we have a day game tomorrow.”
The police officers pulled our wallets out of our back pockets – couldn’t do it ourselves, still handcuffed – pulled out our licenses, and called them in. It wasn’t until they got the ‘all clear’ from headquarters, that they finally holstered their weapons and uncuffed us.
“You guys had us scared. We didn’t know who you were!” Said the armed police officers to the unarmed clubbies. I totally see where they were coming from, though. We could have been bad guys.
All four of us breathed a huge sigh.
The clubhouses in Lexington are behind the right field wall. The Pepsi Party Deck sits is on top of the clubhouse building. It has it’s own concession stand and seems like a great place to watch a game. Apparently, a door somewhere in the ballpark was left slightly ajar, causing a silent alarm to go off at the police station. The officers searched the entire stadium and had only the Party Deck left. They shook a door upstairs, causing the alarm that we heard to go off. When Chris opened the door, they saw the light and rushed down to greet us.
We ended up having a great conversation with the guys. They asked us if we had any extra bats, so I gave them a few of Charlie Culberson’s. Just kidding!! We just said they weren’t ours to give away.
The next day, or later that day, depending how you look at it, I told the story to my guys. What was funny the next day wasn’t funny 6 hours earlier! Hitting Coach Lipso Nava greeted me almost every afternoon the rest of the season with, “Get on the ground, [expletive]!”
Top photo courtesy of Uncle Bob’s Ballparks
Bottom photo courtesy of Stephanie Fish
As with my first blog, I think it would be best if I tell you some more about myself and what I do before I get rolling with the fun stuff. I am the Home Clubhouse Manager, or Clubbie, for the Birmingham Barons professional baseball team, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
“Interesting, Jeff, but what does that mean?”
I am the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy. I never touch the field during the game, but the game could not be played without me, metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m the guy who feeds the team, orders the baseballs, loads and unloads the bus, gets the baseballs game-ready, washes the uniforms, puchases the shower soap, gets the mail, inventories the bats, assembles the pitching machines, keeps track of the pine tar, folds the towels, schedules the bats boys, picks up the new players at the airport, and prepares the water and Powerade coolers, among many, many other things.
“Sounds glamourous, dude [sarcasm.] They must pay you a lot to do all that stuff, huh?”
Kinda. The way that I get paid is….. complicated. The team pays me a monthly (minimal) salary that is reimbursed by the big league club. The players also pay me dues for the services, foods, and other things that I provide. It’s an atiquated system that has been around since the Late Middle Ages, I suspect, but it works and nobody really complains, so I doubt it will ever change, but that’s another story for another time. The players pay me $11 a day in dues. Out of those dues, I pay for the pregame and postgame meals, as well as things like the tables to set the food on, shampoo and soap, paper plates, bottled water, shower towels, sodas, and ping pong supplies. If I spend less than I am paid, I keep the profit. That, plus tips, is how I am paid.
“If I were you, I’d put out crappy cheap food and pocket the money! Feed the guys cold ballpark hot dogs everyday and buy that new Acura SUV after the season!”
If I did that, I’d be murdered. The team pays me, and my personality requires me, to provide a quality service. Most jobs pay you more if you do a good job, with this job, not so much. There’s a delicate balance to maintain. I could feed the team cold ballpark hot dogs every game and be out of a job by May. OR I could feed them lobster and filet mignon every game and be out of a home by May….. BUT, the players and staff would at least tell everyone they know that I was the best clubbie they ever had. It’s indirectly, “the less money you make, the better you are (perceived at being) at your job.” On a scale of being cheap and rich being a 1 and being extravigant and poor being a 10, I’d say that my approach to my job puts me at about a 6 or 7. I’ve actually heard stories of 2’s and 9’s, but it’s hard to believe they exist.
“Well even if you don’t makes lotsa money, at least you get to hang out with big league prospects and stuff. Do you guys ever take you golfing or to the clubs or anything?”
To make a long story short, no. I personally think it’s just unprofessional. I know of guys with other teams that do do things like that, and are extremely buddy-buddy with the players, but it just gives a shady projection if you ask me. I refer to those guys as the “used car salesmen” type. The type that tell you how great they are, how great you are, kiss your *** 24/7 and just have the used car salesman smug smile. It’s all just a ploy to get a little bit of an extra tip and ride somebody’s coattails to The Show.
I’ve heard stories of a guy that I once replaced who was like that. He was so close to the players that one would even let the guy borrow his $40,000+ Expedition while the team was on road trips. He’d also slack at his responsibilies to get done with his postgame work to go to bars with the team. His doing in was the day the team came in for a game and all their laundry was still wet in the washer. Dude just got wasted the night before and didn’t get his stuff done, so they hired me. On top of all that, it’s just hard to work sixteen to twenty hour days and find time to sociaize with the team around that. I’m not saying these guys aren’t my friends, because they are, it’s just not like that.
“Sixteen to twenty hour days? That’s bull. Nobody works those kind of hours.”
I do, usually 5 days in a row. This last season there was a block that I worked those hours 21 days in a row. I work from 10 AM to, on average, 3 AM on the day of a typical 7:05 game. I also have to work the night the team comes back from a roadtrip and on the mornings they leave for a roadtrip. The longest days are the ones when the team comes in at 3 AM from a roadtrip, I’ll have to unload and unpack the bus until about 7, then have a regular day surrounding a 7:05 night game. That’s a rough way to start a five game homestand of long work days.
“So, if you don’t get paid a ton, don’t get to hang out with future big league stars, and have to work ridiculous hours, why do you do it?”
I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I was actually out of baseball for six years, 2002 until I came back in 2008. I had a career that I hated and everything else that normal people have, it just wasn’t for me. My baseball fever got worse and worse every year until I came back. I’m never leaving again.
I have a few sidenotes for my readers. First, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a new daily feature that I am doing called “Former Professional Baseball Player of the Day.” With this feature, I will give a small write up of a former minor league player who never made it to MLB. This is just a little something that I thought I would do to raise awareness of the interestingness of minor league baseball and the people who play it. My features the last two days have been Aldo Pecorilli and Matt Quatraro.
Secondly, I like to make up words, such as “interestingness.”
Third, and lastly, I’m going to add a little color to each of my blogs. I collect things, more specifically, minor league baseball things. I collect programs, pocket schedules, ticket stubs, pennants, and game used stuff such as hats, jerseys, bats, and line up cards. I’m going to to post a picture of a little bit of my collection at the bottom of each of my blogs.
Top to bottom, left to right.
1) 1997 Mobile BayBears Inaugural Season scorecard
2) 1999 Orlando Rays program
3) 2010 Winston-Salem Dash program
4) 2010 Omaha Royals program from the last season at Rosenblatt Stadium
5) 2010 Carolina/California League All-Star Game Program, from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans
“Find a job that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life” – Confucius
I am one of the truly lucky ones, I know it, and I am very thankful. Since I was a child, baseball has been my primary interest, pretty much my only interest, it is also my career. I never played football, I’ve never learned to play piano, I don’t read science fiction, and I have never seen a single episode of Lost or American Idol.
I spent my days as a child at the ballpark or playing baseball with tennis balls and racquetballs in the road on Chatham Ct in Grand Prairie, Texas. My family and I had season tickets to the Texas Rangers when I was little, 1986 through 1992. I rarely missed a game. I was there for Nolan Ryan’s 5000th K, his 300th win, his 7th no-hitter, and a lot of Ranger losses. My family became friends with the Petrallis, the Ryans, the Incaviglias, the Sierras, the Valentines, and the Buecheles, the Fletchers, and many more of the players and their families. It was at Arlington Stadium, that hot, stinky, old AAA stadium in Texas, that I became hooked on baseball.
My father was living in Huntsville, Alabama at that time. I’d go visit him during the summers. My dad was not a huge baseball fan, but he knew that baseball was one thing that he could use to bond with me. We went to a few dozen AA Huntsville Stars games together. I got to see Randy Johnson, Terry Steinbach, Javy Lopez, Chipper Jones, Robin Ventura, Denny Neagle, Carlos Delgado, Chuck Knoblauch, and Reggie Sanders play before anyone (that I knew) did! Not only that, but I got to get their autographs and have a conversation with them before the game, and watch them play from seats much closer than our seats in Arlington! The line for nachos was even shorter than in Texas! I was converted, and was now hooked on minor league baseball!
To make a long story short, by 1995 I was living in Richland, Washington with my father while my mother was living in Mobile, Alabama. I visited my mom in Mobile for that summer. She was working as a concessionaire for the independent Mobile BaySharks of the Texas-Louisiana League, she was in love with baseball also. She pulled some strings with the front office and landed me a job as bat boy for the team. I was getting paid to get sweaty, handle baseball bats and baseballs, hang out with professional baseball players, and watch baseball! Holy crap, it was the life! If only I could find a way to do that as an adult……
So….. it’s 2010 and have just wrapped my fourth season as a clubhouse manager in professional baseball. I get paid to get sweaty, handle baseball bats and baseballs, hang out with professional baseball players, and watch baseball, minor league baseball.
Boom shocka locka, there is my first blog post. As you surely can tell, this is not going to be the place to go to see writing on a large array of topics. You will be seeing a lot of baseball followed by more baseball. I will be filling in the gaps of this story in the near future. I just wanted to give a brief synopsis of me on my initial post. Feel free to comment and ask questions. For more in depth Jeff Perro, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MiLBClubbie.
I’d like to thank Rachel Ganato, Harold Bicknell, Minda Haas, Lisa Winston, Nick Gagalis, and Dave Gershman for their input and feedback.