I accomplished a good bit in my second day at the ballpark, I’m kinda proud of myself. Proud enough to sit back, pop open a cold cheap beer, and watch some replayed spring training baseball. May as well be a little productive and produce a blog, right? Let me briefly introduce you to a couple of guys I admire, two guys whose names you will see here many times this season.
Ken Dunlap is the Birmingham Barons Visiting Clubhouse Manager. Ken’s worked in the Barons’ clubhouses in some capacity since 1994, the Michael Jordan year. He is truly the most interesting man alive. His stories are top notch. Most of them can’t leave this ballpark basement, but one of my favorites is safe for me to retell.
Pete Rose Jr. played for the Birmingham Barons in 1995 and ’96. Those were back in the days before cellphones. Every clubhouse had a pay phone or two that always had a line of players, and was always littered with spent long distance calling cards. The phone would ring ever ynow and then with incoming calls too. Rule of thumb was who ever was closest answered it. The pay phone rang one afternoon, Ken answered it.The conversation went like this:
“Hello, Barons’ clubhouse?”
“Hey, is Pete Jr. around?”
“I’ll get him for you. Can I ask who’s calling?”
“Tell him his dad’s on the phone.”
Ken Dunlap was on the phone with THE Pete Rose. This was the mid 90’s when Rose still at the top of national news stories. Even if you weren’t a baseball fan at all, you still knew who Pete Rose was. Not to mention the fact that he is one of the greatest players of all time and holds that all-time hit record.
Pete was slightly before my time, but he was one of the best in the game back when Ken was coming into his prime as a baseball fan. It’d have to be the equivalent me talking to Ken Griffey Jr, Roger Clemens, or Cal Ripken. Wow.
Curt Bloom. If you ever run into this guy at Regions Park or any other park in the SL, stop him and talk to him. 2011 will be CB’s twentieth year as the radio voice of the Barons. Unlike myself or Ken, his job is to actually watch the games and talk about him. Every home and away game the Barons have played the last twenty years. How many? Roughly 2800 games.
But he doesn’t only watch and talk about the games, he meets and learns every player that comes in this clubhouse, often a few that are in the opposing clubhouse too. How many is that? Barons, plus a handful of visitors, I’d guesstimate at least 700, easy.
You can imagine the stories that this man has in his brain. The great part is, the man is a paid talker, and he is damn good at it. He can take those stories out of his brain and send words out of his mouth like few people I have ever met. All you have to do is stop him, talk to him, and let him take care of the rest.