Tagged: MiLB

Active Ballparks by League

Going to different baseball stadiums is my favorite thing to do in life.  My unattainable goal in life is to visit every standing baseball stadium where professional baseball has ever been played, yes, even Japan, Austalia, or anywhere else in the world.

I don’t only enjoy going to active stadiums, vacant (“dead”) ballparks are actually my favorite to check out. I’ve driven far of the beaten path to visit a few old slabs of concrete that hasn’t hosted professional baseball in decades. There are, likely, and immeasurable number of these stadiums in the world, a never-ending goal. A more tangible mini-goal would be visit all the active ballparks under the MiLB umbrella.

One of the things that makes this goal challenging is that new ballparks open every year. And for each ballpark that opens, another one closes, becoming another dead ballpark. So a new field opening not only means there’s another one I’ve yet to visit, it also means one falls of this list of active ones I have visited. Hello, Biloxi and Hillsboro. Good bye, Huntsville and Yakima.

I didn’t include the rookie-level Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues or the Arizona Fall League, because those just get complicated.

American League (5/15)

  1. Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park
  2. Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field
  3. Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field
  5. Texas Rangers – Globe Life Park

National League (5/15)

  1. Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field
  2. Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ballpark
  3. Colorado Rockies – Coors Field
  4. New York Mets – Citi Field
  5. St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium

International League (3/14)

  1. Gwinnett Braves – Coolray Field
  2. Indianapolis Indians – Victory Field
  3. Louisville Bats – Louisville Slugger Field

Pacific Coast League (6/16)

  1. Colorado Springs Sky Sox – Security Service Field
  2. Iowa Cubs – Principal Park
  3. Memphis Red Birds – AutoZone Park
  4. New Orleans Zephyrs – Zephyr Field
  5. Oklahoma City Dodgers – Chicksaw Bricktown Ballpark
  6. Omaha Storm Chasers – Werner Park

Eastern League (0/12)

  • None

Southern League (7/10)

  1. Birmingham Barons – Regions Field
  2. Chattanooga Lookouts – AT&T Field
  3. Jackson Generals – Pringles Parks
  4. Mississippi Braves – Trustmark Park
  5. Mobile BayBears – Hank Aaron Stadium
  6. Montgomery Biscuits – Riverwalk Stadium
  7. Pensacola Blue Wahoos – Blue Wahoos Stadium

Texas League (3/8)

  1. Frisco RoughRiders – Dr. Pepper Ballpark
  2. Northwest Arkansas Naturals – Arvest Ballpark
  3. Springfield Cardinals – Hammons Field

California League (0/10)

  • None

Carolina League (1/8)

  1. Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Pelicans Ballpark

Florida State League (9/12)

  1. Bradenton Marauders – McKechnie Field
  2. Brevard County Manatees – Space Coast Field
  3. Charlotte Stone Crabs – Charlotte Sports Park
  4. Clearwater Threshers – Bright House Field
  5. Dunedin Blue Jays – Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
  6. Fort Myers Miracle – Hammond Stadium
  7. Lakeland Flying Tigers – Joker Merchant Stadium
  8. St. Lucie Mets – Tradition Field
  9. Tampa Yankees – Steinbrenner Field

Midwest League (3/16)

  1. Cedar Rapids Kernals – Veterans War Memorial Field
  2. Clinton Lumberkings – Ashford University Field
  3. Quad City RiverBandits – Modern Woodman Park

South Atlantic League (11/14)

  1. Asheville Tourists – McCormick Field
  2. Augusta GreenJackets – Lake Olmstead Stadium
  3. Charleston RiverDogs – Joseph P. Riley Jr Park
  4. Delmarva Shorebirds – Arthur W. Perdue Stadium
  5. Greenville Drive – Fluor Field
  6. Hickory Crawdads – L.P.Frans Stadium
  7. Kannapolis Intimidators – CMC-Northeast Stadium
  8. Lakewood BlueClaws – FirstEnergy Park
  9. Lexington Legends – Whitaker Bank Ballpark
  10. Rome Braves – State Mutual Stadium
  11. West Virigina Power – Appalachian Power Park

New York-Penn League (1/14)

  1. Staten Island Yankees -Richmond County Bank Ballpark

Northwest League (2/8)

  1. Spokane Indians – Avista Stadium
  2. Tri-City Dust Devils – Gesa Stadium

Appalachian League (0/10)

  • None

Pioneer League (0/8)

  • None

Affiliated (56/190 29%)

American Association (5/12)

  1. Kansas City T-Bones – CommunityAmerica Ballpark
  2. Lincoln Saltdogs – Haymarket Park
  3. Salina Stockade – Dean Evans Stadium
  4. Texas Airhogs – QuikTrip Park
  5. Wichita Wingnuts – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Atlantic League (0/8)

  • None

CanAm League (0/6)

  • None

Frontier League (5/12)

  1. Florence Freedom – UC Health Stadium
  2. Joliet Slammers  – Silver Cross Field
  3. Normal CornBelters – The Corn Crib
  4. Southen Illinois Miners – RentOne Park
  5. Windy City Thunderbolts – Standard Bank Stadium

Pacific Association (0/4)

  • None

Pecos League (1/12)

  1. Trinidad Triggers – Trinidad Central Park

United Shore League (0/1)

  • None

Independent Leagues (11/55 20%)

Total (67/245 27%)

Advertisements

My Ballparks – Updated

A couple of years ago, I realized, I’d been to a lot of ballparks. So I decided to sit down and make a list. I’ve worked in baseball, had a couple of jobs that had me travel a lot, and I’ve been fortunate to enough to be able to travel for personal reasons. I added six more stadiums on my most recent trip to the Midwest in May 2016 and I’m sitting at a fat 94 now, six parks away from triple digits.

Here’s the caveat to reading this. If the ballpark has an asterisk (*) next to it, that means I did not actually go to that park while it was inhabited by a professional team. For example, Engel Stadium in Chattanooga closed in 1999. I didn’t get to Chattanooga until 2001, so I missed going to a game there, but I did drive to it and take a tour. It get’s an *. Any other ballparks that say “former home of” but don’t have an asterisks, I actually went to that stadium  while a pro ball team was there.

MLB (12)

  • Arlington Stadium (Former home of the Texas Rangers)
  • The Kingdome (Former home of the Seattle Mariners)
  • The Astrodome (Former home of the Houston Astros)
  • Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
  • U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)
  • Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (Former home of the Atlanta Braves)
  • Busch Memorial Stadium (Former home of the St. Louis Cardinals)
  • Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)
  • Candlestick Park (Former home of the SF Giants)
  • Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)
  • Citi Field (New York Mets) (Added 9/23/15)
  • Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati Reds) (Added 5/16/16)
  • Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers) (Added 12/15/16)

Alabama (9)

  • Regions Park (Former home of the Birmingham Barons)
  • Rickwood Field (Former home of the Birmingham Barons, site of the annual Rickwood Classic)
  • Regions Field (Birmingham Barons)
  • Joe Davis Stadium (Fomer home of the Huntsville Stars)
  • Hank Aaron Stadium (Mobile BayBears)
  • Stanky Field (Former home of the Mobile BaySharks)
  • Riverwalk Stadium (Montgomery Biscuits)
  • *Paterson Field (Former home of the Montgomery Rebels and Wings)
  • *Crampton Bowl (Former home of the Montgomery Rebels, Bombers, and Lions)

Arizona (1)

  • Scottsdale Stadium (Spring training home of the SF Giants. Home to the AZL Giants and Scottsdale Scorpions.)

California (2)

  • Billy Hebert Field (Former home of the Stockton Ports)
  • Goodwin Field (Former home of the Fullerton Flyers)

Florida (25)

  • Pensacola Bayfront Stadium (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
  • Charlotte Sports Park (Spring training site of the Tampa Bay Rays and home of the Charlotte Stone Crabs and GCL Rays)
  • Ed Smith Stadium (Spring training site of the Baltimore Orioles)
  • McKechnie Field (Spring training site of the Pittsburgh Pirates and home of the Bradenton Marauders.)
  • Pirate City (GCL Pirates)
  • JetBlue Park (Spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and home of the GCL Red Sox)
  • Hammond Stadium (Spring training home of the Minnesota Twins and home of the Fort Myers Miracle. The GCL Twins play in the attached Lee County Sports Complex)
  • Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (Spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays and home of the Dunedin Blue Jays.)
  • Bobby Mattick Training Center (GCL Blue Jays)
  • Baseball City Stadium (former spring training site of the Kansas City Royals. Formerly home of the Baseball City Royals and GCL Royals.)
  • Chain of Lakes Park (Former spring training site of the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. Also formerly home of those clubs’ FSL and GCL teams.)
  • Holman Stadium – Dodgertown (Former spring training site of the LA Dodgers and former home of the Vero Beach Dodgers and Devil Rays.)
  • *City of Palms Park (Former spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and their GCL afflilate.)
  • *Al Lang Field (Former site of many clubs’ spring training and FSL affiliates, most recently the Rays and Cardinals.)
  • *Terry Park (Former site for many teams’ spring training, most recently, in 1987, the Royals. Also former home of the Fort Myers Royals.)
  • *Pelican Park (Former home of the Pensacola Pelicans)
  • *Raymond A. Namoli / Payson Baseball Complex (Former spring training site of the NY Mets and Tampa Bay Rays) 
  • George M. Steinbrenner Field (Spring training home of the New York Yankees and home of the Tampa Yankees) 
  • BrightHouse Field (Spring traing home of the Philadelphia Phillies and home of the Clearwater Threshers)
  • *Jack Russell Stadium (Former spring training site of the Philadelphia Phillies and home of the Clearwater Phillies) 
  • Joker Merchant Stadium (Spring Traing home of the Detroit Tigers and home of the Lakeland Flying Tigers) (Added 6/2/15)
  • Henley Field (Former Spring training site of the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, former and occasional home of the Lakeland Tigers) (Added 6/2/15)
  • Tradition Field (Spring training home of the New York Mets and home of the St Lucie Mets) (Added 6/15/15)
  • *Huggins – Stengel Field (Former spring training home of the Yankees, Mets, and Orioles) (Added 4/2/16)
  • *Oliver Field at Campbell Park (Former home of St. Petersburg Negro League teams. Hosted Mets and Cardinals spring training exhibition games in 1976.) (Added 4/2/16)

Georgia (5)

  • Coolray Field (Gwinnett Braves)
  • Lake Olmstead Stadium (Augusta GreenJackets)
  • State Mutual Stadium (Rome Braves)
  • Grayson Stadium (Former home of the Savannah Sand Gnats)
  • Golden Park (Former home of the Columbus Catfish)

Hawaii (1)

  • *Les Murakami Stadium (Former home of the Hawaii Islanders and the Hawaiian Winter League)

Illinois (1)

  • Rent One Park (Southern Illinois Miners)

Indiana (2)

  • Victory Field (Indianapolis Indians) (Added 5/19/16)
  • *Bush Stadium (Former home of the Indianapolis Indians)(Added 5/16/16)

Kentucky (4)

  • Whitaker Bank Ballpark (Lexington Legends)
  • UC Health Stadium (Florence Freedom)(Added 5/18/16)
  • Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville Bats)(Added 5/18/16)
  • *Cardinal Stadium (Former home of the Louisville Redbirds, RiverBats, Colonels) (Added 5/18/16)

Louisiana (5)

  • Zephyr Field (New Orleans Zephyrs)
  • Fair Grounds Field (Former home of the Shreveport Captains)
  • *New Orleans Superdome (Former home of the New Orleans Pelicans)
  • *M.L.Tigue Moore Field (Former home of the Bayou Bullfrogs)
  • *Bringhurst Field (Former home of the Alexandia Aces and Dukes)

Maryland (1)

  • Arthur W. Perdue Stadium (Delmarva Shorebirds)

Mississippi (2)

  • Trustmark Park (Mississippi Braves)
  • Smith-Willis Stadium (Former home of the Jackson Generals, as well as the Mets, DiamondKats, and Senators.)

Oklahoma (2)

  • Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Oklahoma City Dodgers)
  • All Sports Stadium (Former home of the Oklahoma City 89ers)

New Jersey (1)

  • FirstEnergy Park (Lakewood BlueClaws)

New York (2)

  • Richmond County Bank Ballpark (Staten Island Yankees) 
  • *Jack Kaiser Stadium (Former home of the Queens Kings)

North Carolina (4)

  • NewBridge Bank Park (Greensboro Grasshoppers)
  • L.P. Frans Stadium (Hickory Crawdads)
  • CMC-Northeast Stadium (Kannapolis Intimadators)
  • McCormick Field (Asheville Tourists)

South Carolina (3)

  • Joseph P. Riley Park (Charleston RiverDogs)
  • Fluor Field (Greenville Drive)
  • BB&T Coastal Field (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

Tennessee (6)

  • AutoZone Park (Memphis Redbirds)
  • Pringles Park (Jackson Generals
  • Herchel Greer Stadium (Former home of the Nashville Sounds)
  • AT&T Field (Chattanooga Lookouts)
  • *Engel Stadium (Former home of the Chattanooga Lookouts)
  • *Raymond C Hand Park (Former home of the Clarksville Coyotes)

Texas (3)

  • Dr. Pepper Ballpark (Frisco RoughRiders)
  • LaGrave Field (Former home of the Fort Worth Cats)
  • Cotton Bowl (One game home of the Dallas Eagles)

Washington (4)

  • Avista Stadium (Spokane Indians)
  • Gesa Stadium (Tri-City Dust Devils)
  • Yakima County Stadium (Former home of the Yakima Bears)
  • *Bomber Bowl (Former Tri-Cities Triplets home. My former high school field.)

West Virginia (1)

  • Appalachian Power Park (West Virginia Power)

I’ll probably update this list as I add new ballparks. How many you got?

Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

This is part three of a three part series.

 

The Birmingham Barons players, manager, a few front office members and I caravanned to the Red Cross disaster relief center at The Scott School in Pratt City, AL on Monday May 2nd  (See Part Two: “How Can We Help?”) to volunteer our time and energy . The following day the Barons’ front office and I (the players left on a road trip to Jackson, TN that morning) were planning to go back to do more work.

 

Coincidentally, The Jacksonville Suns professional baseball team had also planned to stop and work at the relief center on their way from Montgomery to Huntsville. They were supposed to have a game in Huntsville on Tuesday, but it was postponed because Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville still did not have power. The team could have had a day off, but they chose to help the citizens of Jefferson County, AL.

 

We arrived at The Scott School around noon, and the scene was completely different than the day before, the impending weather undoubtedly kept donors, people seeking aid, and, perhaps, a few volunteers away. Where there was a line of police officers and military patrols the day before, there was one cop, maybe two.

 

There was still work to be done. We made our way to the back parking lot of the school where were people loading and unloading. I spent more time on the unloading donations side than I did Monday. There were individuals dropping off trash bags of clothes, cases of water, and bags of cleaning supplies. There were church vans dropping off racks of clothes and loads of food. There were also individuals and companies from as far away as Wisconsin and South Florida dropping off trailers full of donations.

 

The Red Cross’s system had slightly evolved for the better in a day’s time. Instead of bringing cases upon cases of bottled water into the school, just to bring them back outside, they had just started stacking them behind the school. “How many cases of bottled water do you need? Ok, let me just walk over here and grab one for you.” Much more efficient.

 

Because of the slightly slower pace than the day before, I actually got to have conversations with a few donors and other volunteers. There was a younger guy, he looked barely eighteen, who had pulled his grill trailer from Greensboro, NC to cook hot dogs and burgers for the volunteers to eat. I met a girl who was a student at the University of Alabama. She watched the tornado take out Tuscaloosa from her dorm just a few miles away.

 

The rain began to come down around 2:00. The center slowed a little more, and the parking lot turned to mud soup, but we continued to unload, sort, and load.

 

I had talked to Suns’ broadcaster Roger Hoover earlier in the day, the team planned to show up around 3:00. I was worried that there would be little for the guys to do and they might not be able to grasp the severity and scope of the situation.

 

The Suns’ bus pulled in right on time. I walked over to the area where the Red Cross representatives were briefing Andy Barkett and his team. I found a few players that I recognized and recognized me, shook some hands, and walked them around.

 

The team had been asked to stay out of the cold rain as much as possible. I don’t blame them for that, these guys have careers on the line. You miss a few games with pneumonia, you may get passed up in the organization, and miss your one chance at a big league career. Once again, I do not blame them for that.

 

I was walking with Jeff Allison and Jake Smolinksi toward the back door to explain what we’d been doing. Allison asked if we could see the damage from the tornado. He wanted to see the town out of genuine care and concern and to be able to fathom what had happened. I told him it wasn’t but a block or two away, but I hadn’t tried to walk toward it for fear of getting M-16’d. So, the three of us walked down the road in front of the school a little way, waving or nodding at National Guardsmen on our way, what we saw was unbelievable.

 

From a little ways a way, I saw a roof. It was a roof to a big building, like a church. It looked funny, but we couldn’t quite figure out why. It looked like it was a roof to a building that was over a hill, where the building part was being hidden by the hill, and you could only see the roof. As we stepped over shingles, tree branches, and boards to get closer, you could finally see that the building had collapsed. It looked off because the building was basically gone, the roof had kept it’s shape and was resting on the ground.

 

 


PrattChurch.jpg 

From about two blocks from the school, you could see houses with half the house missing and a flat part on the top of a hill that once had houses on it. You could also see military vehicles and work trucks of all varieties; debris removal, power, water,  and vans to transport workers and volunteers.

 

I went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast three days after Katrina. It was a different scene. In Biloxi, 75% of the buildings were about 75% gone. In Pratt City, 20% of the buildings were 100% gone. I don’t know how to describe it, I’m not trying to be funny, but it was a different level and different type of goneness than Southern Mississippi was six years ago.

 

The two Suns and I turned around, headed back to The Scott School. I had a great conversation with the two about what it was like in Birmingham, what parts of the state were affected, and what we, as a state, were trying to accomplish.

 

When we got back to the back entrance, there was a Ryder truck pulled up to the door of the kitchen. Five or six male volunteers were just beginning to shuttle a truck full of MRE’s from the truck about 30 yards through the mud and into the building. I left my conversation with Allison midsentence and ran to join the chain, not expecting he or Smolinski to disobey orders and follow me. However, they were right next to me a second or two later.

 

I looked to the door at the side of the building, and about fifteen players were standing inside the doorway. They looked like excited little puppies with that “My master told me to stay and not go outside, but look at those other puppies! They’re all outside and it looks like they’re so much having fun!”

 

 


sunshelp2.JPGThe group simultaneous broke their leashes, ran to the line, and started passing MRE’s! What started out as five guys passing a thousand or two boxes inside became five guys, plus me, plus half the Florida Marlins’ AA roster. From that point on, it was open season. The Suns’ players were in the rain, walking through the mud, loading and unloading cars.

 

Before too long, my body had had enough of the cold rain and I had to walk inside to warm up. I started a talking to one player about what had happened in Pratt City, Tuscaloosa, Pleasant Grove, and Fultondale. That one player turned into two players, then three, and before long, I was talking to about ten guys.

 

Talking to the Jax team was completely different than talking to my team. My guys had been through it, seen it all unfold on the the local news, they had rode buses through these towns and had at least seen signs for the cities that were on their tv’s being destroyed by Mother Nature.

 

The Suns hadn’t. They hadn’t seen much of anything on the news, they didn’t know which areas were hit or if Regions Park had sustained any damage. They were totally interested in what was going on and listened to every bit of the information I gave them, it was the first they heard of it. Despite knowing nothing about the situation or the people affected, they were genuinely enthused and wanted to help in any way they could.

 

I told the Birmingham Barons and Jacksonville Suns this same thing:

 

It’s great that you want to help, it’s awesome that you want to carry boxes and get sweaty in the heat or muddy in the rain, but you being here is doing two things that you may not be able to see. You’re showing the citizens in this community that there are people outside of the area that you are from somewhere else and you care and know what’s going on. You’re also talking to your people back home (or in Jacksonville) and telling them about what’s going on and making them aware of the difficulties and the need. Those two things are huge because this situation was buried by and wedged between the royal wedding and the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Jacksonville Suns and Florida Marlins have all my respect after Tuesday. Not just for the work that they did, not only because they sacrificed an off day for us, Birmingham citizens, but also because the chose to get rained on and muddy in their street clothes, two hours from a shower and change of clothes at the hotel in Huntsville. Thank you, gentlemen.

The End

 

 

This is part three of a three part series about the effect the tornadoes that swept the South on April 27th have had on baseball and the communities in the area. 

Part One:  “If There’s a Tornado, Can We Come in Here?”

 

Part Two:  “How Can We Help?” 

 

Photos Courtesy of Jacksonville Suns radio voice, Roger Hoover

“How Can We Help?”

 

This is part two of a three part series.

 

On April 27th, the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925 ripped through the Southern United States. As of April 30th, 249 people were confirmed dead by the Emergency Management Agency. The large majority of those deaths occurred within 100 miles of Birmingham, my home, and the home of the Birmingham Barons professional baseball team.

 

How do residents of a city, permanent or temporary, react to an event like that? They help.

 

Within hours of the storm, the Barons’ front office hatched a plan. Free admission would be given to any game during the current homestand with the donation of a case of bottled water or six canned goods. While I have no idea how much was donated, not my department, but I do know that the majority of the patrons who donated, donated more than the minimum.

 

Our front office was doing their part to help, the players wanted to do something too. The storm happened on a Wednesday, by the next day, we had a plan. We weren’t 100% we’d be able to execute it, but it was a solid plan.

 

A few players approached manager Bobby Magallanes with an idea, Bobby ate it up, and we moved forward. The players’ idea was to cancel batting practice one day and drive to volunteer at a devastated area. Tuscaloosa, Pleasant Grove, Pratt City, and Fultondale were the likely locations.

 

Bobby and general manager Jonathan Nelson had a conversation about it, and the wheels were in motion. Director of stadium operation James Young approached me on Friday. He talked to the Red Cross people in charge and we were likely going to be going to Pleasant Grove on Monday before the game.

 

Plans changed slightly, and James had us set up to meet at the ballpark at 10:45am to carpool to the Scott School in Pratt City, AL to work at a Red Cross disaster relief center. Pleasant Grove was still not to a point where visitors could enter the city. It was still controlled by the National Guard.

 

At 10:45 on the sunny and warm morning of Monday May 2nd, sixteen Barons players wearing their white home jerseys, our manager, three wives, a few members of our front office, visiting clubhouse manager Jan Dunlap, and I left for Pratt City, not really knowing what to expect.

 

I don’t want to use the word “chaos” to describe what we saw when we got ther, but “organized chaos” wouldn’t be too far fetched. The left turn lane onto the road that the school is one was backed up at least a quarter of a mile. Traffic was barely moving. There were many Birmingham police and Air Force and National Guardsmen with automatic weapons.

 

Once you were able to turn onto the road, you didn’t quite know what to do. The caravan used an array of methods to in order to park; jumping a curb, driving the wrong way, and moving tree limbs to create space. We all eventually got parked, then it was a matter of getting everyone together and trying to figure out where we were supposed to be going. As Jared Price, Brian Omogrosso, and I were waiting by the front of the school, directly in front of the line of traffic, for the rest of the group, a guy in an idling SUV asked where he was supposed to go to drop off cases of bottles water and juice he was donating. We looked at each other, not knowing the answer, and said, “We can take it for you.”

 

The three of us unloaded the back of his vehicle, walked inside, fought the hustle and bustle of people, and found the classroom that was designated “Bottled Water.” We dropped off the water and went back outside. There was kind of an unspoken “Hey! We found a task that we can do! Let’s stick with it!” We shouted at another truck idling in traffic, asked if they had a donation. The driver pulled onto the curb, let down the tailgate, and we unloaded probably 30 cases of water that were in the back of that one pick up! We continued to do that for a few minutes, doing our part to unload donations, alleviate traffic, and break a sweat.

 

Somebody, I can’t remember who, grabbed us and told us we had to go inside to register as volunteers. We filed in to a hot room and filled out a form with the usual “Name/phone number/address/emergency contact” questions. From there, I ended up being shuffled to the back parking lot of the school to help load, unload, and sort.

 

The basic principle that was happening was the unloading of donations at one end of the parking lot. The donations were brought inside to be sorted into separate classrooms for women’s clothing, men’s clothing, shoes, baby clothing/diapers, cleaning supplies/hygiene, and bottled water.

 

 

Link to CBS 42 Video

 

The food products were taken to the kitchen to be sorted there. There were boxes being loaded with the right proportions of canned goods, snack food, fruit, breads, and other food items that a family of a given number would need. The food boxes were brought out to a table outside the door. The donors would walk through the school to pick up the clothing, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products, then receive their food box at the table by the back door on the way to their cars! What looked like chaos at first, was one of the most organized and efficient processes that I had ever seen!

 

At first, I fell into the group of guys that were helping recipients load their supplies and food boxes at the back door. Then a lady walked out of the kitchen shouting “I need three strong men back here! I need three strong men back here!” Tyson Corley, Drew Garcia and I,  ran back behind the food tables to the kitchen. The volunteers were sorting the food donations into the food boxes, we, along with other male volunteers, were going to carry the canned-food heavy boxes to the food table. We fell into place and became another step in the process. The work these volunteers were doing was unreal, it reminded me of Wall Street. People were shouting, “I need more canned goods over here!” and canned goods would be passed. Someone else would shout, “I need juice!” and bottles of juice would be passed over.

 

After a half hour or so, the food sorting room became a little crowded. I made my way back to the loading/unloading area with the majority of the other guys. We would grab a food box or bag of supplies for the female recipients, bring it to their vehicle, then on the way back we would walk through the donation area, unload a few vehicles, then make our way back over to the loading area.

 


BaronsPratt2.bmp

Barons Players L-R: Justin Edwards, Dan Remenowsky, Tyler Kuhn, Brian Omogrosso. Janet Dunlap in the center.

 

With all the hustle, hurry, and military presence, not many of us got to see much of the devastated area that day. There were a couple of people, including GM Nelson, who had to carry aid to people’s houses or vehicles a few blocks away. When asked what it was like, the general response was “It was bad.” Short of a big downed tree across from the school and a few missing shingles on the roofs of the houses near the school, there wasn’t much you could see from where we were.

 

These players that came, came to work. Nobody showed up expecting to sign autographs, shake hands, and kiss babies. The first words out of everyone’s mouth were, “How can we help?”  We actually worked so hard that day, that our strength and conditioning coach gave the guys who volunteered a free pass for the day’s weight lifting.

 

The End

 

This is part two of a three part series about the effect the tornadoes that swept the South on April 27th have had on baseball and the communities in the area. 

Part One: “If There’s a Tornado, Can We Come in Here?”

Part Three: Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

“If There’s a Tornado, Can We Come in Here?”

This is part one of a three part series.

The Birmingham Barons’ 11:00am game on Wednesday, April 27th in Huntsville was cancelled. I was at home in Birmingham at the time. I knew we were supposed to be getting some pretty rough weather later in the afternoon, but it was just warm and cloudy at that time. I figured it got to Huntsville first and washed away the game.

The team bus arrived back at home around 2:00 that afternoon. That was when I found out the real reason the game was cancelled. The Huntsville Stars were aware of the weather headed to North and Central Alabama and decided to cancel the game to be sure that my team could make the bus ride home safely, not driving home in the storms. The bus driver told me about the rain and wind they encountered on the way home. He had to pull over for a while to let the wind subside before driving his large metal sail over the elevated Tennessee River bridge, thus avoiding the “Barons Team Bus Blown Off Bridge’ headlines. But it was still warm, dry, and cloudy at our ballpark. The Huntsville Stars and the Birmingham Barons knew we had some serious weather headed our way, but I still hadn’t figured it out.

Sometime around 3:30, as I was unpacking from the road trip in our quiet underground clubhouse, a female voice startled me.

“Excuse me, sir. If there’s a tornado, can we come in here?”

I looked up to an older woman poking her head in to the clubhouse door that leads to the parking lot. It was obvious she was from the neighboring RV park that’s out past the right field line at Regions Park

“Ummmm….. Yeah, I guess. I don’t know what the actual procedure is, but you can totally come down here.”

I later found out what normally happens during severe weather. The park ranger unlocks the gate on the first base side and the people from the RV park hang out on the concourse.

No chance was I going to make the residents of the RV park dodge flying mustard packets and beer stands while I was safely watching tv under millions of tons of concrete. I posted the following status on the Inside the Clubhouse Facebook page:

“Apparently I will be hosting a tornado party for the people in the neighboring RV park tonight. I hope they bring beer and snacks.”

My buddy, DJ, texted me within a few minutes of the status post. He didn’t have power since the storms that rolled through the previous night (The storms Tuesday night knocked out the power at the stadium, destroyed the aluminum bleachers at the soccer fields beyond left field, and left about 100,000 Alabama residents without power.) DJ asked me if he and our pal Travis could come weather the storms with me. It really was turning into a party.

This was about the time that I realized that we may have some serious trouble headed our way…. maybe I should turn on the tv and see what’s going on.

Weather coverage was on every channel. By the time I turned on the tv around 4:00, meteorologists were already tracking three tornadoes on the ground in Western Alabama. They were talking about having never seeing formations like they were seeing right now. Not in over a decade had three tornadoes of this magnitude been on the ground in the same vicinity. I guess I turned on the tv at a pretty good time.

DJ and Travis arrived about 30 minutes later (with tons of sodas) and the RV park residents with the park ranger started to trickle down about the same time. Ken and Jan Dunlap, our visiting clubhouse staff, were in the visiting clubhouse. Apparently our visiting club hotel told the Mobile BayBears that they weren’t safe at the hotel and should go somewhere else if they could. They came to the visiting clubhouse, along with a few city employees who were working in the ballpark area. I got a call from one of our Barons player asking if I was at the clubhouse. Within a few minutes, there were five players, a wife, and an infant.

I kinda introduced myself to our new ballpark inhabitants. There was an older man from Colorado Springs, a couple from Kingsport, TN, a younger gentleman from Birmingham who just lived in his camper, a couple who was just driving their RV from Texas to Atlanta who saw downed trees and figured they stop and see what’s going on, and a few others.

Ken, Jan, and I had evolved from clubhouse managers to tornado shelter managers for a shelter that was housing an entire professional baseball team, a dozen RV park residents, three Barons interns, five players from the home team (and a wife and infant child,) a few city employees, and a couple longtime friends from across town.

We all were gathered around tv’s at approximately 5:00 when the largest of the tornadoes they were tracking rolled through the heart of Tuscaloosa. It was nearly a mile wide.

Let that last paragraph sink in. Reread it, if you must.

Tuscaloosa is the fifth largest city in Alabama, with over 90,000 residents. The University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa, it houses 30,000 students. Granted, there weren’t many full-time Alabama residents in the room, not that you had to be a local to realize the ginormity of what was going on, but each of us knew somebody or many people in Tuscaloosa.

T-Town is about sixty miles or an hour drive southwest of Birmingham. That tornado, along with all the other tornadoes and potential tornadoes, was headed on a northeast route. We figured it wouldn’t be too long before something bad was upon us.

We continued to watch the radar as that twister kept moving northeast and eventually north of us. The TV was showing us the view from a skyscraper in downtown. From that angle they were showing, it looked like it was going right through downtown Birmingham. About a half hour later they told us it tracked north of downtown and straight through the suburbs of Hueytown, Pleasant Grove, and Fultondale.

My five year old son and his mom live in Fultondale.

The news channels only mentioned Fultondale in passing. I waited and waited to hear reports of the extent of the damage in Fultondale. Stayed pretty calm the whole time. I try to call and text my son’s mom and her mom, but phone service was pretty much gone north of town. Still stayed pretty calm. The tv still didn’t say much about Fultondale.

I finally received a text at 10:28pm, over three hours after the storm had passed. Everyone was ok.

In the meantime, I introduced our temp tenants to the pregame spread, two tornadoes passed within five miles of my house, a tornado came close to DJ and Travis’s side of town, the worst of the weather passed, and our temp tenants left the ballpark basement.

Regions Park escaped with no damage. It barely rained. Well it barely rained water, but it did rain debris. There was a steady flow of bark, leaves, and other things falling from the sky. Someone found a 5X7 of a family at an airport. Judging by the hairstyles, it was probably from the mid ’90’s. We also found a 3′ by 1′ piece of wallpapered wood panelling. I’d have to guess that this stuff came from mobile homes 30-100 miles away.

 


debris.jpgWe have a pitcher who is from Gadsden, AL this season, Kyle Cofield. Gadsden is a little over an hour away, he’s local, but he’s not local enough to drive home everyday. He’s been staying with a friend of his who has a house across town….. in Fultondale. Cofield came in a little early Thursday morning. He said that his buddy’s house had some damage, but most of the buildings in the immediate vicinity were crippled or gone.

Cofield showed me a few pictures he had on his phone. I used to live in Fultondale too, I knew exactly where he lived, and exactly where the pictures were taken. Judging by what Kyle and my son’s mom have said and the pictures they’ve shown me, my family dodged disaster by no more than a couple of miles.

 

The End

 

This is part one of a three part series about the effect the tornadoes that swept the South on April 27th have had on baseball and the communities in the area. 

Part Two: “How Can We Help?”

Part Three: Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

Back to the Action – Infield Singles

Today was my first day back at the ballpark. You’d think I’d be excited to be back at the baseball job after five months at sub-awesome jobs. You’d be correct. I’d love to say I missed everything about this place, but I’ll settle for saying I missed almost everything.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

 

The first thing that hit me when I took the elevator to the clubhouse level, before I even saw the field, was the smell. The smell is awesome. It’s a mix between musty lack of circulation, cut grass, and leather. Even though this ballpark hasn’t seen baseball since the first of September, the smell of leather never leaves.

My first season working in the clubhouse at the Hoover Met Regions Park was 2001. I remember when Chris Jenkins, the director of stadium operations at the time, took me down the elevator to the lobby between the clubhouses. I remember the carpet, I remember the excitment of hoping to get hired, I remember it being dark until he hit the light switch, I remember the sound of him unlocking the clubhouse door, and I remember the smell. After the 2001 season, I took an eight year hiatus from the Birmingham Barons to work with other teams and pursue other careers. When I returned to Regions Park on March 30th, 2009, it caught my attention that the smell of the clubhouse was the same as it was when I had left.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

It’s March 21st, my team arrives from Arizona on April 1st. That leaves me ten calendar days to get this place ready to rock and roll. Doesn’t sound bad, till you see my list of things to do and consider that I still have a forty hour work week left at one of my offseason jobs.

By the end of this week, I hope to have the coolers cleaned, carpets vacummed, 3000 pounds of weights put in place, table put where their supposed to be, cable and wi-fi hooked up, the fridge sanitized, towels rewashed and folded, the tunnel blown, the dugout hosed, the showers scrubbed, the plates purchased, fifty cases of bottled water bought, chairs in place, the ping pong table stocked and set up, chairs in lockers, hangers hanging, a new George Foreman grill hooked up, trash cans lined, food serving tables set, boxes upon boxes of bats organized and locked away,  balls locked away, my personal clothes hung, cardio equipment put in place, bench cups put in place, the dryer fixed, a washer replaced, a flat bed cart “borrowed,” TP filled, couches couchified, and pass lists copied.

If I get all of that done by Monday, next week I can organize the uniforms, hang the boxes full of balled up pants, put away the equipment truck (which delivers the trainer’s stuff, pitching machines, ball bags, hitting tees and screens, back up helmets, coaches’ luggage, more balls, more bats,….), assign lockers, procure hats, pass out socks and belts, buy the food, talk to the caterers, purchase the toiletries, and print and post the locker plates.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

The main problem that I’m having right now is a traffic-of-stuff gridlock.  

Examples:

The stuff that’s crammed in the managers office needs to go in the corner of the food room. The stuff in the corner of the food room needs to go into the training room.

The stuff on in the cage needs to go into the locker room, but it’s path is blocked by stuff that needs to go in the cage.

The stuff on the front wall of the food room needs to go on the right wall, which is occupied by the stuff our front office is storing there.

—————————————————————————————————————

Yeah, I’m getting excited now, it’s hit me a little bit. Baseball season is around the corner and I’m back at my career. To be honest, I’m a little surprised by how excited I’m not. I thought I’d be busting at the seams or trying not to pee my pants. Last year, I was a little more excited on “Back to the Action” Day than I was this year, but the real excitement came when my players arrived, I’m sure it’ll be the same this year.

I’ll probably ride the bus to the airport to pick the guys up this year. I didn’t last year, I had too much work to do. Last year, I was waiting in the parking lot when the bus pulled up. I was still a little nervous because I didn’t feel like I was ready yet. Still had things I had wanted to accomplish before the team pulled up. 

Then, I saw my dudes, and life was good. A few of my faves from ’09 were back. Matt Long, Johnnie Lowe, Jared Price, Jim Gallagher, Kyle McCulloch, Jhonny Nunez, Christian Marrero, and Charlie Shirek were all here again. Life was awesome. We had a few new guys who seemed friendly too. I hit it off with Dale Mollenhauer and Tyson Corley on the first day.

I can’t wait to see who we have this year. The Chicago White Sox know how to drafted superb men.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

 

I’ve been hit with this question a lot the last couple of months:

“Who’s gonna be back this year?”

I don’t know. I will not know for sure who is going to be back in Birmingham this year until they are on the plane from Phoenix. I could speculate with the best of em, but what’s the point? It may kill a little time in the offseason, but I’ll just wait and see.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

Another question I hear often:

“Who do you want to come back this year?”

Easy and honest answer: None of em. I would love to see each of the guys who have passed thru here in Chicago next year. Seriously. Yeah, I’ve have my favorites that I’d love to have in my clubhouse everyday, but I’d rather be watching them on television.

 

—————————————————————————————————————

 

One last thing.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Birmingham Barons played an exhibition game versus the University of Montevallo baseball team. Montevallo is a Division-II school from down the road in…… Montevallo.

The Barons pitched nine pitchers that night, one each inning, to give their guys a little work. The Barons one-hit the Falcons that night. Carlos Torres was the pitcher who gave up the one hit. After the exhibition game, Carlos Torres was promoted to Charlotte and later was promoted to the Big Leagues.

Carlos Torres was statistically the worst of nine pitchers that night, and he earned a promotion.

 

Life, Love, and the Single Clubbie

This will be the most personal blog I ever write. I was very hesitant to make this much of my life public domain, but it seemed like people want to know about not only my job, but my life and how it’s affected by my job. So, here is a look at

Life, Love, and the Single Clubbie

In my experience, there is one factor that can make or break a relationship above all others. Time. How much time you have to give to you significant other and how much time they have to give to you heavily influences both parties happiness and satisfaction in a relationship.

It’s a two way street. Not only do you have to have enough time to devote to the relationship, you also have to have a reasonable expectation of the amount of time your partner should have to devote to you. If one partner has a significantly less or more amount of time, no good. You’ve all probably been there.

“Why doesn’t my bf/gf want to spend time with me? [sobbing] I never see them!” Or, the opposite. “My bf/gf expects too much of me. I’m in school and I work. Stage Six Clinger.”

My life has two different halves; baseball season and the offseason. Not only is the weather different in both of seasons, the allotment of free time that I have is vastly different. During baseball season, I work ridiculous hours for five or six days. I’m almost completely unavailable during game days, not even for quick lunchtime rendezvous . However, after those five or six days, I am off work for three or four consecutive days and am completely UNunavailable….. I mean, available. I can do my own thing, or I can be completely involved with a female person. The amount of time that I have to give is limitless, for three or four days.

Is that kind of schedule conducive to building a healthy foundation for a relationship? I’m still trying to figure that out. “I guess not,” may be my honest answer.

September rolls around, and that’s when the seasons begin to change. After such an intense six month baseball season, I usually take a month vacation before I run out of funds and find a lame-o off season job (future blog teaser.) During that month, I have all the time in the world! I can do my own thang or dedicate as many hours as I want to a specific chica and/or chicas. I have a little money in my pocket, so I can even wine and dine pretty well!. We can take a little vacation type thing together and the relationship can be whatever we decide it should be.

Not too bad to lay the foundation to form a quality relationship, huh? Maybe, but the temp’s about to change from warm to cold.

The roadblock that I usually encounter is the change from vacation to the offseason. The offseason officially begins when I have to go back to a forty hour a week work schedule like a normal civilian. The jobs that I find (same future blog teaser) usually aren’t routine 9 to 5ers though. If any of you have ever work in restaurants, retail, or any other job where you don’t have a set schedule, you know that it’s not the easiest thing to juggle a work schedule and a relationship. Still, it’s only forty or fifty hours of work a week with a few off days thrown in there.

It’s not so much the time factor of baseball season or the time factor of the offseason that is the kiss of death for my relationships, it’s the TRANSITION between the two. It’s the transition between having entire days off for whatever to working odd hours and rarely having days off. Or it’s the transition from being available to hang out at night or in the afternoon to disappearing for five or more days. Girls don’t handle that change well, I don’t blame them, I don’t always handle it well either.

Over the past three and a half years, three seasons and four offseasons, I have never been talking a girl in March, and still been talking to her in May. Conversely, I have never been talking to a girl in August, and still been talking to her by October.

I didn’t want this post to sound too much like a personal ad, “Looking for baseball fan. Must be low maintainance, and have a flexible schedule.” I think I’ve succeeded at that.

I want to finish by saying that I am happy with my life. After a few years of doing this, I realize that I may be choosing my career over a conventional relationship. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish I didn’t have to choose. But it is what it is. (Man I really hate that overused phrase.)