Tagged: Mobile BayBears

“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

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“Find a job that you love……”

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.

 

The End

 

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.