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:
We 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.
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
“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.