Lockers. Everybody needs one. They’re important. You’ll be spending a couple hours a day there for six months, seventy games, and a handful of rain delays. Who decides which player get which locker and how do they decide? In the minors, I have encounterd three methods.
1. The manager decides. The manager may have a certain idea of who he wants where, usually he makes his assignments based on position, experience, or culture. If there is a young stud prospect shortstop on the team, he may want to put him by the veteran middle infield. The thinking is that the youngin’ can learn how to act professionally or gain some positional guidance from the vet.
He may also want to break up the cultural divide that sometimes creep into the clubhouse, thus, promoting team unity. He might put the order; country boy, Dominican, Cali boy, country boy, bonus baby, quiet reader, party animal, married guy with a baby, etc… You are more likely to see this method at the lower levels of the minors with the younger players.
2. The clubhouse manager decides. If the clubbie assigns lockers, he’ll put in in some kind of order that’s convenient for him. Probably either numerical or alphabetical. Hanging laundry is one of the last things we do at night. When you have a basketful of jerseys with no name on the back, it’s a little of work to first have to mentally match a name with the number, then match a locker location with the name to hang it up. 1, 2, 3, 4 is the easiest system there is.
3. The players decided. When players get to choose their own lockers, a lot of thought goes into it. Do they choose one near the tv? Near or away from the door? On the end? In the corner? Near the ping-pong table or away from it? The same one as last year or on the opposite wall? Who do I want to be my neighbor? Do I want to be near the couches or the card tables? By the stereo or the other side of the room from it? If a player wants a locker that someone else, possibly a vet who got to pick first, has chosen, a trade or cash transaction may go down.
In Birmingham, the power to assign lockers is mine!…. Kinda by default. In 2009, my first season here, I put locker nameplates up before the team arrived. I went with the alphabetical-by-position approach. A couple guys switched, but there was no mutiny.
Last year, the power was mine again, but I decided to let the players choose. On one of the last days before the team broke camp and I had a relatively certain roster, I started texting and calling guys who were here the previous year, seniority. I started by getting in touch with the guys who had been here the longest and/or been the best tippers in the past. Seniority pays, and so does gratitude. The guys made their choices based on the couches, the ping-pong table, the corners and the ends, and their potential neighbors. It took about half a day to get in touch with everybody and organize so everyone could be where and next to who they wanted.
I could have gone with the easier do-it-myself numerical approach, but doing it this system was fun! It was also a good way for me to reconnect with some guys I hadn’t seen or talked to in a few months. When I player walked in and saw his locker exactly where he wanted it, winks and smiles were exchanged.
I think my method is good for the team, too. A guy may be in the dumps a little about his second or third season in Double-A, but getting that clubhouse real estate exactly where you want is a relief. The season’s long enough, comfortability is a must-have.
I’m going to do the same thing this year. As soon as I get my hands on a somewhat final roster, I’m going to make some calls. I’ve already had a text exchange with one player who said he knows he’s coming back.
He asked me politely for his old locker back, and said “See if you can put [Player A] and [Player B] near me too.”
I replied “[Player A] and [Player B] already asked me not to put them by you.”
See? I told you it was fun!