A day in the life
This is the first of a series looking at life on a three-day road trip to Eugene with the Southern Oregon Timberjacks. It's Thursday, Aug. 5, their travel day.
If you're only allotted four days off in a season, you might as well make them count.
That seemed to be the philosophy of the Southern Oregon Timberjacks as they crept into Miles Field beginning at 7:45 a.m., the morning after the rare respite.
While some players used their day off to simply relax, most took to the outdoors for rafting or fishing.
Their biggest stumbling block: sunscreen. Everybody knows they need to use sunscreen; few actually put it on.
The following is a timeline account of Day — of Southern Oregon's road trip to Eugene for a three-game series:
8 a.m.-- Timberjack left fielder Kirk Asche stuffs his travel bag until it bulges with his uniform, glove and various equipment. As others file in, they silently go about their own packing. Short-season Class A baseball players quickly learn that if something is to be done, it will be done by them.
8:15 a.m.-- As the chartered bus destined for Eugene arrives at the Miles Field parking lot, Asche shows off his lasting memory of Wednesday's rafting trip -- flaming red shins and thighs. Several other team members join in to challenge Asche's claim of worst sunburn. Still, all agree the trip was worth the discomfort.
In the back of the clubhouse, right fielder Mike Lockwood is sprawled across one of the couches outlining a wall. Despite a blaring television only a few feet away, Lockwood is unaffected and catches a quick nap. More players file in, toting bags of food from local fast-food restaurants.
8:25 a.m.-- Right-handed pitcher Scott Chiasson is still catching grief for his Tuesday outing, in which he lasted only one-third of an inning, surrendering eight runs on seven hits.
In the middle of the good-natured kidding, Chiasson offers his take on the rafting trip to pitching coach Gil Lopez.
I tried to fall off the boat or hit a rock, but the others wouldn't let me, he deadpans.
8:35 a.m.-- Most of the players are settling into their usual spots on the bus. Equipped with compact disc players and newspapers, they are ready for the three-hour road trip. One thing they can't tune out, however, is the overwhelming odor coming from the bathroom on the bus.
8:55 a.m.-- Bus driver John Goodson turns the ignition to start the bus.
8:58 a.m.-- A handful of players remember what they forgot to pack and run back to the clubhouse for cleats, gloves, undershirts, etc.
8:59 a.m.-- Pitchers Nate Hilton, Bryan Mazur and Matt Gage and shortstop Miguel Declet are nowhere to be found. TJs manager Greg Sparks tells Goodson they should just finish loading up and go. In the next moment, Sparks changes his mind and allows a few extra minutes, since some of the players believe the bus slated to pick up the foursome was running behind.
I just need my No. — (starter), No. 5 and stopper. That's all, laughs Lopez.
9:05 a.m.-- The missing players arrive.
9:12 a.m.-- As the bus leaves Miles Field, Sparks pulls aside shortstop Carlos Rosario to ask him about a fellow Dominican who was stripped of her Pan Am Games high jump gold medal because of steroid use. Holding up the newspaper article, Sparks tries in vain to get answers from Rosario, who is still learning English.
9:15 a.m.-- Still interested in getting an answer, Sparks heads to the back of the bus and poses the question to backup catcher Jose De La Cruz, one of three Dominican Timberjacks.
With Sparks on the prowl, team trainer Jeff Collins pops a video into the VCR. He gets no picture from the front television and begins to dismantle the cover in an effort to fix the problem.
I'm not only a trainer, I'm a TV/VCR repairman, says Collins.
9:20 a.m.-- Comedian Martin Lawrence is in rare form on all three TVs. Collins starts passing along a sign-in sheet and gives each player his $20-per-day traveling money.
9:25 a.m.-- Goodson pulls the bus into a gas station to dump the toilet. No one complains.
9:38 a.m.-- It's back on the road, with no other planned stops.
10:45 a.m.-- Sparks begins filling out the day's workout schedule for stretching, batting practice and fielding. The manager also scratches out two lineups for tonight's game: One for a left-handed Eugene pitcher, one for a right-hander.
10:55 a.m.-- Sparks has trouble opening his briefcase. He presses the button to open the right latch, but nothing happens. More button pressing, more latch pulling. Still nothing. He gives up and forces a pen back into the briefcase.
11:15 a.m.-- Sparks fidgets with the briefcase some more without positive results. He scans the bus for a weapon to pry open the latch. Nothing.
11:30 a.m.-- After spotting a police car on the freeway shoulder, Sparks jokes about getting the team's radar gun out and shooting passing cars to watch them slow down when their radar detectors light up like a Christmas tree.
11:35 a.m.-- Sparks asks for Eugene's team statistics from TJs scorer B.G. Gould. Irritated with the inability to open his briefcase, Sparks grabs a nearby bat and begins whacking the latch. Very entertaining, but still very much locked.
11:40 a.m.-- Remarkably, the briefcase finally opens with the simple flick of a switch. A sense of relief runs through the front of the bus.
12:15 p.m.-- The bus arrives in Springfield and players check into the team's hotel. Not all of the rooms are ready, but most players get their keys and venture to their rooms.
1 p.m.-- Players take to the streets of Springfield for lunch. Denny's, IHOP, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken all gain attention.
2-3 p.m.-- Players kick back in their rooms and try to rest up for tonight's game.
3 p.m.-- The bus leaves the hotel and arrives at Eugene's Civic Stadium 15 minutes later. Players unpack the bus and choose lockers in Eugene's small visitors locker room.
3:20 p.m.-- T'jacks players settle into the grandstand to watch the Emeralds take infield practice.
3:45 p.m.-- Gerald Laird recounts his fishing excursion from the previous day. It's the third time the starting catcher has told the story, with the number of fish seemingly increasing and his hands getting farther and farther apart as he describes the size of the fish.
4 p.m.-- Pitchers head to the corner of left field to stretch, with position players about 15 feet in front of them.
4:15 p.m.-- Brad Henderson and Rosario form a unique Odd Couple. With Henderson hailing from Mississippi and Rosario from the Dominican Republic, verbal communication is forced to take a back seat. As the team lines up for some sprints, Henderson pokes and prods at Rosario to gain an advantage. Rosario easily dismisses the handicap and outraces Henderson, who jokingly picks Rosario up and pretends that a body slam is imminent.
4:30 p.m. -- Eugene's batting practice is becoming a problem as line drives keep splitting the Timberjacks as they stretch.
4:45 p.m.-- Sparks recounts the longest home run he's ever seen, a mammoth shot by former Red Sox and current Angels first baseman Mo Vaughn. While both were in the minors, Vaughn apparently lofted a shot to right field that, according to Sparks, may still be rising. Players chime in on Vaughn's swing, with Jorge Soto and Lockwood disagreeing on its purity.
5 p.m. -- Sparks throws batting practice to the first of three rotating groups. The other two groups take infield practice and shag fly balls.
5:55 p.m. -- Groundskeepers at Civic Stadium snap into action the moment Southern Oregon finishes batting practice.
6:20 p.m.-- Players wander through the locker room in various stages of dress. Collins helps stretch out a handful of players, while others slide up to a nearby table and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or grab granola bars and water. The players settle in at their lockers for their pregame snack.
6:25 p.m. -- Starting pitcher Franklyn German serenades the locker room in Spanish, sending Rosario into a fit of laughter. Otherwise, faces start turning serious as game time nears. Grady Fuson, the former TJs manager and current director of scouting for Oakland, pulls up a chair to talk with Sparks and Lopez.
6:30 p.m.-- Gage offers German an impromptu lesson in putting on cologne. The Dominican pitcher had just watched with a quizzical look as Gage sprayed his cologne and then walked into the mist.
7:05 p.m. -- Eugene starter Juan Cruz throws the game's first pitch.
9:55 p.m. -- Mazur thwarts any hope of a Eugene comeback in the ninth inning, allowing the TJs to post a 5-3 victory in the first game of the three-game series.
10:05 p.m. -- Players begin their post-game ritual of treatments. Collins hands out ice for weary muscles. Several pitchers go through arm exercises under the trainer's watchful eye. Other players head for the showers.
10:30 p.m.-- Asche breathes a sigh of relief. Sunburned and all, we pulled it off, he says of the victory.
11:15 p.m.-- The bus finally leaves the stadium for the hotel, arriving 15 minutes later. Players drop off their gear and many head out for food.
12:30 a.m.-- Breakfast at IHOP concludes and players Ryan Tauscher, Chiasson, Matt Forbes, Jason Pomar and Justin Lehr return to their rooms in search of a good night's sleep.