Recently I had the privilege of meeting George Robinson, the Director of Clubhouse Operations for the Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. George is a veteran in the Clipper organization, having been in Columbus since the early days of the Clippers’ New York Yankee affiliation. I sat down with George in this two-part interview while the Clippers were on a road trip and asked him some questions about his experience in baseball as well as life in the Clipper’s clubhouse.
Seth (the general manager of Phoenix Bats) and Charley (the founder of Phoenix Bats) have told me a small amount about what you do for the Clippers. What exactly does your position entail?
I take care of the home team and everything they do. I take care of the team’s travel arrangements, hotels, bus trips, airplanes. When the visiting team comes in, I do the same thing for them. I order our team’s equipment, their balls and uniforms. I take care of the umpires, I take care of the batboys. Anything to do with the baseball end of it, I’m in charge of.
What is your game day routine?
I start here (at the clubhouse) about 8 or 9 in the morning, run upstairs, and check my emails. I’m on 24/7 call. If there is a trade or movement in any way with player going up or down in levels, I’ve got to get them to or from Columbus. When we add somebody we’ve got to subtract somebody because we carry a 24-man roster while the big leagues have a 25-man roster. Then I also have to get the other player to where ever he is going. Usually when the Indians call up a pitcher they need him for the start that night. So I have to get the player a flight, get him to the airport, and make all the arrangements to get him with the Indians. Same thing goes for a player coming down here. You get 12 hours, maybe, in advance to know where the player is going.
In my routine, you just go. It is really hard to explain. I also get the player’s tickets for their families and friends first thing in the morning after I check my email. I get the lineup cards of both ball clubs together. I make sure all the laundry is done, make sure all of the “loops” (stirrup socks) are out. I write on the board the color uniform that we are wearing today. I make sure that we have our meals planned for pre-game and post-game. I write what time the opponents can have the batting cage and what time they can lift weights. I let both ball clubs know if we can have batting practice on the field or off the field in the batting cages.
Once we’re very close to First pitch, I have to make sure everyone is on the field for the National Anthem. I make sure the pitcher is on the mound at exactly 12:02 PM (for a day game) since all of our games are televised in-house. Sometimes our games have been on STO or MLB.TV, so you co-ordinate all of television broadcast times also. In my job, you’re constantly on the move, you just roll with it. It is hard to tell somebody what exactly I do.
What happens on get-away day?
I will have both teams on buses and gone within an hour after the game. During the game I’m making sure our guys are packed and trunks ready. Sometimes I load four buses within an hour and get them out the door. On the seventh inning of get-away day, I’m out in the parking lot just loading stuff up.
How does the offseason compare?
You actually start the day after the end of the season, to get ready for the upcoming season. You get the guys to the airport; a lot of the guys fly out the next day because by the time they pack everything after the game, they’re worn out. Right after the players leave you start arranging motels for the next season and setting up motels for the visiting teams. I start with the bus trips and then the airlines. Come November, I try to get everything ready. We have to order new uniforms, hats, socks, I try to get that stuff done by the winter meetings in December. January comes; and you need to start getting stuff ready for spring training. Spring training is here, and then the regular season is here again. You’re just as busy in the offseason as you are during the season.
Do you fly to spring training with the ballclub?
I haven’t been to Arizona yet. I went down to Florida this year to see Kevin Long, the hitting coach for the New York Yankees, who is one of my best friends.
How did you become the director of clubhouse operations?
I don’t know: loving the game, my passion for the game. When I started with the Clippers I was putting stickers on bells. I did whatever Ken Schnake (the Clippers’ General Manager) asked me to do. I’ve been in group sales. I‘ve talked to youth leagues, I’ve been a “clubbie” (clubhouse manager). I’ve done the radar gun. I’ve done the charts. Whatever the Clippers ask me to do, I do. I get paid to come to the ballpark, I don’t care what I have to do! This is really the ultimate job. I think I’m the only director of clubhouse operations in AAA baseball.
I love baseball, I do. I think you need to have a passion for this. You have to love the game, and I do. I jokingly tell people I wear pine tar for deodorant.
It is so incredible to think you are so occupied with your position, that you don’t really have the time to think of what you are doing.
No, you don’t have the time. It’s crazy. I am on the go so you just flow through the day. It is really hard to explain. If something’s not working, I have to have it fixed immediately. For example, If we’re out of dental floss in the clubhouse, I need to make sure we have dental floss.
What changes did you need to make for the club when the team moved from Cooper Stadium into Huntington Park?
I didn’t like the ballpark at first because I’m old school in many aspects of life as well as baseball. At first it was hard, but we adapted very well. There is more work because the ballpark is so much bigger: the clubhouse is so much bigger, the cages are so much bigger, the dugouts are so much bigger. I miss the Coop.. I still call it the Coop.
But I love this place, I call it a cathedral. It’s a cathedral to me. Ken did a wonderful job. I don’t think he gets enough (recognition) around town for what he has done for Columbus baseball. He has been our general manager for 30 something years. To get this ballpark paid for through public funding where he built it and everything..I mean we got ballpark of the year over new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field (the Mets’ ballpark). That’s incredible! We won ballpark of the year and we didn’t stand pat, we started changing stuff. The cages, training room, manager’s locker room, we haven’t stopped. We want to be the best organization in baseball if we can, especially in the minor leagues. All winter we were doing something, there was always construction.
Speaking of the Yankees, what was your experience like with George Steinbrenner, an Ohio product who was very influential in the Clippers’ organization?
He is a great, great man. All you hear is the bad stuff about him, but he has built Ohio State’s marching band and many of their facilities. He has done so much for Ohio State University and Columbus that many people don’t even realize. Look at the stuff he has done in Tampa as well. He’s first class and ran the team in that manner. Everyone wants to pattern themselves after the Yankees.
Coming up in Part II, George talks about his experience with players who have passed through Columbus on their way to the Big Leagues.