A few weeks ago, I met with Columbus Clippers’ (the AAA franchise of the Cleveland Indians) Clubhouse manager Matt Pruzinsky in the clubhouse at Huntington Park. I got to view what life in the clubhouse was like for a clubhouse manager and was able to ask Matt what his role is in the clubhouse.
Today is a game day. What is the routine you have on a game day compared to a non-game day?
The biggest thing is just being here early. Staying late the night before and getting here early the next morning: 10:00 to 11:00 am is usually the time frame I get here after leaving at 1:30 or 2 am. My routine when I get in is, if I don’t have to stop at the store and get something for the clubhouse, I’m finishing up laundry with my assistant David. We finish up laundry from the night before, mostly towels. Then we are just restocking fridges, getting more snacks, and making sure everything is ready for when the guys come in. That’s basically the biggest thing in the morning. As the day progresses, it gets a little different as the players come in. They want lunch from certain places so David or one of the batboys will go get it. It just gets kind of hectic at times because everybody wants something. That’s our job to please everybody, so you can kind of see how it gets hectic making everybody happy.
What time do the players usually get to the clubhouse?
Today, we don’t have batting practice but stretch for pitchers. I think is at 4 o clock (for a 7 o clock start) so the guys will show up at 2 pm at the earliest. They take advantage of having a late start so they can sleep in or hangout with their families.
When the players do show up, what are some of the other tasks you do for them?
We just hang around, making sure to be there if anyone needs anything. We usually prepare the stuff for our pre-game spread. Today I have sushi so I’ll pick up the sushi at 4 o clock. I usually put the spread out 2 hours before game time. I’ll put out all of the lunch meats and fresh fruits, everything to make sandwiches. Sometimes guys will make smoothies with a blender. We clean up post-batting practice: most guys have two laundry loops so we pull their personal clothes from batting practice. A lot of guys sweat and change after batting practice. We wear a dri-fit t-shirt for batting practice so most guys will throw the shirt on their loop, and then I’ll have it washed and dried by the end of game time. Basically during the game we do laundry. We then get the post-game spread all set up for the players. Once the game is over, it is “game on” for us, while its “game over” for them. We generally average three hours after the game until we’re done. Last night we were here after 1.
How does the second day of the homestand differ from the first?
The first day is pretty busy especially after an eight game road trip because the guys haven’t been home so some guys will bring their personal laundry in from home. Yesterday was especially busy because we got in at seven in the morning and we were here from 5:30 until 1:30. We try to get all of the uniforms cleaned, and the clubhouse prepped and what not for the guys to come in. The first day of the home stand is the busiest, especially if we get new guys that met us on the road. It’s a process. The first day is always the worst. After that it gets a lot easier because everything is pretty much ready to go after the first day. Everybody usually has all of the things that they need, it’s a lot easier after that to put it that way.
How did you become a clubhouse manager?
I started in Lake County (the Indians’ A-ball affiliate). I’m from Lake County. I was a batboy there when I was in high school. Then I worked in the clubhouse my second year. The third year, I stayed in school. That was the only year I wasn’t with the Captains. That following year they called me in and said they had an opening for a clubhouse manager. I took that position. I went to Ohio State so I took every spring quarter off to work the whole baseball season from spring training to the end of the season. I was a clubhouse manager in Lake County for four years. This past fall, I heard they were hiring here. I came down and met with the general manager (Ken Schnake) and George (the Director of Clubhouse Operations). Pretty much around Halloween time I got the job and then I moved back to Columbus in January.
What is difference between being a clubhouse manager at this level compared to Single-A?
The biggest difference is probably the maturity level of the guys. Most of these guys have been around the game more and they’re older so they kind of know how it is supposed to go here. In low-A, they are a little more immature because they are younger and fresh out of high school or the draft. It is just a lot different in that respect. It is better up here: the guys have been around the game longer here and know what is going on. They are a lot easier to work with. That is probably the biggest thing. I’ve had a lot of guys up here who I knew from Lake County.
You have a 24-man roster here in Columbus. How do you make sure all the equipment gets to where it needs to be?
After the game, if we are going on an 8-game road trip, we usually have all of these trunks for extra equipment and laundry bags, plus every player has their personal “Columbus Clippers” bag that we pack for them. We pack all their essentials, like jerseys, and then they pack all of their personal stuff. We get all of that, make sure all of that stuff is out and loaded on the buses. If we fly, we will usually have an equipment truck that will leave the day before. We just have to know what needs to be on each road trip. The trainer has his own stuff; we take everything from the training room that he needs on the road and put it on the bus. We know exactly what goes on the road and you’ve got to keep track of everything. We have minor slipups here and there, someone forgets their bag or glove or whatever it might be, but we try to eliminate that. The biggest thing is keeping everything together, their trunks and bags.
How many people are you taking the equipment for?
We take it for close to 30 guys. We take all of their bags, all of their bat bags, and the standard big bat bag. We take all of the ball bags, and extra baseballs for the pitchers. That is usually controlled by (pitching coach) Charlie Nagy. We usually give him one dozen balls a day for the road. It’s a task but we get it done.
What happens when a player gets called up?
If someone is called up to Cleveland, someone from the front office or I will take the equipment up to Cleveland. That’s basically the chore: getting everybody’s stuff that is down here and getting it sent up to Cleveland. It is always good if their wife is here because they will take it up to them.
What if he gets called up to the West Coast or somewhere very distant?
If they are on the road and get called up, a lot of guys can make do with what they have and then we just send their equipment to Cleveland, that way we don’t have to overnight it. Some guys need equipment overnighted to them where ever they are at. A couple of weeks ago, we had to send some stuff over to Tampa Bay. Just depends on the guy and if they need something.
Do you keep in touch with a lot of the clubhouse managers in the Indians’ minor league affiliates?
I’m pretty close with our guy in Akron and I’ve stayed with him for the past two Spring Trainings. I know the guys in Cleveland pretty well. It’s a team effort so to say, we are all affiliated with the Indians, so we are all part of a family so you can say.
How does get-away day work?
It starts towards the end of the game just trying to get everything ready. Usually we just set the equipment up in the hallway and have it ready to go minus the player bags. When the game is over, the bus to take the players is usually here. My assistant, the batboys, George, and I will all just start taking everything out on carts to the buses and getting it loaded up. Generally the team likes to leave an hour after the game. What is good is that we haven’t had many road trips where we needed to leave the night of.
We also do their personal laundry and put it in the bags. If we leave the night of, we just put it in a wetbag and the clubhouse managers on the road will clean it when it gets there. An hour after the game isn’t enough time to get the clothes washed and dried. We only have to do that a couple of more times. When we go on the road to Louisville or Toledo, those are the road trips we can leave in the morning because it isn’t that far away. It just depends on where we go I guess.
Who decides on the bats and gloves that the players use?
They pick their own models of bats, they have their own gloves. Some get equipment from their agent for free, some have to pay for their own stuff, some through companies. Just the player and what they are comfortable with. It depends on each company too. With the apparel, its stuff we give them. They have to wear certain colors under their jersey and we try to keep everyone wearing the same colors. Luckily, a lot of guys will be in spring training and have a lot of their Indians stuff so they will have the same navy color on their clothes.
During a season, how many bats does the team go through?
A lot of guys will put in an order once a month. It depends on the player. Quite a few bats and quite a few baseballs, we go through a lot. Every guy has their own supply of bats and they order bats when they need them. About monthly guys will put in a bat order with me and I’ll send the order to our overall equipment manager for the Indians. He orders all of that and sends it up here.
What was the most memorable player that you have met in your minor league experience as a clubhouse manager?
I probably have two. It might be cliché because it’s Chris Gimenez (who swings Phoenix Bats) and Matt Whitney. They are probably my two favorite guys just because even at that level they were very respectable guys and understood the game. They were always good to me, so I would say those two guys are probably my favorite to work with the past few years. It’s great to see a guy like Chris especially, late round pick, that didn’t have so much hype coming out of college make it to the big leagues. Last year was pretty good because he is a great guy, will tell you like it is and is down to earth. You can tell a guy like that wasn’t changed by going to the big leagues for a year. It was good to see him get there.
Matt Whitney was an early round guy but he was very cool and very professional. He never really was one of those immature younger guys even though he was a high school pick. He professionally moved on to the Nationals organization and I haven’t followed him that much this year but it’s good to see guys like that make it. It’s a very good feeling. You are happy for those guys. Making the majors is the ultimate goal for the players, and you’re very happy when they reach the Promised Land, so to speak.
Thank you to Matt and the Clipper organization for allowing me access to the clubhouse and the opportunity to see what a day in a clubhouse manager’s life consists of. It is a very rare opportunity to go behind the scenes on a game day. My experience taught me a lot about behind the scenes work in professional baseball.
-Eitan the Intern