In my younger days, even the worst of ballparks appeared to me as the Taj Mahal with dugouts and grandstands. As I grew older, I lost touch with a feeling of awe that I used to have when ever I ventured to a ballgame. Last Monday I drove down to Huntington Park (home of the Columbus Clippers) with the founder of Phoenix Bats, Charley “Lefty” Trudeau. At the ballpark the sense of awe I experienced staring at the stadium’s entrance took me back to my grade school days. The brick façade of the Clippers Huntington Park delightfully reminded me of my first trip to AT&T Park (then Pacific Bell Park) where I stared in admiration of a jewel of a ballpark right on the San Francisco Bay.
However, the purpose of my trip with Charley was not to take a tour of Huntington Park but rather to talk with Minor League players who are currently swinging or considering swinging Phoenix Bats. But before Charley and I talked to the players, we went into the Clipper’s front office where we met Clipper’s radio broadcaster Scott Leo, who you should expect a blog entry about in the near future. We also met Clippers General Manager Ken Schnake, who must have the nicest office view of anyone in the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately, Ken’s encompassing office view of the ballpark was soured by the incoming rain which descended upon the field. After talking with Ken, Charley and I visited the Clipper’s clubhouse. In the clubhouse we met the clubhouse manager for the Clippers, Matt Pruzinsky. It was relatively apparent from Matt’s busy office that being a clubhouse manager encompassed many tasks and duties before first pitch. Because the weather conditions at the ballpark were not exactly ideal, many players strolled around the clubhouse as they waited to take batting practice in the indoor batting cages next door.
Attending batting practice was an incredible but yet nerve racking experience for one who was not a professional baseball player. It was amazing on one hand to watch ballplayers, many of whom are one phone call away from the Major Leagues, launching baseballs from their wood bats across the cage as if they were shooting bullets from an Uzi. On the flip side of the coin, it was also nerve racking to watch because I was only a few yards away from these bullets with seams. Given the amount of sheer force each batter appears to put on the ball, it is no shock that there is always a need for baseball bats around the clubhouse.
I had the privilege of meeting Clippers outfielder Chris Gimenez at batting practice. Chris discussed the feel and handle of the bat he was currently swinging, his R141 Phoenix Bat maple bat model. I was to learn more about Chris as well, discussing with him baseball and life in Northern California, where he is also from. When I told Chris I am currently attending The University of Arizona, Chris then introduced me to his teammate Jordan Brown, a fellow Wildcat. One perk I will admit of attending a large university like The University of Arizona is no matter what part of the country I am in, it is not very difficult to find another Wildcat. I was shocked to learn from Jordan that between the Clippers and Cleveland Indians rosters, there were four Arizona Wildcats between the two ball clubs. After discussing the U of A and Tucson with Jordan, Charley and I met with some of the other Clipper ballplayers to get their input on some of the other Phoenix Bats baseball bat models.
After heading to the visiting clubhouse, where Charley showed some maple and ash bats to the visiting Norfolk Tide players, Charley and I went into to the Clipper’s dugout to talk with some of the Clippers coaches. Enduring the humidity (a very foreign concept in Northern California), I was able to meet Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh and chatted with him about baseball and college football as well. In the dugout I also met assistant clubhouse manager Dave. Dave relayed to me snippets of the daily routine in the clubhouse both on game day and before road trips. Judging by the amount of work and lack of sleep involved in being a “clubbie” after meeting both Matt and Dave, I hope the clubhouse has lots of energy drinks lying around. To conclude my day, I watched the Norfolk Tide take batting practice in the same indoor cages downstairs before leaving the ballpark and heading back home.
Being able to go behind-the-scenes at the Huntington Park was a very intriguing experience. Seeing the preparations on game day gave me an insight into all of the hard work and amount of precision needed to make a baseball team function. Additionally, being able to talk with the ballplayers enabled me to understand the daily routine of a minor league player as well. My experience yesterday was memorable, an experience that I am sure will be engrained in my mind for many years.
That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you later.