Life in the Minors
‘Locked in’ on the field ... and in the Thunderbolts clubhouse
For the past three weeks, it really seems as though the Windy City Thunderbolts have been "locked in."
Entering our series finale against the Chillicothe Paints on June 18, we were enjoying a solid beginning to our season. At 19-7, we were a few games up in the Frontier League's Central Division, and hoping to avoid a road sweep at the hands of the Paints, who had beaten us the first two nights of the three-game set.
We walked away with a 6-4 win that night, and then a funny thing happened. We got hot. We got locked in.
Beginning with that win in southern Ohio, we ran off 12 straight wins, recording series sweeps at home against the Florence Freedom and Chillicothe, a four-game road sweep of the Traverse City Beach Bums, and another home win against the Rockford Riverhawks.
This past week, we were playing back to more of our normal pace, taking four of six games against Rockford and the River City Rascals. When we opened the season in May, our manager, Andy Haines, and I made it our goal to win every series this year, figuring it would help us move another game over the .500 mark each time. So far we've won 12 of our 13 series, and with the 12-game win streak, we are currently sitting 23 games over .500.
So as I sat in our dugout at Hawk Ford Field, our home stadium in Crestwood, Ill., on Friday, it was really difficult for me to sit there and watch our pitchers sputter against the Rascals, surrendering nine walks and 11 runs. It was hard to watch because for the past month, our pitching staff had established itself as one of the best in the league, topping the circuit in a number of categories.
Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with our game, but this being professional baseball, there is always another game to play. And yesterday, we did play again, and life did go on. But still, after Friday's game it took me a little while to get over our subpar effort. After a loss like that one, it seems as though we can never start the next day's game soon enough, to have a chance to wash the bitter taste of losing out of our mouths.
Today, I was able to break my mood a little quicker. As I prepared to make my way to the ballpark for work, I received a phone call from Andy telling me a feature on the inner workings of our minor league club had been published in the Daily Southtown, the local paper that covers our team.
In it, I would later discover, was a brief mention of my episode about two weeks ago when I was mistakenly locked in our manager's office as I was taking my postgame shower.
As I walked through the clubhouse after our 3-2 win, I crossed paths with our clubhouse manager, Timmy Brasic, who apologized about leaking the story to the article's author as he was being interviewed for the story on the night of the incident.
So yes, just as our team has been locked in for the past few weeks, I was "locked up," for a little while that night.
For some reason, the home manager's office is the only door without a door lock in our stadium. But with our team's entire stock of wood bats -- about 12 dozen Old Hickory maple bats and Louisville Sluggers -- in Andy's office, we have been securing the office with a padlock all season long.
The obvious problem is that while you cannot be locked in with a standard door lock, you can be cornered in by a padlock.
For the first two months I was here in Crestwood, I had no problems or concerns with the padlock on Andy's door. In my estimation, I had used the shower in the bathroom in Andy's office more than 100 times before my incident and never had a problem.
But on that night, things were a little out of whack. Andy's wife, Erin, had recently arrived from their home in Columbia, Tenn., and our skipper was in a hurry to get out of there. Funny thing is we were talking to each other through the office door as I was showering in the bathroom. Andy was collecting his stuff, putting his laundry outside of his door and packing his briefcase and talking to me as he made his way out the door. He told me he'd see me the next day, and took off. Unfortunately, he blanked out for a bit and locked up the padlock on the door as he always does when he leaves the park.
With no clue that I had any cause for worry, I took my time and got my shower in as I tried to calculate what our record would be if we kept winning nearly every series. I wrapped myself in my towel and made my way to the door, and soon had one of those, "No way," moments as I realized I had been padlocked inside Andy's office.
Luckily, most of our players and staff were still around, so I started hollering for Timmy. I tried to be a little discreet at first, but after a few moments of calling for Timmy and visualizing having to spend the next 14 hours locked up in Andy's office, I started yelling.
Timmy heard my calls and stood on the other side of the door, the side I wanted to be on, as we brainstormed for a solution. The first option was to see if our stadium manager had the key. He did not. Andy had the only copy.
Then we talked about cutting the lock, or beating it off with a bat. Both of those ideas fell by the wayside. The next plan was to have Timmy go into our office, grab my cell phone, and call Andy to get him back to the stadium to let me out.
As Timmy called Andy, our bench coach, Mike Kashirsky walked by and said, "Hey don't worry, B -- there's enough air in there and we can squeeze some food through the crack in the door if you want." I also received encouraging words from a couple of our players.
I laughed, but not that much.
About 15 minutes later, Timmy broke me out of my cell. Andy had driven back to the field to free me, but he sent Timmy to open the lock. Andy thought one of two things might happen if he walked down the tunnel to get me out -- either I would be ticked off at him for locking me in, or he would come to the door and start laughing and then I would get ticked off.
Neither would have been true, and thanks to our trusty clubbie, Timmy, I was home bound in a reasonable amount of time.
Thinking back to that night, I do remember vaguely now a couple of reporters and a photographer being around our clubhouse as I was freed from captivity. As I commented that night, it wasn't the first time it happened to me. There was the time I got locked in the bathroom at the TGI Fridays in Canton, Ohio, back in 2002.
It seemed Andy's wife also read yesterday's paper. When I met my girlfriend -- who is visiting from Honolulu -- outside of our clubhouse last night, I found myself having to tell her the whole story about that night. Andy had told Erin about it and, of course, she found it to be hilarious and felt compelled to share the tale with my girlfriend.
It was pretty funny. Luckily, I had our trusty Timmy around to help me out. But if you ask me, I'd prefer to be "locked in" on the field instead of off it, any day.