The day that just wouldn't come to an end


POSTED: Sunday, May 31, 2009

I know this sounds like a gross exaggeration, but this may have been the longest day of my life.

There really wasn't a lot of excitement entering our off day this past Monday. After dropping our season-opening three-game series over the weekend, we were not all thrilled at spending the first of our rare time away from the field sitting on a bus, but we did just that.

With a 600-mile trek from our home in southern Illinois near Kentucky up to Traverse City, near the northern tip of Michigan, it became evident very quickly that the trip was not going to get any shorter until we got the bus fired up and moving.

So while other ballclubs in our league may have been enjoying a chance to relax and unwind, we were bound to our team bus for the better part of 10 hours. As usual with long bus trips, we had some DVDs on hand to help make the trip a little shorter. A few of our guys had a card game going at the back of the bus, while others played their Sony PSPs, or talked, texted or Web-surfed on their cell phones.

We made only two quick stops on the way, one for lunch at a McDonald's next to a truck stop in northern Indiana, and another so our bus driver could have a cigarette break a few hours later.

Overall the trip went well. We made decent time, and there were no unexpected bus malfunctions or anything of the sort, so we considered ourselves fortunate, and got ready for our three-game series against the Traverse City Beach Bums.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and we spent much of our road trip sitting around and waiting for word on the weather, word on whether pregame batting practice had been canceled for the day, word on whether we would even play our games. Thanks to the Beach Bums' field turf surface, we played our series opener on Tuesday and won, 5-4, thanks to a strong effort from starter Chris Wiman, who worked five innings of shutout ball.

The next day we got banged because of rain, setting up any pro ballplayer's nightmare, a getaway day doubleheader. Scheduled for two seven-inning games, as is the norm for minor league doubleheaders, we hoped for a pair of well-pitched, briskly played contests.

But of course, that did not happen. We pitched well in the first game, but unfortunately, so did they, as we won, 1-0, in 11 innings. We then played seven more in the nightcap, wrapping up at 11 p.m. By the time we showered and dressed and packed our bus for the long journey home, it was well past midnight.

The actual drive home was not the worst part of the ordeal. There really aren't too many travel days in minor league ball. We play, travel and play again on most getaway days. This time, though, we were driving home for our home opener against the Kalamazoo Kings, and we all did the math. We knew that by the time we got back to our stadium in Marion, Ill., the sun would be well into its work day, and we would have a short turnaround before we had to return to the field to play.

Well, we got back at 10 a.m., and by the time I unloaded, made the short drive home from our clubhouse to my apartment, and showered and ate some breakfast, it was almost noon. So I took a couple of hours of nap time and then got back off the couch and headed toward the stadium once again.

In the end, it turned out OK. We all rode the adrenaline from the nearly 6,000 fans who showed up for our home opener, and held off league-leading Kalamazoo, 5-4. I know it won't be the last of our long days and sleepless nights on our bus, and I will surely have more 48-hour days ahead. But for now, I'm just happy this one is over. Seven games down, 89 to go.

Brendan Sagara, who played baseball for Leilehua and UH-Hilo, is pitching coach for the Southern Illinois Miners.