Loading the Bases
Truck Day kicks off baseball’s spring training season
By Phyllis Hanlon
Since the end of October, all has been quiet on the streets outside the stadium. The tee shirt and baseball hat vendors’ stalls remain closed. The smell of hot dogs and beer has faded along with the strains of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Suddenly, the hum of big rigs, decorated with team logos, breaks the silence. Truck Day — the true first rite of spring — has arrived.
The ritual plays out in Major League cities all across the country. In Boston, a 53-foot tractor-trailer sporting a colorful Red Sox banner rumbles onto Yawkey Way. The driver carefully backs into the loading dock at Fenway Park where five or six men begin the task of filling the cavernous trailer with the team’s equipment for the 1,480-mile trip to training camp at City of Palms Park in Florida.
For the last 12 years, Allan Hartz, a 28-year veteran of New England Household Moving and Storage, has driven the Red Sox paraphernalia south. He and other trucking company employees join team personnel as they haul crates of baseball equipment, medical supplies, luggage, uniforms, computers and even x-ray machines and crutches into the trailer. “The entire club is relocated to Fort Myers,” says Kevin Carson, the trucking company’s operations manager. “It takes about five hours to load the truck.”
In St. Paul, Minn., Paul Luxem looks forward to getting out from behind his desk at Berger Transfer and Storage to help with the Minnesota Twins’ annual relocation to its spring home at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. Unlike Fenway Park, which has the lowest seating capacity in the major league and relatively easy access at street level, the Twins job presents some logistical challenges. Since the Metrodome, a 60-million cubic foot, covered stadium in nearby Minneapolis, spans several floors, the loading process takes 10 men between seven and eight hours to complete.
Luxem says, “We use golf carts because it’s a long push from the front door to the loading dock. We may be gone for 20 minutes inside before getting back to the truck.”
Minnesota’s 80,000-pound cargo includes 33,000 pounds of baseball gear as well as an assortment of fishing poles, golf clubs, conference room tables and other furniture. “Sometimes we get playpens, stoves, and bikes. One time we got a dozen or two bowling balls,” says Luxem. “We bring giveaways like bobbleheads and 3,500 baseball bats. You name it, we pack it.”
Two drivers work in tandem and usually reach their destination in two and a half days. Although the job is time-consuming and physically taxing, the crew finds it fun and exciting and a nice change from their usual moving jobs.
A-Mrazek Moving Systems in St. Louis, Mo., has been carting the Cardinals from Busch Stadium to their spring location in Jupiter, Fla., for the last 22 years, according to David Sabada, company president. He points out that relocating a baseball team for spring training is similar to other jobs in some ways. “All the contents are inventoried and identified within each truck,” he says.
However, he notes some significant differences. “Everything is time sensitive, and where and how it comes off the truck is a critical issue. Also, the value of the items being transported becomes another issue,” says Sabada. “Since this is a high-profile shipment, we must be cognizant of security issues, not to mention the high expectations of the Cardinals organization.”
In Arizona, the Phoenix-based Diamondbacks’ spring home sits a mere 110-miles away in Tucson. But the two-hour trek is a pleasant diversion for Efren Covarrubias, a driver with Dircks Moving Services who usually transports household goods. A huge Diamondbacks fan, he has relocated the team for the last two years and welcomes the change in routine.
A day or two before the trip, Covarrubias drops a 48-foot trailer off at Trace Field where team personnel and managers begin the loading process. The day of the move, Covarrubias helps with last-minute packing and then heads southeast. “It’s very exciting,” he says. “I look forward to it.”