by Elizabeth Rudisill
Though some of you may have heard, you definitely have not experienced. Travel in the minor leagues is less than ideal. Let’s take a quick look at a recent situation that affected one member of the farm.
They fly commercially on all flights, and are subject to the security checkpoints and the luggage weight restrictions just like us normal folk. There are long bus trips, layovers and time zone changes. The thought of sleeping in your own bed reverts back to your hotel room or your crash pad in the usually smaller and obscure cities farm teams are located in. These cities generally do not have direct flights anywhere and the team is subject to the schedules of the struggling commercial airline industry. With this being said, I would like to provide an example of the grueling life of a minor leaguer and the revolving door with the big club. All they want and need is a fair chance, but that’s certainly not in the cards.
After only a four game home stand in early May, the Iowa Cubs left on an eight game road trip to the west coast against Fresno (Giants affiliate) and Sacramento (Athletics affiliate). At the time, two teams with two of the best records in the PCL. Keep in mind the two hour time difference from the central time zone the players had been in for the past two plus weeks. The team did well on the trip and improved their road record by taking five out of the eight games on the trip. South paw late reliever, Scott Maine, pitched in three of these games and earned a save. The Cubs acquired Maine in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and made his big league debut with the Cubs on August 27th, 2010. He has been up and down since.
After the Sacramento series, the team was headed back to Iowa for an eight game home stand, but more exciting to the players, a league-wide day off the following day. This would be their first day off in twenty games.
Traveling back to Des Moines for the team went like this. After a 12:05 pm day game in Sacramento, the team was scheduled to fly out on a 5:00 pm flight. Since they are flying commercially and there are obviously no direct flights from Sacramento, CA to Des Moines, Iowa, they had to fly from Sacramento, Ca to Las Vegas, NV to Kansas City, MO. To save money, the team would take a bus from Kansas City up to Des Moines. (This is a solid three hour drive if you were to drive it yourself in a small fuel efficient vehicle above the posted speed limit.) The flight didn’t get into Kansas City until after 1:00 am (technically on their day off) and the bus did not pull into Des Moines until 6:00 am. Most of the team could use their day off to sleep and attempt to recover from jet lag, however, reliever Scott Maine got the call up to Chicago that day. As soon as arriving in Des Moines, he had to jump a flight from Des Moines to Chicago to join the big club. Chicago happened to have a day game versus the Phillies that day. Maine was called in to pitch in the 9th with the club trailing by one. He gave up a double, hit a batter and a walk to load the bases, ultimately leading to six runs in the 9th.
Could he have performed better? Yes. Was the travel and jet lag an excuse? Maybe. He was quoted as saying, “It’s not an excuse”, but I have to think that things may have turned out differently if his travel situation would have been more advantageous.
Just keep in mind that there are many variables involved in the game. Travel is one of them. When you see a poor performance, especially by one of the minor leaguers whirling through that revolving door, remember they are trying their best and just playing with the hand they were dealt.