A 1st Time for Everything
You never know what will happen in the game of baseball. A team that is several games under .500 may win three out of four from a first place team or a powerless shortstop may hit one of the farthest home runs you have ever seen. Take for example Tuesday’s game between the Indians and Gwinnett Braves. It was a scoreless game going into the 9th inning when a ground ball to the right side of the infield bounced off the first base bag. The ball caromed into the outfield for a run scoring double and the Braves would beat the Indians 4-0. It was one of the many different bounces you will see during a baseball season and that bounce dropped the Indians to 33-34. When it comes to a baseball season usually the only thing you can count on is your travel plans. Well, most of the time anyway.
You know all about the Indians 72 road games and it’s a fairly even split of air travel and bus travel. Thursday morning the team boarded a 6:15 am bus at Victory Field for the Indianapolis Airport. The Tribe checked in with no issues and as is usually the case, we went through the screening process with no issues. The team was scheduled to depart Indy for Chicago O’Hare at 8:10 am. The team boarded and everyone was ready for their 45 minute flight to Chicago when unexpectedly the pilots said we needed to get off the plane to fix a mechanical issue. Definitely not the end of the world and the team retreated back to the United Airlines wing of the airport.
Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…the delay was taking longer than the crew originally expected. It was becoming apparent that the 9:37 am CST Chicago flight to Rochester was in danger. Manager Dean Treanor and athletic trainer Brian “Bubba” Housand immediately began to work their cellphones. The two of them were in contact with the Indians front office and the Pittsburgh Pirates travel agent to find the team a new flight to Rochester. The first available flight from Chicago was at 1:00 and only had 13 seats open. Thirteen? Well, that’s not going to work. A few minutes later two more seats opened up and within the hour a total of 20 seats had opened up for the 1:00 flight from Chicago to Rochester. At this point it is 9:30 am and Dean is confident the game with the Red Wings will go on. “I don’t want to start the game without my full squad, but under the circumstances there isn’t much I can do. I can field a team with 20 guys. It’s not ideal, but we will make due.” The question was…will the team make it to Chicago?
Dean drew up a list of 20 names that would be on the 1:00 flight to Rochester. He decided to take the coaches, Bubba, all position players, and most of the relievers. Two relievers, Jose Ascanio (added to the roster when he was outrighted from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis and RHP Anthony Claggett was sent back to Double-A) and LHP Justin Thomas did not fly with the team and would meet the team in Rochester. The players who remain in Chicago and wait for a much later flight would be the broadcasters (really? C’mon Dean, is there really a game if there is no broadcast? Actually, I completely understood) and starting pitchers. Only vital parts of the team would make the first flight to Rochester while everyone else would likely be getting into town around 9 pm.
Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…the delay was taking much longer than the crew originally expected. Now it is 11 am and the luggage was still sitting on the tarmac. Now the 1:00 flight out of Chicago was in doubt and the team started to look into plan B. Turns out, there wasn’t a plan B because this doesn’t happen and is one of the reasons why we usually fly out around or before 8 am. (Plan B was to find a charter…not happening…or find a bus to just get out of Indy and to Rochester as quick as possible. That was not an option for several reasons and we had to keep our fingers crossed for a flight. For a brief moment we considered flying out of Louisville or Cincinnati, but the problem is not a lot of flights go to Rochester.) For the first time all morning I was beginning to think there would not be a game. However, with the quick flight time, you figured if the team left Indy at 12:30 we could have a chance to make the 1:00 CST flight. As the morning progressed my plans changed. Now I, along with RHP Brad Lincoln, LHP Justin Thomas, and LHP Garrett Olson was going to be on a 1:50 flight to Rochester. I’m feeling good because I would make the game and the remaining 4 team members would arrive in Rochester around 8 pm.
Well, the 12:30 mark passed and the next thing you know it is 1:00. Finally, at 1:15 the team boards and with the one hour difference there was going to be a chance to catch the flight. We were told the 1:00 to Rochester was going to be held for us up to 30 minutes. There was zero chance the luggage was going to make the trip, but the players would make the trip and the game would go on. Catching a connecting plane was one thing…calming down the players who were getting on a “fixed” plane was another. More than a few guys expressed some apprehensiveness about getting on the plane. Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of flying, but I’m used to it. I told a few guys “If it’s good enough for the pilot than it is good enough for us. Remember, he was the one that didn’t want to fly the first plane. He is in charge and knows what the best is for everyone.” If guys were nervous they hid it well as we took to the skies.
The flight was cruising over the Chicago skyline when our pilot broke the bad news. “Folks, those of you who are wanting to connect on the 1:00 to Rochester, I’m sorry, but I’ve just got word that flight has just departed.”
WHAT!? I was sitting behind Bubba and he dropped his head into his hands. At that moment we knew there was not going to be a game.
So much for the 30 minute hold at the gate and now 20 players are no longer getting to Rochester on time. As the team approached the gate we learned the 1:00 flight not only didn’t wait, but took off 3 minutes early. Thanks United! The other flights (mine at 1:50 and the other at 4:30) never materialized because the tickets were not transferred by United to American Airlines. Now it is 1:30 in Chicago and 4 and ½ hours from first pitch in Rochester. You never believe that you will miss a game and for a brief minute we are hoping to hear some kind of good news. It never came. No flights could accommodate enough players to allow the game with the Red Wings to go on.
Dean called the team together at United gate C 11, “There will be no game and we need to issue you different tickets. We are all on standby for the rest of the afternoon, but we will likely be on three different flights. All I ask is don’t miss your flight. Hang with ‘em” Dean later told me that the ticketing agent really took care of us. “When we approached her there was nothing, I mean nothing. She is the reason we didn’t stay the night in Chicago.” A big thanks to her.
LHP Brian Burres has been playing for a while and has never had this happen. “There have been delays, but nothing like this. We never stood a chance and there isn’t much you can do.” John Bowker played in the Pacific Coast League and never had to deal with this. “That entire league is air travel and this never happened. In the PCL you have bigger cities and that helps when getting to a city. In this league the cities are a little more remote and I guess there are not that many routes. It’s hard to believe we’re going to miss a game.”
Only one player, Burres was on the 4:30 flight with most of the team on a 6:30 flight. I was on the 9:30 flight with Bowker, Alex Presley, Chase d’Arnaud, Brian Friday, Andrew Lambo, Corey Wimberly, and Friday’s starting pitcher Rudy Owens. When the staff and most of the team boarded the 6:30 flight the 9:30 crew headed off to Chili’s for some dinner. About an hour into our meal Wimberly’s phone rings and it was Andy Marte. Wait a minute…Marte is on the 6:30 flight…he can’t call you?
Turns out the 6:30 flight was being delayed because of a mechanical issue similar to the one that grounded our flight in Indy! What are the odds? Seriously, call Elias and find me the odds. After a THREE hour delay they boarded a different plane and finally left for Rochester.
The original 9:30 crew headed to the gate waiting for our flight. To be honest we loved the fact that the group on the 6:30 flight had some problems because they kept rubbing it in that they would get in 3 hours before us. Sorry, fellas, don’t jinx air travel and it was turning out better to be on the later flight; for a moment anyway. When we arrived at our gate we were told our 9:30 was pushed back to 10:37. Of course it was, and when we finally boarded our flight to Rochester we left a full 13 hours after our first scheduled flight.
When it was all said and done the final members of the travel party checked into the Rochester Plaza Hotel at 1:30 am….for me it was 20 hours after I left my house.
There is no one to blame for the travel issues because United had mechanical issues and there were other people on the flight who were affected. I have never missed a game due to travel and this was the first time since 2006 when a flight affected an Indians game. In August of ’06 the Indians were delayed flying out of Norfolk and pushed back the start time at Victory Field from 7 pm to 8 pm. Never have I been stranded in an airport and wasted a full day.
You know something…on second thought…maybe there is someone to blame for the mess.
On Wednesday night my wife was cleaning out her car and brought an umbrella into the house. Of course our 18th month old daughter’s eyes lit up when she was handed the umbrella.
Katie: “Do you want me to open the umbrella?”
Madeline: “Yeah, yeah (clapping her hands)
Me: “No, don’t open that it’s bad luck. I have to fly tomorrow.”
Katie: “You’ll be fine, besides Maddie wants to see it open.”
Thanks babe, and now you have the rest of the story.
NEWS AND NOTES:
The Indians and Rochester Red Wings were forced to postpone the game and it will be made up on Saturday as a day-night doubleheader. The Indians rotation will remain the same with Owens going Friday night and Burres and Wilson pitching on Saturday. Lincoln will handle the finale.
RHP Blaine Boyer opened the season with the New York Mets and when he was released signed with the Pirates in mid-April. His contract allowed for him to opt out and when that initial date arrived he resigned for a month. Well, the second deadline is approaching and Boyer is no longer with the club. He has been on the DL since June 1st and it appeared he was close to being activated. However, he was granted his release and is a free agent.
The Rochester Red Wings will send 2009 Indianapolis Indians RHP Eric Hacker to the mound on Saturday night. Hacker joined the Tribe during the ’09 season when he was acquired by the New York Yankees. Hacker was 5-5 in 21 starts for the Indians with a 4.02 ERA. He won 16 games last year with Triple-A Fresno and this year is 2-5 with a 5.27 ERA with Rochester.
On Sunday the Indians will face Greenfield Central’s Kyle Gibson. Gibson was a 1st round pick out of Missouri in 2009 and is having a very good Triple-A season. He is 3-6 with a 3.79 ERA and has 74 strikeouts in 71 innings of work. Gibson will face Lincoln Sunday afternoon.
Hope you can join us for the radio broadcast on Sportsradio 1260 WNDE. Pre-game coverage is at 6:45 with first pitch at 7:05