May 6th, 2012
Ever wonder what a minor league baseball clubhouse manager does? After a few hours with ‘Riders clubhouse manager CJ Allen, I can assure you that it’s not an easy job, but at the end of the day it can be a rewarding one. You just have to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Allen, originally from Iowa, has been in a baseball clubhouse since 2006 starting with the El Paso Diablos. At the time, the team was an independent league baseball team and their manager was Mike Marshall, a former All-Star outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After El Paso, CJ worked for the Las Vegas51s, who were then the Triple-A team for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a season in the Texas Rangers clubhouse. He has been with the Frisco RoughRiders for the last three seasons.
One of his “claims to fame” might be that his cousin is Casey Blake, a former major league third baseman/outfielder/first baseman for the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers. His hope back then was to work in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ clubhouse when Casey was there, unfortunately for a variety of reasons, that didn’t happened.
Philip Fleitman, from Lindsey,TX, is in charge of the visitors’ clubhouse and has also been working for the ‘Riders for three years.
The main objective of the clubhouse manager is to prepare the clubhouse and take care of the players with mostly whatever they need. Those are common things like laundry, clothing, equipment and food, but also any obscure player requests that they may have.
The job begins early, especially when the team is coming back home after a road trip.
On Monday morning, the ‘Riders arrived around 12:15 a.m. after a four game road trip with the Corpus Christi Hooks. CJ and Philip unloaded the team bus. Each player and coach has a bag along with the general equipment bags.
From 12:15 until 2 a.m., they took the bags off the bus, unloaded the bags and did the laundry of the players.
By that time, Allen went back home to get some sleep, but by 7 a.m. it’s time to get started again by going out and getting the food ready for the players. Sometimes it involves making the food and sometimes it involves getting orders prepped for later pickup.
I joined CJ and Philip at around 12:45 p.m. on Monday, April 23 for what I expected to be a whirlwind day. It was every bit of that and more.
After going through the home clubhouse looking for CJ, I was finally able to find him at the opposite end of the stadium. They were waiting for the visitors’ bus to get in, so that the team could unload the San Antonio Missions’ bags. The bus, which was supposed to get there around 12:30 p.m., eventually pulled up at 1:37.
I was told that when you’re around minor league baseball, you find that this can be very typical, as buses aren’t exactly perfectly timed and things can happen during a road trip. I helped them unload the bus, which again had one bag per player and coach along with other bags with equipment. The bags were taken by cart on the freight elevator down to the clubhouse level. The easy part was unloading the bus. The hard part of this particular process, however, was unloading the bags and making sure the lockers looked uniform.
Jerseys went on the locker so that the numbers faced towards the door. This made sure that the players could easily find their lockers when they walk in to the room. They were going to wear the black jerseys, so the black jerseys were hung up this way and the gray jerseys were hung on the right side of the locker next to the pants. Belts went on a hook just below the hook of the jerseys. Shoes went on the bottom of the locker.
Many of the players have clothing items that are put into a “loop”, which is easily hung. Any other clothing items that were loose, like shirts, underwear, etc. were put on a hanger and hung by color, going from grays to darks. If the player was a position player, their helmet was put up on the right side of a shelf at the top of the locker. Other loose items, such as batting gloves, were put on the shelf next to the helmets as well. The chair, which was originally in the back of each locker, was put in the front of the locker facing out.
Once all of the bags were unloaded, CJ started putting up the names of each player on tape on the edge of the shelf in the locker. I helped hang the hats in the lockers. Black hats were going to be worn for the game, so they went on the same hook as the jersey and the gray hats were hung on another hook in the locker.
By the time the bags were unloaded, CJ took one of the carts that was used to bring the bags down from the bus to the locker room, to the home clubhouse tunnel. It was now 2:15 p.m., and a few of the ‘Riders were taking batting practice, which potentially made the trip from the visitors’ clubhouse to the home clubhouse a bit like a game of dodge ball.
Once he put the cart in place, we headed into his office, so that he could handle some things. One being that he had to go over to the gas station near the ballpark to get a special kind of soda. With the station being literately across the street from the ballpark, they got a bike that can they can ride over for these quick trips.
When CJ got back, it was time to go get the food for the pre-game meal for the players. Today it was chicken sandwiches and fish. We also got four big trays of fruit, two big trays of sandwiches, 40 bags of chicken and eight gallons of lemonade.
After the food was loaded into the car, we went back to the ballpark to get the food prepared. In order to get the food from the car to the clubhouses, a shopping cart was used. It was also used to deliver food to the visiting clubhouse. I helped CJ set up the food to look presentable before the players got there.
By the time all of the food was set up, there was a period of down time before the players came in to eat. It was about 4:40 p.m. and I sat on the couch to relax. Something that CJ did during this time was look to see if he had a sign for the locker of Jayce Tingler, a Texas Rangers rover instructor that was in town. Tingler played in Frisco in 2006.
When the players came in after batting practice, they went into the clubhouse to eat and get ready for the game. By this time I was told that there was not much else to do before the game starts, so I went to set up my usual spot in the press box.
After each game, the post-game meal is put out in the kitchen area. Today it was a Mexican lasagna dish that CJ made. I was lucky enough to try it, and trust me when I say it was very, very good. The lasagna was also served with corn, Spanish rice and chicken.
Then, after every game, CJ is at the ballpark for three more hours taking care of the player’s laundry and cleaning up around the clubhouse. Throughout the season, the ‘Riders go through on average 16-20 loads of laundry a day. I don’t know about you, but it’s tough for me to do a few loads of laundry in a short time, let alone going through that many in one day. After that, it’s time to get home and get some sleep because another game is going to be there soon enough.
The life of a clubhouse manager wasn’t quite as glamorous as anyone might think. They have to deal with a lot of issues and are considered the solution for every problem that might arise in the clubhouse. At the end of the day, though, they are going to be the ones that make the minor leaguer’s lives easier and every organization should want their players to be in good hands. In the case of Frisco, they are in the best that the Texas League has to offer.
Written By: Michael Damman
Photo Credit: Alex Yocum-Beeman