They don’t call it the bus leagues for nothing. The Cyclones have just completed a six-day road trip. After three games in Lowell, Mass., the team played three more games in Oneonta, NY, about a half-hour from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The team leaves about an hour after their contest upstate, and after a five-hour bus ride from Oneonta, the Cyclones’ bus pulls into the Keyspan Park parking lot at 3 am on Sunday, Aug. 5.
Matt Bouchard, the Brooklyn shortstop, boards one of two vans and is driven to the Cyclones dorm at Polytechnic University in Downtown Brooklyn. He goes to his room, which he shares with pitcher Dillon Gee, and is soon asleep.
But not for long.
Four hours later, he’s up and in one of the local Starbucks for a breakfast of coffee and an egg, sausage and cheese sandwich. Then, after hanging around in the dorm, it’s back in the van for the trip to the ballpark for the 5:00 pm game against Aberdeen.
Usually, the team reports to Keyspan Park in time to be dressed for stretching four hours before a game. In order to get the team some rest, manager Edgar Alfonzo has eliminated batting and infield practice today, but the players do stretch and throw.
Bouchard is supplied with two bats by the Cyclones. Both broke on the road trip, so he is issued two new ones before the game. He is starting at shortstop, batting ninth.
At bat in the second inning with the bases loaded, his new bat works, as he hits the ball off the Garguilo’s sign in left center. He picks up two RBIs, but settles for a single because the runner ahead of him couldn’t advance past second.
He later grounds out, strikes out, and grounds out in Brooklyn’s 12–6 win. His play in the field is routine.
That night he gets a free spread of food – he takes pasta and salad — in the players’ lounge in the clubhouse, then it’s back in the van for the half-hour trip to the dorm. It’s an early night for most of the players, with mainly Sportscenter and baseball on television.
The next morning, there’s another ride in the van to Keyspan Park, arriving at 10:30, only an hour-and-a half before the noon start on Camp Day. Once again, manager Alfonzo has cut down on the pre-game workout in order to get the players more rest.
The Cyclones take the field with Bouchard in his usual spots, at shortstop and batting ninth.
But the team seems sluggish this time, when these players normally eat breakfast, and the contest becomes a reversal of the easy victory the night before.
Bouchard is fielding all right, but he’s 0-for-2 at the plate.
In the sixth inning, Chris Fournier is at third base, and Bouchard apparently misses a squeeze sign from Alfonzo, coaching at third. Even though Fournier avoids being retired on the play, Alfonzo is not pleased.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Joaquin Rodriguez has replaced Bouchard in the line-up with Rodriguez taking third and Jake Eigsti moving from third base over to shortstop.
The normally reliable and alert Bouchard gets the message.
“I missed the sign,” he says after the game that the Cyclones lost 11–6.
The players now have to shower and eat — there’s another players’ spread of food in their lounge — then they have about an hour-and-a-half before the 6 pm bus departure for Niles, Ohio, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a Cleveland Indians’ farm team.
The players have some rare free time, so they store their gear in the underneath luggage area of the bus.
Some players walk around the neighborhood or make phone calls, but Bouchard and all the other players are seated on the bus well-before the scheduled departure.
The bus trip takes over eight hours, including a brief stop along the highway for food.
The players enter a Days Inn, modest at best, close to the shopping mall that abuts the ballpark.
When the players awake the next morning, it’s raining.
The rain continues, and the game is called at 3 pm, four hours before game time.
They’ll be a make-up doubleheader the next evening, but for now Bouchard can relax — after the team takes the position players to lift weights at a local gym.
The players then shop, and after dinner, Bouchard and his road roommate, Brandon Kawal, watch television.
Bouchard has been fielding well, showing good range and hands, but he’s batting just .243.
The former Georgetown University star wants to hike that average, but for now he gets to rest — a task often completed more easily on the road than at home.
It’s not a bad life in the minors, but it is busy.
There’s a double-header the next night, but that’s not bad.
The only bus trips tomorrow are five minute ones to-and-from the ballpark.
Each week, Ed Shakespeare, the bard of Brooklyn baseball, will take a page from his ancient ancestor and add a bit of iambic pentameter to all our lives. This week’s contribution is called “The Sound of Silence”:
The sound of silence. Oxymoron? Yes.
Impossible to get at Keyspan Park.
Although improving some, I do confess
The noises still assault , the sounds do bark.
At times a fan will want to talk a bit,
Converse with friends, discuss a play they’ve seen.
Perhaps just there in contemplation sit.
The game is rural, played upon a green.
The pace not frantic, moments free to hear
Sounds of action. The crack of bats, the whacks
Of ball in glove and cheers of fans are dear.
Not blares, and those mechanical attacks.
The constant music, canned fake claps — enough
Already. Shut it off! That’s not so tough.