Sunday, May 25, 2014

From the Archives: Baseball Spring Break in Florida

With former St. John's baseball catcher Joe Burke (the subject of one of the features I wrote for the team website) right before he got me drunk

Looking through my archives recently, I stumbled upon an assignment I had to write for one of my journalism classes. It was an easy assignment.

All I had to do was talk about what I did on my spring break that year. It was an exercise just to shake the rust out and talk about whatever we did in a captivating and entertaining way (even if your week included playing video games or mowing the lawn).

I can’t say any of my spring breaks were boring. My job with St. John’s baseball ensured arduous plane/bus rides, long hours punctuated by midnight peanut butter and jelly making, and meals provided by such high-regarded restaurants as Golden Corral and Shoney’s. I dropped into my first class back from the break infinitely more exhausted than when I last left it a week before.

But I loved every minute of it. There was a top step at the end of the dugout reserved for me every game, I got to see parts of the country I would have never seen otherwise (i.e. Fayetteville, Ark., and Corvallis, Ore.), and I was as close to the game I’ve loved since birth as I was ever going to get.

However, that doesn’t make for a good story, especially not for a cranky, older journalism teacher. There has to be some angst, some repression of urges, and some admission of torture to justify being an aspiring writer. So this pieces comes off more irritable and self-deprecating than reality.

Plus, I was 21. I didn’t know shit.

2005 St. John's Baseball

On the Couch in Florida
 
Some college students spent their spring break being rubbed down by exotic, tanned goddesses on some remote, tropical slice of heaven. Others could be found erasing memories of class by engaging in elaborate drinking games on some sandy beach. This writer chose to enjoy his spring break in a much different manner.

I spent one week…on a couch. It was a couch in sunny Florida, but still…a couch.

And I did so willingly and was completely sober.

Now, I know the questions that must be swirling around in your head. Why would a junior in college with a precious week off from papers and tests be spending every night sleeping on a couch? What would possess a newly christened 21-year-old to do so without the company of Sam Adams or The Silver Bullet?

It so happens that I am the head baseball manager for the St. John’s Red Storm baseball.

Okay, I made it sound a lot cooler and prestigious than it actually is. I am essentially, for lack of a better description, the team mother.

There are numerous perks that come with this job, including free trips to places such as Florida, Louisiana, and Minnesota. I get some cool NIKE gear free of charge and get a sizable grant for my tuition. However, there are times such as these (i.e. rooming with two coaches in a suite better suited for two and being forced onto the couch made for little people) that make me question what I do for a living.

My week consisted of ensuring that each room got a wake-up call, usually at some ungodly hour of the morning; setting up post-game meals, which received harsher criticisms than those handed out by The New York Times to first-time authors; and doing laundry, consisting of three different uniforms, laundry bags, and jock straps.

And sleeping on the couch.

Sober.

I did get to watch 10 entertaining baseball games in 80-degree weather, while most of New York City suffered through February’s winter doldrums. I did get to bond with some of the country’s best collegiate athletes, many of whom may very well end up in (or close enough) to the major leagues. Of course, that entailed trucking back to the hotel to retrieve a forgotten jersey before game time, engaging in a prank war that consisted of baby powder and two buckets of water, and getting thrown into the pool, despite my embarrassing confession that I couldn’t swim. And sleeping on the couch. Sober.

You may be asking yourself, “What is this guy doing with his life?” Or my personal favorite, “Why is this educated, mature adult choosing to spend half his life doing laundry and cleaning up after a team full of knuckleheads and jocks?”

I really didn’t have an answer to either question until the last day of our trip. One of the coaches came up to me and in an unprecedented show of gratitude said,

“Outstanding job this week, Ford,” he said, while putting my hand in a vise grip. “We couldn’t have gotten through this week without you.”

To say I was taken aback would be the understatement of the century. In two years as the manager, I only heard feedback from the coaches if I royally screwed up (i.e. like the time I forgot to set my clock ahead and was an hour late getting the team breakfast).

I now felt like I belonged; like I was an equal part in our quest for glory. As we were winging back to the cold skyline of New York City, I gave myself an “A” for spring break 2005.

Even though I slept on the couch for a week.

Sober.

But happy.

You can see a fraction of my face in the back of this photo. Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer had just won his 300th game at Hofstra.

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1 comment:

  1. Great article Ford. You did overcome the fear of swimming or we made you that much more scared of the water.
    While reading this article it felt as if I were back in FL eating my 3rd PBJ while Delaney stole all the freshmans lunches bc "they were freshman". I will be anticipating your next article.

    All the players knew that we could rely on you or bust your chops if a loop fell through the cracks on your watch

    Thank you Dan Ford

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