It’s that time of year once again to put on my costume and go back to being a baseball player. If you were imagining chauffeured limos, comfortable flights, personal baggage handlers of big-league ball players—think again. Here’s how my trip went.
Night before flight
Attempt to pack seven months of supplies into two suitcases and one carry on.
4:30 am, day of: Loathsomely awake and leave for airport.
5:15: Check in. Pay fine for overweight baggage.
5:16: Swear to ship extra baggage next year, then remember I said that last year.
5:45: Board plane, take seat next to Mr. Business Executive.
6 a.m.: Plane leaves for Chicago.
6:15 to 7 a.m.: Mr. BizExec strikes up conversation about the weather, then finds way to twist it back to himself. He tells about his high profile job, where it’s taken him, his golf game, his trophy wife, his car, his stock portfolio, his credit limit. Mr. BizExec sympathetically asks what I do or a living. I tell him I’m a janitor en route to a cleaning convention. Mr. BizExec asks if I am a baseball fan because of the glove in my lap. I inform him I don’t really care for baseball, but my little brother is a huge fan, and the glove is a gift from a popular Canton, Ohio, minor leaguer named Dirk Hayhurst. Mr. BizExec says he knows him personally, and advises him regularly about his articles in Baseball America.
7:25: Plane touches down in Chicago. Mr. BizExec hands me his card and suggests contacting him for investment advice.
7:27: Aforementioned business card is thrown away.
7:30: I rush from terminal to terminal like a running back in NFL Films, arriving early at the next gate.
7:50: Gate attendants informed the plane will be late because of maintenance. Looking out the window, I see maintenance men crawling into the plane’s wing-side engine hatch with large wrenches. Sparks shoot out of hatch shortly thereafter.
7:58: Gate attendants deny my request to walk the rest of the way to Phoenix, ensuring the plane “will be in fine working order before takeoff.”
8:15: Plane still not ready. In an attempt to make myself smarter, I consider picking up a copy of Fortune magazine in the airport bookstore.
8:15 and 30 seconds: I am halfway flipping through Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
8:20: Sift through personalized keychain rack trying to find one with the name Dirk on it.
8:30: Try to convince the barista at Starbucks to fill a cup up with water but mark on it like its an expensive, mixed drink by explaining, “I just drink this stuff to look trendy, but I don’t want to pay for it.”
9 a.m.: Plane is ready for boarding.
9:05: Take seat next to senior couple with “Terminator” sun glasses on.
9:15: While waiting at the runway, the captain, in soft, sedated voice, tells passengers he is sorry for the delay but informs us we will: “make up lost time in the air.” The captain’s last statement makes me wonder if we can make a five-hour trip in four, why we would go slower in the first place?
9:30: Senior couple makes second trip to bathroom.
10 a.m.: Senior couple takes off airplane radio headphones and begins to complain about “today’s music.” Couple makes eye contact with me and launches into: “In my day, you could understand the lyrics of singers, and the girls didn’t prance around half naked and shameful. Why I can remember a time when . . .”
11 a.m.: Music and fashion critique continues, with couple stopping frequently to argue over names and dates.
Noon: I have learned everything I have ever wanted to know about Chattanooga Choo-Choo, ‘Hee-Haw’ and Lawrence Welk.
1:36 p.m.: Touchdown in Phoenix; head toward the baggage claim.
1:45: Check cell phone. My mother has called twice to make sure her “widdle baseball angel” is doing OK.
1:55: Claim bags. My main bag has a large stain on it resembling school cafeteria gravy.
2 p.m.: Heft baggage to curbside and wait for Padres shuttle van.
2:05: Spot returning teammates waiting for van as well.
2:06: Pass out “man hugs”—part handshake, part chest bump, part back pat—before cycling through generic greetings: “How was your offseason,” “How’s your arm,” “How’s your girl friend/fiance/wife/lawsuit?”
2:08: Teammate asks if I used the “janitor on his way to a cleaning convention” line during the flight?
2:15: Board van, head off to 180 days of nonstop baseball.