By Blair Lovern
August 7, 2002
Rule No. 1 when you are the general manager of a minor league baseball team and you’re pitching a tent under which to sleep, after your wife’s suggestion that it may help break a jinx: Camp away from the train tracks.
“They run by every 20 or 30 minutes,” said Rochester Red Wings GM Dan Mason, who slept under the stars about 40 yards away from the tracks that run by Frontier Field. “Contrary to popular belief, the trains do not stop at night. One thing I plan on doing when this is all over is try to stop night time train travel. It’s just not right.”
Mason camped out to provide moral support during Rochester’s 12-game losing streak that ended Tuesday, tying a record with the 1920 team. The Colts, as they were called then, snapped their streak against Syracuse, which is the team the Red Wings beat Tuesday at home, 12-3.
Mason proved prescient before the game against the SkyChiefs: “I hope it’s a good omen, the games with Syracuse. Preferably we can break it tonight. I can barely keep my eyes open right now.”
Whatever it was, it’s all over and time for Mason to go back to his own cozy bed.
“I’ll never take a mattress for granted again,” he said after the win.
Mason and his wife talked over the idea when the Red Wings had lost several games in a row. After six losses, Rochester put up a tent in the bullpen behind the right-field wall.
“I had promised the fans if we did not win that game that night that I’d spend my nights in that tent until we won again,” he said. “My wife was pretty confident we could break the streak early. Maybe one night or two nights tops.”
It lasted seven more nights.
“The tent has been up ever since the first day, about where the catcher stands to warm up the pitcher,” Mason said. “Er, crouches to warm-up the pitcher. I’m losing sleep. Can’t think too well these days. A crow shows up every morning at 6:30 and caws and caws as loud as he can. It seems like he’s on top of the tent.”
At least Mason didn’t go it alone. He was supported by players, fans and a mattress company. A local company guaranteed that Rochester would end the streak at 10 against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. But after a 6-2 loss, the company donated a box spring, mattress and frame. Only the mattress fit inside, but Mason had so many guests in the tent he’s hardly slept on it.
“Second baseman Brian Roberts, he stayed in the tent with me. I let him use the mattress because I felt he had to perform a little bit better than I did,” Mason said. “And our manager Andy Etchebarren offered to spend the night on Sunday, and I gave him the mattress Sunday because he’s the skip.”
“I’ve also had about five or six members of the front-office staff who said they wanted to spend the nights with me. But as soon as it came time to go, the rest of those five or six guys decided to turn it into a one-man rotation to sleep with the idiot.”
Fans sent Mason’s wife Sheila a large bouquet of flowers and a card which read, “In Sympathy, We Hope Dan Comes Home Soon. From, The Third Base Baseball Family.”
Sunday night was a big slumber party.
“We had about 20 or 25 fans spend the night, all in tents spread out over the outfield, and we watched ‘Field of Dreams’ on the big screen. It was fun.”
On a more serious note, the losing streak brings to the forefront again the now-precarious relationship between the Red Wings and their longtime parent club, the Orioles. The Red Wings are on their way to a fifth consecutive losing season under the Orioles. Baltimore GM Syd Thrift told the Baltimore Sun recently that injuries have hurt all its affiliates.
But Naomi Silver, the Red Wings’ chief operating officer, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that the club “very likely” will file for affiliate free agency and talk to prospective available major league clubs this offseason. Rochester has been with the Orioles for 41 years, the longest affiliation in Triple-A.
“We have not made that decision yet, what we might or might not do,” Mason said of a possible affiliation shift. “But even if we claim free agency, so to speak, the Baltimore Orioles would be one of the teams we would still want to talk to.
“We just want to turn this negative into a positive. The people of Rochester have really been cheering a little extra loud, supporting them in good times and bad. Every time we hit the ball it’s almost like it always goes right to the other guy on the team. I think it’s puzzling to everybody we’re just not winning, because we have some good players. Maybe this is something to help take the pressure off the guys a little bit.”