Destination Wednesday: 57 Days On The Minor-League Road

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By Jim McLauchlin

There are road trips, there are odysseys, and then there’s what the Biloxi Shuckers are doing. That’s so huge it doesn’t even have a name yet.

The Double-A minor-league affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers is playing its first season in Biloxi, Miss., after moving from Huntsville, Ala. That is to say, the team will play its first season in Biloxi as soon as its new stadium is finished. Thanks to construction delays and other problems, the Shuckers are starting the season on a 57-day (yes, 57-day!) road trip.

Adam Weisenburger is a 26-year-old catcher on the Shuckers, and took the time — nothing but time when you’re on the road, doncha know — to clue us in on how to survive a roadie of truly gargantuan proportions. And while the minor-league-baseball experience is unique, it provides a few wisdoms that can be applied to any low-cost, long-distance road trip with limited personal space. Chief among them: Bring your Subway punch card. And headphones.

You’re only two weeks in to your road trip at this point. How’s it feel?

I think we’re actually about 20 days in. But … we feel okay. We have roommates on the road, so the biggest thing is trying to figure out how to get your own space and change up the routine. Sometimes, 30 minutes of quiet at a coffee shop is your best friend.

And we know this is baseball, this is competitive, and no other team in the league is going to feel bad for us. We have to go out there every day and compete, and we can’t feel bad for ourselves, either. We have to use this as our fuel.

Can you even think of a light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it just one foot in front of the other?

One foot in front of the other is all it is, because that’s all that baseball is. You just focus on the task at hand, and don’t look too far down the line. Things get muddled if you do. Again, we’re playing 140-plus games, and I don’t expect any of the other teams to feel sorry for us. You just take it one day at a time.

Main Street America knows Major League Baseball, which is chartered flights and solo stays in four-star hotels. But characterize minor-league travel for us. Bus rides and cheap hotels, right?

They’re decent hotels, Hampton Inn and the like, and you have a roommate. The bus rides are inevitable, and they’re the most difficult part, especially the longer trips. You never really have your personal space on the bus rides.

Just how long can the bus rides be on this mega-road trip?

The short ones are two to three hours, but the long ones can be upwards of 10 hours.

What are you tips for getting your personal space on a 10-hour road trip? Headphones? A good book? Nintendo?

Each person has their own thing. The Bose noise-canceling headphones have been my savior so far. There’s a lot of music. An iPad is a must. I use a Tempurpedic neck pillow to get some sleep. I pair that up with my backpack, and I try to snuggle up on the bus. And I’m lucky—I’m only 5-foot-9, and I’m giving myself half an inch when I say that. There are guys on this team 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, and it’s harder for them to get comfy on the bus.

So some guys have yoga mats—they put them right on the floor in the aisle of the bus and lay out. And the bus has electrical outlets everywhere, so we’ve rigged up a couple 24-inch TVs and we’ll play PS4 on the bus. Video-game tournaments on the bus are kinda cool.

So what’s the PS4 game of choice?

Either FIFA or NHL.

So you play baseball for real, but you play soccer and hockey on the PS4?

Well, those are the easier four-player games, so we can get more guys in at one time.

Major-league players get $100.50 a day in meal money. How do you make your $25-a-day meal money stretch?

You look for deals. The chains that offer nine sandwiches and the tenth for free are a godsend. You have to get creative like that. The punch card is your constant companion. You have to become a smart diner, a travel couponer.

Did you road-trip before?

I enjoy travel. I played in the Northwoods League in college, and that was 70 games in less than 90 days with a lot of travel. I like it. I’m a nomad by nature. I’m mobile anyway. It’s difficult for some people, I understand, but you have to just find your home away from home.

Do you allow yourself the thought of what if the stadium isn’t ready by June 6?

I think a lot of guys have entertained that notion. I hope that it’s ready. I really do hope that it’s ready. But again, it’s something that you can’t necessarily think about. You can only control what you can control, and that one is out of my control.

Similar article of this ilk are archived on a crummy-looking blog. You can also follow @McLauchlin on Twitter.

 

Editor’s Note: Remember that for all your road trips that don’t involve a lot of roads there’s AirCare and ExactCare from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Get them here.