Worst Travel Day In Ten Years

Thanks to a broken cockpit computer, the Tacoma Rainiers endured the team’s worst travel day in at least ten years yesterday – but the team still made it to Tacoma “in time” to play the Salt Lake Bees in front of a sellout crowd at Cheney Stadium on Friday night.

Salt Lake beat the fatigued Rainiers, 4-3, in a game that started 55 minutes late simply because the Rainiers team bus did not arrive at the ballpark until 6:45 pm.

After a night game on Thursday, the team woke up at 5:00 AM Friday at the Fresno hotel, and arrived at Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 5:45. Little did we know that we were going to be there for nine hours – if I had known, I would have stolen a Fresno Holiday Inn pillow. Heck, I would have happily left $20 on the nightstand as compensation.

We boarded our plane and pulled out of the gate on time at 7:30 AM. We would land at Sea-Tac at 9:30, and be at Cheney by about 10:30, giving everyone ample time to nap and take care of personal affairs after a 13-day road trip.

Well, the plane taxied about 200 feet before coming to a stop. I knew something was up, because you never have to wait to take off in Fresno, since there aren’t many planes there. You can only fly to about six cities from Fresno – the locals all know that the best way to escape town is to drive as fast as you can to LA or SF.

After we sat for about 20 minutes, they announced that a cockpit computer would not boot up, and we were going back to the gate. Another ten minutes and maintenance couldn’t quickly fix it, the computer needed to be replaced, and we would all get off the plane. To the airline’s credit they made this decision quickly, and we did not have one of those sit-on-the-tarmac marathons.

But then came the misdirection: a replacement was on site, it would take an hour, we’ll depart at 9:30. At 9:30 they announce that the new computer is actually being flown up from LA, and we’ll depart at noon. At 11:30 they don’t make an announcement, but word gets out that the earliest we will leave is 2:30, and even that is not for certain.

There is only one other flight to Seattle, it doesn’t leave until 7:00 pm and it’s full anyway. All other flights are booked full to different cities on a Friday afternoon, so there are no options going through Salt Lake City or Denver or LA that are open for our group of 30 people.

Meanwhile at the home office, Rainiers management/ownership decides that they will pay for a private charter to get the team home*. They start making phone calls to private airlines and calling in favors with corporate partners to see if anyone has a  plane available that can seat 30 people plus equipment, and can get to Fresno right now. The answer is no, no, no… it turns out that even charter airline companies cannot act that quickly.

At this point I’ve been sitting in the Fresno airport for nine hours on an unanticipated Day 14 of a road trip – so I begin plotting my escape. I make a couple of phone calls – I can rent a car and drive three hours to either San Jose or Sacramento and catch the 8:00 pm flight. I’ll be home! But I can’t do that until I know the game has been cancelled. Or I could risk it, and just leave. At this point I’m so frazzled from the road and that stupid tiny airport with its annoying loop of overly loud “Welcome To Fresno” announcements from their mayor who if I lived there I would never vote for just because of the airport announcements that I don’t even care anymore. Miss the game? Heck, I’ll miss the rest of the season. Just let me go home.

I wasn’t the only one with crazy (sane?) thoughts. The majority of the team was getting a bit loopy with insanity when an announcement was made at 1:45 pm: Flight #xxx to Seattle, your airplane has been fixed. It will depart from Gate 16 at 3:00.

So we were off! The plane left “on time” and landed in Seatac at 4:50. We got our luggage and hoofed it the half-mile to the bus area (longest walk in the PCL). Of course the bus wasn’t there – we waited 15 extra minutes for it.

Then, off we went at 6:00 from Sea-Tac to Tacoma on a Friday afternoon down I-5. A traffic nightmare. We were bumper-to-bumper in gridlock until we got to the bottom of the hill when a police escort (!!!) picked up our team bus and led us through Fife, the Highway 16 construction-zone interchange, and past the gameday traffic into Cheney Stadium. Our bus driver was a monster, getting into the spirit of the police escort and hauling ass past pulled-over vehicles with the guys on the team hollering encouragement – I think he really enjoyed it.

We pulled up to Cheney Stadium at 6:45 and were greeted by a dozen staffers ready to unload equipment and get the team ready to play. We started up at 8:00 – as soon as we could; guys had to unpack, dress and stretch – and off we went.

What a crazy day – one of those days that somehow manages to make you laugh in amazement and want to quit the business at the same time.

Oh yeah – the Rainiers lost, 4-3, despite playing a surprisingly crisp and clean game. I went on a massive caffeine bender in order to make it through the broadcast, and I think it went OK.

—-

Tonight a properly rested Tacoma Rainiers baseball team hosts Salt Lake at 7:05. Tacoma starts LHP Nate Robertson (1-2, 6.06) against Salt Lake RHP Eric Junge (3-4, 4.32). We’ll have the broadcast on 850 AM or online right here.

Roster note: Michael Saunders has left the team for a few days due to personal business. Luis Rodriguez reported yesterday, playing second base and batting leadoff.

Links:

  • Here’s the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • While the fans were waiting for the game to start, the Mariners game was shown on the Cheney Stadium video board. The sellout crowd applauded Dustin Ackley’s first major league hit, and the early innings of the M’s win over Philadelphia.
  • As always, Jeff Sullivan’s Mariners game wrap-up is awesome.
  • Larry LaRue has the low-down on the Mariners playing rotation now that Ackley is on the team.
  • Geoff Baker has a take on Ackley’s defense, with quotes from the man himself.
  • From Ryan Divish on the TNT Mariners blog, we have video of Ackley meeting the press. Here is Divish’s column on Ackley’s debut.
  • More thoughts on Ackley, from Jason Churchill.
  • Larry Stone avoided Ackley Mania and instead graced us with the Moneyball trailer. I’m thinking straight-to-DVD. It looks awful, and I’m a guy who thinks that the book is Top-10 Baseball Books Of All-Time material.
  • In a brief Minor League Notes post, John Sickels has an item on Mariners Class-A pitcher Taijuan Walker. I’ll have more on Walker and a few other hot pitchers in the M’s system in my Sunday minor league notebook.
  • In the PCL, there are rumors that Wily Mo Pena might get called up by Arizona, to serve as the DH in interleague games. I love Wily Mo, let’s get him up to the big leagues (and out of Reno’s lineup!). But first, Wily Mo Bobbleheads will be issued.
  • Big news from Sacramento, where team president Alan Ledford resigned. The River Cats attendance has declined over the years and they are a business in transition. Ledford always treated me well during his regular visits to the press box and I wish him the best.
  • Fresno’s Barry Zito is a bit of a whipping boy just because of his contract, but he seems to be universally acclaimed as a good guy – and he’s been taking care of his minor league teammates while on his rehabilitation assignments.
  • The Aces got cracked in Las Vegas, 6-4 (I’m pretty sure Cashman Field doesn’t have an Aces Cracked promotion). The Review-Journal did a nice piece on Reno manager Brett Butler, who is 15 years cancer free.
  • Colorado Springs moved into a tie with Tacoma for second place, eight games behind Reno, beating Tucson as Willy Taveras had a big game.
  • Chris Carter hit a home run, but his 20-foot infield single was the game winner for Sacramento against Fresno.
  • Memphis is smokin’ hot. The Redbirds scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Nashville, 1-0. That’s 11 wins in 13 games for Memphis.
  • Two months ago, Nashville starter Josh Butler was hit in the head by a line drive. He only missed one start, but the mental effects linger on. Scary stuff here.
  • Matt Dominguez, Bryan Petersen, Vinny Rottino, and the New Orleans Zephyrs brought the party to Bricktown last night. The RedHawks didn’t have a good time and went home early.
  • For the last time for the forseeable future, I am going to root for Mariners first round draft pick Danny Hultzen to get absolutely lit up. Upon second thought, let’s just hope he loses 1-0. Or maybe we can just rough him up a little bit, and bloop a bunch of singles or something – how about a 6-2 Bears win?

Great to be at home and have a normal day today! I’m sure the fellas enjoyed sleeping in beds instead of on an airport floor.

(there was once a funny photo here but now it’s gone).

* Bless them for trying, I appreciate this.

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4 Responses to Worst Travel Day In Ten Years

  1. SandlotSam says:

    Holy moly. See? This is why we need teletransportational technology for instant body transer around the world. Get on it, NASA.

  2. […] man Mike Curto gives a vivid description of their brutal journey from Fresno to Tacoma in his Off-Mic blog. The headline says it all: Worst […]

  3. Thom Beuning says:

    Mike,
    Welcome to the club! Every minor league broadcaster, no matter the sport, has a great travel story like that somewhere in his history. I have a few. Let’s just say an airline employee at the airport in Montreal should not be allowed to use July 4th as an excuse for a flight delay! They’re Canadians for gods sake, they don’t celebrate July 4th up there! And don’t get me started on closed mountain passes or jackknifed semis closing down highways.
    Thom Beuning
    Seattle Thunderbirds

  4. Monty says:

    I live in Fresno and I have NEVER had a flight leave on time. EVER! I feel your pain. Especially have to spend extra time in Fresno. Ugh!

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