30th of May | Story

You need pants to play


BURLINGTON, IOWA | Travis Tims handed out the lists of road trip duties and told the Vancouver Canadians players in charge of the laundry bags that the Everett AquaSox clubhouse attendant would drop them off at the hotel the next morning to be loaded on the bus.

After a three-hour bus ride south to Yakima, the Canadians were about to take the field for batting practice when a player asked Tims if he had seen the uniforms. “Oh s—,” he remembers saying. “I don’t remember seeing those on the bus.”

Turned out there were no bags. No uniforms. No personal belongings.

Tims started sweating. It was his first season in baseball and he was in charge of getting the team’s equipment and uniforms from stadium to stadium.

"I got called into the Vancouver president’s office. He told me the next time that happens, rent the bus driver a Lamborghini because it would be cheaper than all the gas it took to drive roundtrip for the bus." — Burlington Bees athletic trainer Travis Tims

“We had a third uniform — we had a black uniform — so all we needed were gray pants,” Tims says. “Our idea was Everett’s clubby could drive the uniforms to us at the end of the game, but in the meantime, we would just borrow Yakima’s road pants and wear our third jersey. I think Yakima is the only team in minor league baseball that only wears white pants, they don’t wear road pants, so they didn’t have extra pants for us.”

So the bus driver turned around and headed north to meet Everett’s clubby to get the uniforms. The Canadians, stuffed in a clubhouse without air-conditioning on a 105-degree day, lay on the floor with the lights off in an effort to stay cool. Nothing could cool Tims. The game started 30 minutes late.

“I got called into the Vancouver president’s office,” he says. “He told me the next time that happens, rent the bus driver a Lamborghini because it would be cheaper than all the gas it took to drive roundtrip for the bus, because fuel is so expensive.”

Tims knows baseball. He played in high school. When he was at Oregon State, he spent his entire senior year with the baseball team. As the Canadians athletic trainer, he quickly learned every role in minor league baseball comes with multiple responsibilities and every responsibility is equally important.

“Now, I always double check to make sure everything is loaded,” he says.

Today, after four years in the Oakland A’s system, Tims is the athletic trainer for the Burlington Bees. Like every player he works with, making it to full-season ball is one step closer to his ultimate goal of the Major Leagues. His performance shows up on the field by keeping players healthy. “It’s not just medical stuff I have to do,” he says. “I’m like the team psychologist. I get a lot of girlfriend problems.”

Tims has worked with most of the Bees for two or three years now, which is a trainer’s dream. “I know when they’re trying to hide stuff, know when they’re being honest,” he says. “You get to know what routines guys like, what guys I can push more, what guys I have to back off, what guys I can tease and give a hard time to, the guys I can’t. The more you know a guy, the more you can find that particular approach and be able to make a connection.”

Only about 40 or 50 percent of Tims’ job actually has anything to do with training. His other duties include booking the team’s travel accommodations and itinerary, organizing meal money, handling all the paperwork between Major League Baseball and the team — like making sure players understand gambling and tobacco rules — dealing with player transactions and drug testing, and stocking the coaches’ offices with supplies, stuff as mundane as printer ink cartridges.

At 28, he has had to learn how to adjust to life on the road. He lives with his girlfriend in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the offseason. In Burlington, he lives in a hotel across from the stadium. It costs $44 a night.

Tims never dreamed about long bus rides and daily clubhouse errands. He played high school baseball and basketball in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he wasn’t injured — which he often was. A strong relationship with his high school athletic trainer inspired his path. More than anything, the last five seasons have helped build his character, he says, helped him learn how to think on his feet, organize and prioritize his life.

“The A’s have a great minor league athletic training staff and I know I have three great guys ahead of me,” he says. “I cheer for those guys to get offered bigger and better positions. It would be great for them and it would be good for me.”

For now, though, Tims is happy in Burlington. The clubhouse manager travels with the team, at least, so he doesn’t have to worry about the laundry getting left behind.

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Time for minor league trivia. The Bees have won Midwest League Championships in four different decades with four different affiliates. Name the affiliates. (Keep reading for the answer.)

Designated hitter Chih Fang Pan hit a grand slam with two out in the fifth to cap a seven-run inning and cement the Bees Wednesday night win over the Peoria Chiefs 10-1. Bees centerfielder Aaron Shipman and second baseman Ryan Pineda both had two RBI and shortstop Sean Jamieson walked four times. The Bees lost their swing only when Chiefs lefty Hunter Cervenka came in for the last out of the sixth inning and struck out six of the last seven batters.

Community Field was built on its current site in 1947, but a June 9, 1971 fire burned the original grandstand to the ground. Burlington residents volunteered their time and money to rebuild the park, lending true meaning to the name Community Field. Temporary bleachers were set up and games went on uninterrupted. The rebuilding process was complete in 1973. The stadium has since been renovated and seats 3,200 people.

Want the answer? The Bees won in 1965 as a Kansas City A’s affiliate, in 1977 as a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate, in 1999 as a Chicago White Sox affiliate, and in 2008 as a Kansas City Royals affiliate. The Bees became an A’s affiliate — Oakland, this time, rather than Kansas City — again last season.

And in random statistical news. The game started three minutes later than scheduled, the first ball was a strike and the first batter struck out swinging. The “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung in 1 minute and 38.2 seconds. For lunch, we went with the Bees’ recommendation of chicken lips from Lips-To-Go — chicken strips drenched in sauce that can numb your mouth for minutes or even hours.

Carolyn@AMinorLeagueSeason.com  @CarolynLaWell  @AMinorLgSeason

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