Road Trip: Murfreesboro – From the Bird’s Nest
I, as you well know, travel with the three major men's sports at UL. I used to travel separately from the team (except in football, unless they were busing.) But the last two years I've mostly coordinated flights with the teams plans, or if it's a drive trip, I get on the bus.
What I've found is traveling with each individual team is each team is different. Really different.
In football, we have a chartered flight, so UL is pretty much in control. Everything is pretty regimented because of the number of people traveling. We are given an itinerary, which includes name of the contact person at the hotel, when the bus leaves for dinner, when the bus leaves for the stadium...all the way to the ETA back in Lafayette.
Basketball is a much smaller travel party...about twenty. Flights are commercial so there's the check-in dynamic. We get an itinerary on those trips as well, but times are approximate. The team eats virtually all their meals together, as a team.
Baseball is different from the other two. First of all, there's a lot of equipment brought on the trip which can make for some interesting times for the party of nearly forty. The team normally flies Southwest out of New Orleans because they can get where they need to go in conference without having to make a connection (that limits the chance of delays, besides, Robe hates layovers). And, Southwest lets you have two free bags per person.
But they're still gonna charge you for overweight bags. And that bag where the players are carrying their bats and other equipment can easily go over the limit if you're not careful. And, that's what happened in New Orleans. It was pretty comical to watch players taking huge handfuls of clothing out of one bag and putting it in another in order to make the weight limit. Even with that, some bags went over.
Associate head coach Anthony Babineaux told me on Wednesday the team had decided to wear jackets and ties, calling the visit to Middle Tennessee a business trip. That left several players scrambling to get some new threads. Robe joked his team made the salesman at Men's Wearhouse the Employee of the Month. Chase Traffica had the most interesting garb: a white coat, yellow pants, black shirt and tie, and white tennis shoes.
We got to Murfreesboro mid-afternoon Thursday and checked into the Embassy Suites. First day of March Madness. Room service for dinner. (The hotel didn't get TruTV, but I could get it on my ipad.)
Allso, with baseball, if you're on time, you're late. If you're told 8am, it would be a good idea to be on the bus by 7:45. On Friday, we were scheduled to leave the hotel for the airport at 3:30. I had taken the elevator down and was almost to the bus when I realized I had left something in my room I needed for the broadcast. I went up to get it and came back down and got on the bus.
Everyone was ready to go. The bus pulled out. It was 3:25.
It was a pretty miserable day. After playing in perfect baseball weather the previous weekend at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field, it wasn't exactly baseball weather in Murfreesboro. It was overcast and 47 degrees as the team took batting practice. The temperature was 40 degrees (with a wind) by the time the game ended.
It rained during the night Friday night but it had stopped by mid morning. Departure time for the 4pm game was at 1:30. When we got to the stadium, Matt Hebert and I walked from the bus to the entrance to the stadium. Just before I was about to enter I heard a young voice:
"Hi Mr. Jay!!!!"
You've may have read in previous blogs about my friends Jojo and Ginger Freeman. Jojo used to be the baseball SID at MTSU. Ginger is the head of the Alumni Association. Their family dynamic changed when Ginger got pregnant with triplets. Now six years old, little Kathleen Freeman (who isn't the least bit shy) wanted to make sure I knew they were all there. And sure enough, Micah and Patrick came running up as well. They both had their baseball gloves and were ready to play some catch. I hugged Ginger and we got a chance to visit for a little while. Since the team was going to be out of town next weekend, they were having an Easter egg hunt and Ginger brought the triplets for a little fun at the park. I went upstairs and got set up and then came back down to record pregame with Robe. After I finished I started to head back up, but Micah and Patrick were right there and I visited with them a little more. They said they all got plenty of Easter eggs, but not, as Micah put it, the big one.
Kathleen wasn't with them, but as I was headed back upstairs she came running down the concourse and held her arms out for me to pick her up. She gave me a big hug and asked where I was going. I explained I had to work. She looked at me as if to say "the ballpark is fun. Why are you working?" She asked if I had seen her mom and as we turned the corner, Ginger was at the elevator. I told them goodbye and went upstairs.
Again it was room service after the game so I could watch more hoops. But I made the mistake of going into the bedroom and watching from there...and fell asleep with nine minutes left in the Gonzaga-Wichita State game. Grrrrrrr.
But I got a good night's sleep. Sunday before breakfast it was a quick blog and then breakfast. After packing for the trip home I got a text message from the airline informing me our 8:40 flight was being pushed back to 10:20. I forwarded that message to Bab. I won't tell you what his reply was.
Game was pushed up to 12 noon because of impending weather. We arrived at the park about 10:00 and that's when I heard from the airline again saying the flight was now scheduled at 9:45. The decision to push gametime up was a good one. Still, the game had to be stopped for an hour and twenty minutes while the storm moved through. During the rain delay, another notification that the flight was now at 9:15. Since the stoppage came in the bottom of the eighth inning, it gave me a chance to get most of the game story written for the website.
We had about an hour to kill and the bus pulled up at an area McDonalds, which also had a Taco Bell and (Steve Peloquin would be so happy) a Dairy Queen. Then it was back to the airport for the flight home.
The bus picked us up at the New Orleans airport at the scheduled time and we made the two hour ride back to Lafayette. This particular bus had virtually no suspension left at all and it was a pretty bumpy ride. I was trying to text with a friend and if not for autocorrect I wouldn't have gotten any of the messages typed correctly. We pulled in to the atlhetic complex at 1:30.
Not a very successful road trip, other than the fact we got home safely. Road trips can be classified as business trips...but you have to take care of business.