The Birmingham Barons are the Double-A affiliate for the Chicago White Sox. The 25-man roster is only one more stop from making the big leagues.
Since 2000, 13 Barons have made the jump straight to Chicago.
On July 10th, the Barons began a five-game road trip to Huntsville. One-hundred-three miles, the second shortest trip in the league for the Barons.
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"Luckily we're in the center of the league," Rick Brewster, the team's bus driver for 12 years, said. "Most of our trips are four to five hours. We do have some long trips to Jacksonville, Florida, and one city to Jacksonville."
"They're rough, usually at night, after a series getting back at three or four in the morning," Barons centerfielder Trayce Thompson said. "That's tough."
These travel conditions in the minor leagues might serve as momentum for the players to go to the major leagues. But really the irony is, the only difference in the major leagues, instead of a bus it's a chartered plane.
"It would be nice to dress up in a suit and get on a plane and get ready to play," Barons catcher Mike Blanke said. "I would definitely feel more professional. For now, the buses will do fine for me."
The game that night was a 6:43 start time, on honor of the 6-4-3 double play. The players arrived at Regions Field to board the bus at 10 a.m. By 11, it's time to hit the road.
"By the time we hit the pavement over there 50% of the guys will be sleeping," Barons radio announcer Curt Bloom said. "By the time we hit the light, you can add about another 15-20% and by the time we hit the exit, the only guy still awake will be the bus driver."
Ninety minutes later, the team bus arrived at the Holiday Inn Downtown Huntsville. But every so often, the bus does not make it as scheduled.
"Our bus broke down on one of the trips," Blanke said. "We all went into Walmart, ran around in there throwing those footballs."
If anything, a Walmart run breaks up the bus, hotel, field repetition of minor league life.
Sanchez 12 45 10 "first of all, when we get to a new city we look around, see what's around, restaurants, places where you can detract your mind, like a mall or something like that."
the barons play 70 away games, that's 14 road trips each season.
"Sometimes when we go home, I don't even unpack my bags," Thompson said. "I still just live out of it."
The team bus pulled up to Joe Davis Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Built in 1985, it's the oldest stadium in the Southern League.
The players relaxed in the clubhouse, and enjoyed a pre-game meal - peanut butter and jelly.
"I don't mind it," Thompson said. "I try to eat peanut butter and jelly, 'cause when we go the not-so-great places, they always have it. Then when we go to the good places, they always have it. It's not too bad."
PB & J might be the snack of champions. The Barons aleady clinched the first half title and promptly took a 3-1 lead over Huntsville.
Then the rain came in the 5th inning and the players back to the clubhouse to play another form of competition.
"[We play] some Candy Crush, some new iPhone games the boys broke out," Black said.
The rain and lightning didn't let up and the game was called just before 10 p.m. Another win for the Barons and just another day on the grind to make the major league.
"We go through a lot of stuff in the minor leagues, it gives you the strength and pride to do better to get to a different type of life where you want to be in the big leagues, which is traveling in an airplane or being at a five-star hotel," Sanchez added.
The team re-treats back to their three-star hotel for the night. Before they do, there's one more task - sign a few autographs.
"Its just awesome getting all the minor league players before they go to the majors," baseball fan Gary Glassman said.
For the players sake, hear's hoping those minor league baseball cards soon have a spike in vaule.
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