The comforts of home take on a whole new meaning in a major league clubhouse, where players get what they need as well as pretty much anything they want.
Just ask the San Francisco Giants. Sure, they’ve got the lavish man cave/dressing room filled with all kinds of food, drinks and snacks. But it’s the extras provided by the team’s clubhouse attendants that underscore the spoils of their profession.
Here are some things the Giants clubhouse staff offers that keeps the players happy:
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to cut down on the dead time between pitches, but there’s nothing to be done about all the idle hours in a major league clubhouse. Players usually arrive at the ballpark five hours before the first pitch to get in a stretch, a massage or some early hitting in the cage. What to do when you’re waiting for the cold tub? The USA Today crossword puzzle, for one. Sudoku puzzles for another. Giants clubhouse coordinator Brad Grems has to make sure to download and photocopy a stack of them. And then probably go back to make some more. The title of crossword king might be up for grabs this season, now that left-hander Javier Lopez has retired.
Brandon Crawford introduced Johnny B. hair gel to the clubhouse a year ago, and now the team has to order it in bulk. Apparently, a little dab won’t do you. Some guys slather it on, and there aren’t many buzz cuts in the room. As veteran infielder Gordon Beckham said earlier this spring, “There’s some quality lettuce in this room.” Who spends the most time in front of the styling mirror? Well, let’s just say that it’s a miracle Hunter Strickland has never been late to the bullpen mound when the phone rings.
A quick tour of Johnny Cueto’s instagram account shows that he enjoys blowing very, very big bubbles. You don’t achieve that kind of Guinness Book circumference with just a piece or three. The players have several varieties of gum available to them, including pouches of Big League Chew. The best for bubbles, though, and not surprisingly, is Dubble Bubble. Here’s the secret, though: you have to mix a few pieces of the sugar-free variety with some of the regular ones.
There’s an official sunflower seed of Major League Baseball, and you’ll find it in every major league dugout. But the Giants are also fond of the “Giants” company out of North Dakota, and not because of brand synergy. The seeds themselves are huge, and that makes for a more satisfying no-hands shelling experience. Trainers like the sunflower seeds, too, because salt is a natural electrolyte that helps muscles absorb fluids. We’re not sure the artificial flavoring – ranch dressing, bacon, nacho cheese or dill pickle, anyone? – provides any health benefits, though.
Hitters are finicky about their bats, and obsessive about their grips. Some hitters like an especially thin handle to get a better “feel” for the bat. So dab a little pine tar and they’re good to swing. Others use resin or athletic tape to help keep a grip. The rare player like Conor Gillaspie goes to the plate with no batting gloves. But Lizard Skins have become very popular with players who want that extra bit of cushion. Brandon Crawford was one of the early adopters, and now the Giants clubhouse attendants are ordering more of them than ever.
Fewer players wear sanitary socks and stirrups, but the hosiery retains its place as an absolute necessity of big league life. Players tie one around their heads to use as sweatbands. Pitching coach Dave Righetti loads one up with a half-dozen pre-rubbed baseballs for his starter to use in the bullpen before games. They’re great for keeping “pearls”– pristine, unmarked balls, often autographed – free of smudges. And back in the day, how do you think rookies transported postgame suds for the veterans?