Nearly everyone who has ever boarded an airplane has been subject to the vagaries of the commercial airline industry, which even under the best circumstances can be trying and difficult. Those difficulties are compounded when instead of one traveler you have a team of 30 people, who travel with over 70 bags of baseball equipment and 30 personal bags. Needless to say, it’s no exaggeration that oftentimes getting a Triple-A baseball team from Albuquerque to Round Rock, feels like getting said team to the moon.
Many times this endeavor goes off without a hitch and the team arrives at its destination in plenty of time to play a game that same night, testament to the great people on the front lines at the airlines and the travel coordinators of other PCL clubs, who work tirelessly to ensure fans in PCL cities don’t suffer because of travel difficulties among its member clubs.
Then there are days like this Thursday….
After arriving at the Albuquerque Sunport at 5:30 AM, the Isotopes boarded a Southwest plane for Dallas, Texas that departed at 6:50 AM. Unfortunately, a severe thunder and electrical storm in Dallas forced the Isotopes’ flight to be diverted to Lubbock, Texas, where the team sat for an hour before being diverted again to a flight that arrived in Houston, Texas at 12:30 PM.
When the team arrived in Houston, it was greeted with mass-chaos. The closings of both Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and Dallas Love Field had created an inextricable web of full and cancelled flights that left the Isotopes literally marooned at Houston Hobby Airport with zero chance of escaping until sometime Friday, let alone in time for a 7:05 PM first pitch Thursday at The Dell Diamond.
In the PCL, you have to get creative when it comes to travel issues and no one is more creative than ‘Topes General Manager John Traub, who is committed to making sure games are played. Because of that commitment, there was no doubt that come hell or high-water, the Albuquerque Isotopes were going to get to Round Rock in time to play. Traub secured a flight on Express Jet out of Houston and arranged for all of the team’s 100 bags of equipment to get picked up and delivered to the terminal from which the new flight would depart.
On the ground, trainer Greg Harrel became the field general, coordinating with the airlines and the team to make sure everyone stayed in the loop. It’s impossible to articulate how difficult it is to deal with a travel crisis while also having to answer to 30 frustrated people simultaneously asking questions, but Harrel managed to juggle all of those balls flawlessly. He single-handedly arranged for an airport shuttle to take the team to the new departure point while he personally stood guard over the 100 bags on a sidewalk on a sweltering Houston afternoon waiting for a truck to deliver them to where the team (and the plane to Austin) was waiting. In the PCL, the trainer (among his myriad other thankless duties) is also essentially the traveling secretary, and without Harrel’s determination and calm approach, the day would have been lost.
But it was not lost. The team was airborne at 4:30 PM local time and touched down in Austin at 5:22 PM. Thanks to the Express, a bus was waiting for them to whisk them directly to the ballpark, where the team pulled in and unloaded at 6:30 PM. At 7:43 PM, the first pitch of the game was thrown.
While the contest was ultimately suspended after just a couple of innings due to rain, the day was a smashing success in that the Isotopes were even there, despite a 12.5 hour travel day.
Travel life in the PCL is never easy, but when you have a group of people pulling together towards a common goal- playing games- success is inevitable.
While the good news is the team arrived safe and sound at its destination, the bad news is that the daunting task of PCL travel will repeat itself in just four days when the ‘Topes head to Memphis on Monday, June 15. Keep your fingers crossed for friendly skies!