UNSUNG HEROES IN BASEBALL – THE BAT BOY


This is Chapter Two of a continuing series titled “Unsung Heroes In Baseball”. These are profiles of those who work in the shadows of “The Show”, but if not for their contributions baseball would not be the game we know and see today.

Whenever we imagego to a restaurant and we are seated at our table, we expect to see clean plates and utensils. We don’t think for a second about the people who made that possible. And yet, that person (the dishwasher) is a integral part of a successful and smooth running business.

In the same way, when we watch a ballgame we don’t expect to see bats, gloves, and helmets littering the diamond. Working behind the scenes is the bat boy who, as we’ll see, has way more responsibilities than keeping the field “clean” and the game moving smoothly along.

Any well oiled major league team needs a bat boy. And for obvious reasons, it’s a coveted and prestigious job……….. But it is a job!……… It’s also one that requires the ability to multi-task, work long hours, carry a high school or college workload (successfully), and to be a silent fly on the wall in the clubhouse. 

So, let’s take a moment to glimpse into the life of a major league bat boy……

As with all high demand low supply jobs, becoming a bat boy requires all of the stars to line up precisely right to land a position among the thirty major league teams. Not surprisingly, it often helps if you image“know someone”. But not always, although the vetting process can be as severe as what we see for a vice presidential candidate. In fact, since a New York Yankees bat boy went off the reservation publishing one of those tell all books, many teams now require the signing a non-disclosure agreement insuring that “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse”.

Of necessity, bat boys are privileged insiders within a major league clubhouse. Long before players arrive, the bat boy has already begun his day arranging uniforms in lockers in a way that is scripted to each player’s desires. He’s also helped in preparing the food table. imageHe might also have run a errand or two for players who have “requested” his services to deliver two tickets to the will call window or making sure that two CD’s he ordered are ready for play in his cubicle.

While most teams don’t have a minimum age requirement, there are restrictions that disallow the very young. For those still in school, the work day is limited to eight hours and that can be a problem given the breadth of responsibility a bat boy can have. Transportation can also be a issue as teams except that you will provide your own which often means that parents must be integrally involved.

Bat boysimage also need to have memory retention skills. For example, which player keeps his batting gloves on or puts them in his back pocket when he reaches base, and who wants you to run out and retrieve them. Who keeps their helmet on while on base and who doesn’t. Does he bat right handed or left handed………because that will determine how you present his bat to him. If he’s a pitcher and he gets on base, does he want his windbreaker brought out to him – or not……….. And when he’s in the on deck circle, does he like to chat with you or is his game face always on……..

The work MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirateshours can be arduous. For a night game, a bat boy is typically arriving at 3:00 and in advance of the players his first task is to inspect each cubicle making sure that uniforms and laundry are complete and in order. While some players want their bats brought out and placed in the dugout rack, others prefer to keep the tools of their trade close by at all times. 

Because of the workload, most teams employ two and sometimes three bat boys. They work as a team and alternate duties. And in case you are wondering, I could imagenot uncover a instance where a team employs a “bat girl” in the research I did for this piece. 

As you might expect, it’s not all work and no glory though. One of the best times for all bat boys is “shagging” in the outfield during batting practice. It is then that they get to show off their baseball skills and engage the players in the jocular banter that goes on among all athletes. As with all of us, bat boys have dreams too. But from what I learned, only one bat boy has ever risen to become a major league ballplayer – and that would be Rueben Amaro of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The pay imageseems to vary from team to team falling within the range of $15 to $55 a game. But that doesn’t count the mass of signed memorabilia they can assemble over time. Nor does it allow for the tips they can earn from the players, some of which can be significant rising to four figures from the high earning stars on the team.

The highlight of the season comes once when most teams take the bat boys along with them on a road trip. On that occasion, performing their regular chore of packing up all of team’s equipment becomes fun and not work……….. And some have been known to sleep in the clubhouse prior to takeoff. Not surprisingly, I would too….think you might also?…….

BACKGROUND INFORMATION CULLED FROM:

“A Bat Boys Work Is Never Done”      MLB.COM

“A Day In The Life Of A Cardinal Bat Boy”.       MLB.COM

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