Never a home game for this team
Greys always away from home
The Frontier League Greys have been on the road more than singer Willie Nelson. They have traveled more than 12,000 miles of highway this summer, never staying in one city for more than three consecutive days.
Along the way, they have lost luggage, lost their liking for fast food and lost more baseball games than they deserved.
And the Greys have never batted in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Such is life as a travel team in an independent league.
The Greys are the Frontier League’s ship without a home port this season, playing their entire 96-game schedule on the road. The next-to-last game in the Greys’ mystery tour, which has been anything but magical, was played Wednesday night at Consol Energy Park against the Wild Things.
Mike Micowski was a double shy of hitting for the cycle, and two Greys pitchers combined on a five-hitter, in a 3-2 victory over Washington.
The Wild Things took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Stewart Ijames’ home run, but Micowski hit a solo homer in the fourth off Washington starter Gary Lee (5-9) and drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the sixth. Casey Delgado (2-6) pitched eight strong innings and Ryan Wholley got the final three outs for his second save.
“For me, this experience is about what I expected,” said Greys rookie shortstop Brock McCallister, one of a half dozen players who have been with the team since it began spring training in May in Chillicothe, Ohio.
“This is my first year in professional baseball, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. The bus rides are long, packing up every three days because you don’t have a place to call home is difficult, but this is normal life for me. This is all I’ve known in professional baseball.”
If you want to know how tough life is on the road with a baseball team, then look at the forehead of Greys manager Brent Metheny. He needed 18 stitches to close a nasty gash after being struck by a line drive during batting practice before a game Sunday at Lake Erie. Metheny was pitching when a batted ball came back at him and went through the L-shaped protective screen. The ball struck Metheny just above the left eye.
After being taken to a hospital, Metheny returned to the ballpark, just in time to see Lake Erie score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Greys, 4-3.
It was one of 22 one-run losses for the Greys.
“What made the season tough was the one-run losses,” said Metheny. “I’m not going to blame it on being the road team all the time, but it would have been nice to be the home team once in a while to see how it would have played out.”
The biggest obstacles for the Greys, other than the travel and never batting in the bottom of the ninth, are logistics and meals. Metheny said there were times when he was unable to release or sign a player until the team stopped in Avon, Ohio, where they spent off days.
Steve Tahsler, the league’s deputy commissioner, made sure the Greys received a shipment of bats or baseballs whenever and wherever they were needed and that the players received meal money. The Greys’ salary cap was only $60,000, compared to $75,000 for other teams, but they were able to make up some of the difference because their players were paid meal money every day.
Of course, they spent much of that meal money on fast food.
“When I go home this week, I don’t think I’ll pick up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a hot dog or a hamburger for a long time,” McCallister said.
Metheny also is tired of the fast food.
“I’d love to have spaghetti. That’s a common meal, but we don’t have any stoves, so that’s something we don’t get to eat,” said Metheny, who has spent nine years in professional baseball, including seven in independent leagues.
Along the way, there were a few humorous travel moments. In Marion, Ill., the Greys pulled away from a pregame meal at a Golden Corral, only to discover 10 minutes later that they had left a player in the restaurant. During a late-night road trip, the door on the bus’ luggage rack opened and out spilled the team’s water cooler and some bags. They had to backtrack and find them on the side of the highway.
In Joliet, Metheny and several players had their luggage stolen. Metheny, a Petersburg, W.Va., resident, had to wait until the Greys played in Washington before his wife could bring him another suitcase filled with clothes.
Metheny did credit the team’s bus driver, Brian Boker of Central Cab in Waynesburg, for keeping the Greys on schedule, even if the players weren’t sure which city was their next destination. Boker was with the team for all but one series.
The win over the Wild Things leaves the Greys with a 32-62 record heading into tonight’s season finale. The Greys have won three of 11 games against Washington.
“I’ve been impressed with the way that team has continued to play hard every night,” Washington manager Bart Zeller said. “Brent Metheny has done a very good job of keeping his team’s motivation up.”