CINCINNATI -- Spring Training for Reds players is just over a week away. For the Reds' equipment and belongings, it's 976 miles away. That's the approximate distance from Cincinnati to the club's spring complex in Sarasota, Fla.
An annual task that builds more anticipation for the beginning of spring, Reds staff began loading the semi-truck on Thursday at the loading dock inside the bowels of Great American Ball Park. Hats, helmets, uniforms, about 12,000 baseballs and thousands of bats were among the equipment placed on the truck. But that was only part of the giant parcel bound for a better climate. There was also medical equipment for the training staff, computers and office supplies for the front office, large buckets of laundry detergent for the clubhouse staff and merchandise for the concession stands. There are also personal items and suitcases on the truck that belong to Reds players and staff. "Everybody bugs out for two months," said equipment manager Rick Stowe, who was supervising the operation. "Whatever anyone needs for two months is basically what we've got. "We'll bring slice of life stuff from home like Grippo's [potato chips], snacks from Cincinnati that we can't get down there." For the past 60 years, this process has been overseen by a member of the Stowe family. Rick's father and clubhouse manager emeritus, Bernie, first had the responsibility. The job currently belongs to Rick, who began working for the club when he was 16. "We've come a long way," said Stowe, who is now 42. "We used to do it piece by piece by piece. Now, we're smart. We put everything on skids and forklift it right onto the truck. It used to take a week to hand load the truck. Now, we'll have it loaded in four hours." The truck is scheduled to leave town on Feb. 12 and arrive in Sarasota the next day. Reds pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 17 with the full squad arriving on Feb. 21. All of the Reds' stuff will be in the clubhouse and neatly arranged for them when they get there, thanks to Stowe and his staff.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.