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Have you ever wondered what life on the road in the Carolina League is like? Let us take you on the bus with the Dash after a recent road trip back from Wilmington last month.
The Dash play 70 games each year at BB&T Ballpark. The rest of the season, though, Winston-Salem’s favorite team hits the road to one of seven different cities in five states. The longest trip is north to Wilmington, Del., where the Blue Rocks call home.
Earlier this month, the Dash took three of four from the Blue Rocks in Wilmington. Here’s the journey back from the First State to the Triad.
4:57 p.m.: More than three hours after first pitch, the Dash nail down a 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Blue Rocks. After their victorious handshakes on the field, the players and coaching staff heads to the clubhouse to shower, eat and pack.
5:29 p.m.: I make it down to the clubhouse and notice that about half of the players are ready to leave. A few others are getting changed, and a handful of guys have to help load the bus. Some players have a certain bag for which they are responsible, which is the last task before we can embark on our journey.
5:42 p.m.: The bags are loaded onto the bus, and the doors are locked. We are ready to go.
5:47 p.m.: After a quick check to make sure everyone is here, our bus driver Calvin starts the bus and begins the 430-mile journey back to Winston-Salem.
6:05 p.m.: At the exact time two other Carolina League games are beginning, the Dash have already hit the road and are stopping for a quick meal after the team crushed the food available to them in the clubhouse. Normally, we just stop at a gas station, but because of the long trip, we pull into a nice rest stop with plenty of food options.
6:26 p.m.: With dinner in hand, the players load up once again, and we are off after the quickest pit stop we’ve made all season.
6:34 p.m.: Dash first baseman Dan Black, other than being known as the “Big Black Bear,” is normally the man who decides what movie we watch on the bus, but Michael Earley beat him to it for the first movie. We begin watching Safe House, starring Denzel Washington.
7:40 p.m.: Our journey back from Wilmington is the only one where traffic can throw off our estimated time of arrival. Even though it is a Sunday evening, congestion a few miles outside Baltimore causes us to slow down for 15 minutes.
8:23 p.m.: The movie credits crawl on the screen for no more than 30 seconds before Black is switching movies. He did not let Earley beat him to the DVD player this time. Veteran move.
9:32 p.m.: The sun has set, and most of the bus is dark. Only Dash strength and conditioning coach Shawn Powell and I are on our computer and using the light above our heads. I am preparing All-Star Game material, and Shawn (one of the most interesting men in the Carolina League) is likely working on his Anthony Davis scouting report for the sports website to which he contributes. Shawn is an NBA Draft guru, and the big event is right around the corner.
10:13 p.m.: For the first time this season, we have made two stops on a single trip. Even on a Sunday night, Calvin navigates us to an area with three different fast food options. They don’t call him the best bus driver in the Carolina League for nothing!
10:48 p.m.: After watching most of the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals game between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder while in McDonalds, the team heads back on the bus. Even though we left before 6 p.m., the GPS says we have four more hours to go. That’s the down side of multiple stops.
11:12 p.m.: It’s nap time for me. Many players are still awake watching the end of the second movie, but the number of players who fall asleep will increase quickly.
11:54 p.m.: I fall asleep.
12:13 a.m.: I wake up.
12:27 a.m.: I fall asleep.
12:58 a.m.: I wake up. As you can tell, the bus isn’t the easiest place to catch some Z’s.
1:44 a.m.: Some people have a certain place near their home that lets them know they are close. For me, that is the drive through Greensboro, which is finally here.
2:03 a.m.: I see the Winston Tower! What an awesome and relieving sight it is.
2:09 a.m.: Calvin stops the bus right in front of the clubhouse entrance, and our trip is over. It does not take the players long to drop off their baseball bag, grab their personal bag and head home. Normally, most of the clubhouse is empty 15 minutes after arriving from a long road trip.
2:47 a.m.: After 10 innings, 430 miles, two stops, three movies, I finally arrive home and quickly crawl into bed. Even though the trip was long, it came after a victory, and we didn’t have any bus issues. All in all, it was a success, but you have to leave now because I’m going to sleep. Thanks for tagging along!