Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 2
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Rules of the Bus
A standout pitcher at Pomona-Pitzer, Adam Gardner '04 spent three years in the minor leagues, chasing his dreams for $20 a day...

Story by Adam Gardner ’04 / Illustration by Daniel Vasconcellos

In the minor leagues, where we spend so much time on the road, riding in style all depends on those first 10 minutes when the bus is loading up. Friendships are ruined and seniority rules, because everyone’s trying to get their own seats. Having two chairs to yourself on a tour bus is a world away from being holed up with another guy, possibly asleep and drooling all over you for a torturous journey home.

Fortunately, there are a few surefire ways to snag solo seating on the bus:

1) Play the age card. The veterans—we’re talking anyone over 26—always get their own seats. They can trump anyone’s argument for a seat simply by saying “I’m way older than you are,” and everyone else agrees. It’s one of the few tangible rewards a guy gets for sticking it out in the minors.

2) Arrive early, go to sleep. If you’re able to fall asleep after claiming a seat and setting up shop, you’re probably in the clear. Bring a pillow, get under a blanket and zonk out. You’ve got to be totally out for this strategy to pay off. Some guys will call bluffs if they don’t think a teammate is really sleeping. I also have witnessed the ultimate awkward interaction, in which one guy sat down next to an already slumbering teammate, only to be ruthlessly booted from the seat after Sleeping Beauty woke up and pulled the seniority card.

3) Set up camp “for two.” Also called “The Gardner,” this maneuver requires getting there early, putting a backpack and maybe a Gatorade on one seat, and then a laptop and another beverage on the other seat. Guys walk up, see two drinks and two bags, and continue down the aisle. I’ve patented this move and it works most of the time.

The bottom line: If you’re on your game and have been around for a few seasons, you’re almost certain to get your own seat on the bus and a serene ride to your destination.

Strange as it seems, the bus rides are one of my favorite parts of playing minor league baseball. During the day, you just listen to music and watch America whiz by out the window, and at night, relax and watch a movie before dozing off. Still, sitting on the bus with my iPod on to drown out the sound of other players talking on their cell phones, flipping through a magazine and half paying attention to the DVD playing in the background, I have to wonder what it must have been like to play on a team 30 years ago when none of this stuff existed (save for the magazines).

Were the teams closer-knit as a result of their having to interact socially with each other on long road trips? At no other time is our team physically closer to one another than when we’re on the bus, but I think it’s when we speak to each other the least. Those who aren’t attached to their iPods are talking on the phone, and anyone else is watching the DVD playing on the bus’s entertainment system.

On the way back from our last trip to Southern California, the bus was having issues, so our driver turned the movie off, came on the loudspeaker and said, “Well boys, headquarters told me that we need to turn off all the extra electronic equipment in the bus if we’re gonna make it home, so night-night!” All the running lights turned off, and we were in the middle of I-5, doing 75 m.p.h.with nothing to do. Someone started a game of categories, which got old, because that’s what we do during games, not after them.

Then, someone suggested that since the lights were off, we make a covert excursion to the back of the bus. Well, we couldn’t just go back there; we had to make it like we were Navy Seals and have call signs and everything. One guy started armycrawling rearwards, trying to scare a player sitting in the back, and was taken prisoner by the back-of-the-bus “rebels.” Five minutes later, all hell broke loose. They launched a counterattack, and we snagged one of their guys. Thankfully, our man who’d been taken prisoner was an athletic centerfielder, and he hopped over about 10 bus seats back to safety. Meanwhile, we’d bribed our own captive with magazines and candy, and he didn’t want to go back.

None of the coaches even woke up, and the bus driver was too worried about whether the beast would make it back to San Jose to notice. These episodes where we all lapse back into childhood make it fun and keep the mood light. Nobody is making money, few are moving up, but we’re winning games and every once in a while get to act like we’re 10 years old again.

This story is adapted from a blog that Adam Gardner ’04 kept during his last minor league season, playing for the Class A San Jose Giants.

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