Reds' truck day signals Spring Training is near

Clubhouse staff preps for 1,800-mile trip to Arizona

Reds' truck day signals Spring Training is near

CINCINNATI -- Around greater Cincinnati, there have been incremental signs that the return of another baseball season is approaching. The obvious ones include Redsfest in early December and Reds Caravan in late January.

One sign that is less obvious, but most telling of just how close baseball is to returning, could be seen Tuesday. Inside a 53-foot trailer parked at the loading dock of Great American Ball Park, Reds clubhouse staff members were loading and packing everything that the club needs for Spring Training.

"It's definitely a symbolic thing," Reds assistant equipment manager Josh Stewart said. "Winter is [here] but we're heading out to spring. It's exciting to get started again with the new year. Everybody is optimistic at this time of year. Everybody is even right now."

Once completed, the trailer will be hitched to a semi-truck and scheduled to leave Cincinnati on Wednesday for the Reds' player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. -- a distance of more than 1,800 miles. Spring Training opens with the reporting of Reds pitchers and catchers on Feb. 18.

Under the supervision of clubhouse manager Rick Stowe, workers used dollies, carts, forklifts or hand-carried more than 25,000 pounds of equipment for loading. It's not a one-day process, but something that has been building since the 2014 season wrapped up.

"All offseason, we slowly accumulate everything, stack it up, shrink wrap on the skids," Stewart said. "To get it all on there, it's usually two to three hours by the time we get everything together. Pulling it back off [in Arizona] usually takes about one hour. It goes pretty quick."

Among the items being transported are baseballs, bats, uniforms, undershirts, helmets, the training staff's equipment, luggage, food and front-office supplies.

"Anything you can think of that they might need," Stewart said.

There's some unique items people definitely wouldn't assume being part of the process -- one unidentified player is sending tires and rims for his SUV. In past years, there have been bass fishing boats and motorbikes put on the truck.

"We have scooters, little goofy things here and there," Stewart said.

One wrinkle with the baseballs is that those with former Commissioner Bud Selig's signature are slated only for batting practice and bullpen sessions while brand-new balls bearing new Commissioner Rob Manfred's name are going to be rubbed up with mud for exhibition game use.

"We probably have about 100 cases of balls. Six dozen balls in a case," said Stewart, who joined the Reds in 1994 and has been in his current role since 2003.

Stowe and Stewart have yet to run into an issue where something didn't fit in the truck. Everything that's packed and assembled at the loading dock makes it on to the trailer.

"It's worked, luckily, so far," Stewart said. "It usually fits. We stack them high if we need to."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.