They work anonymously, their jerseys emblazoned not with their names, but with the initials "BB." Barring an embarrassing moment, like a Darren Baker/J.T. Snow situation or a botched foul ball retrieval, they seem to merit little notice. But the bat boys play a crucial role in keeping the big club a well-oiled machine. All the equipment players use, from gloves to cleats to, yes, bats, are looked after by the young bat boys. And all the work they do requires both an early start and a late finish to the day.
"I get here at three o'clock [for a 7:05 game]," Ramon Diaz, one of the Indians' bat boys, said. The work starts as soon as the bat boys reach Jacobs Field. "We've got to get all the stuff ready and take food down to the trainers," Diaz says. "Then we have to go out onto the field." This is where the job can get rather fun. During batting practice, some players who aren't hitting will go into the outfield and catch fly balls, and the bat boys get to assist. "If the players have to shag or whatever during BP, we have to get all the balls," Diaz says. "Basically, we just have to wait for the players to come down for batting practice. Like, when they hit the balls, one [of the batboys] has to stand and shag. We get to shag. One of us has to stand and carry the balls and carry them to the pitcher." But the bat boys (the Indians have three) are perhaps most visible during the game, when they can occasionally be seen performing their various duties. "Basically, we do bats, balls and we do the lines, it's simple," Diaz says. "One person basically stands down the left-field line [and gets foul balls.] And the person who does balls has to give balls to the umpire. And the person who does bats, well, has to get bats." Naturally, the responsibilities of the batboys don't end once the game does. "At the end of the game, we get all the shoes, the players' shoes, ready," Diaz says. "We've got to get all the laundry ready. We have to get their clothes ready. And we put them in their lockers. And then, any other thing the player needs." Bat boys also pack the gear for road trips.
They obviously spend a lot of time interacting with players, doing do their laundry and even running a few errands for them. Basically, they do the kind of work that might lead some believe that they are treated like servants by the players.
Diaz doesn't see it that way.
"They mess with you," Diaz says. "But that's like your friends messing with you. All the players are nice. They're nice people. A lot of people ... they're underrated."
One player Diaz singled out as being particularly pleasant was closer Bob Wickman. In fact Diaz, who attends St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, had a small role in an elaborate plot amongst 50 of his schoolmates. The plan culminated in the students attending a recent game with the message "Bob Wickman is the greatest baseball player ... ever" painted on their chests.
"I was talking to one of the senior class, and they were asking what player to do it," Diaz says. "And I said, 'You should do it on Bob Wickman.' And they said, 'We want to do it on Bob.' And I said that would be a good idea."
Yes, from picking up laundry to helping organize a tongue-in-cheek ode to Bob Wickman, a bat boy's work is never done.
: : : This Edition: June 14, 2006 : : :
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.