Meet Frank Coppenbarger, a gentleman in his 18th season with the Phillies. He originally came east from the Cardinals as the Clubhouse and Equipment Manager. Later, he acquired the additional duties as traveling secretary.
Transportation and hotels are one of his many chores. It takes a lot of planning to move the team around the country.
Frank held at team meeting on Friday, September 22, at Citizens Bank Park. The message: “As you know, we’re going on our last regular-season road trip (Washington/Miami). After that, we might have to return home for a Monday tie-breaker game or a Tuesday tie-breaker game, or return home on Sunday night (Oct. 1) and leave for St. Louis the next day, or leave Miami on Sunday night for San Diego or Los Angeles, or stay in Miami Sunday night in case SD and LA have a Monday playoff game.”
That double-talk message was nothing compared to what he faced last night in Washington, DC.
As most people know, the Phillies waited 4 hours and 27 minutes before starting the crucial game against the Nationals. The outcome stung. Washington won, 3-1.
It was during the rain delay that Frank’s life became very complicated:
**Because of a 62-person traveling party, Frank had chartered a 757 through Delta to carry the team to Miami after the game.
**That plane arrived in DC at 9:00 p.m. That was the good news. The bad news: with the late start of the game and the anticipated end of the game, the pilots wouldn’t be able to fly because of union rules.
**Plan A: Delta began checking the availability of pilots. The issue became further complicated because not every pilot is qualified to fly a 757. A pilot was located in Washington but a co-pilot couldn’t be located.
**Plan B: The pilots who flew the Reds to Pittsburgh on a 737-800 (a little smaller) could fly that plane to Washington. The crew, in turn, could then fly the Phillies to Miami but a different plane was needed. Only complication: the crew and plane couldn’t get to DC until 4:00 a.m.
**Plan C: Frank contacted the team hotel in DC (Grand Hyatt) to see if he could get rooms in case they had to stay overnight in Washington. The hotel had 41 rooms available. The players’ union contract stipulates that players get single rooms. Frank felt he could get the players to waive that rule. He began pairing people.
**Plan D: A 737 that was bringing the Mets to Washington would be the aircraft the Phillies could use to get to Miami and the pilots flying the Reds would be the crew. That was the final answer.
**Plan E: Frank canceled the Grand Hyatt rooms.
**The Phillies buses left RFK Stadium at 3:00 a.m., the airplane took off at the Dulles airport at 5:00 a.m. and landed in Miami at 7:30 a.m. in time for rush-hour traffic. They got to the hotel at 8:30 a.m. Frank got his luggage at 2:15 p.m.
Now, the Phillies are faced with a 7:09 game against the Marlins tonight, followed by a 1:25 Saturday afternoon game and a 1:05 Sunday afternoon game. At the other end of the country, the Giants host the Dodgers for three games. Phillies fans are also Giants fans this final weekend.
Frank, by the way, has seen his grey crew cut turn greyer and greyer.