Behind the scene…manager visiting clubhouse
From a young bat boy in the minor leagues to taking care of the big boys in the major leagues. That’s the life journey of Kevin Steinhour, the Phillies’ manager of the visiting clubhouse since 1990.
Growing up in Springfield, IL, Steinhour served as the bat boy of the St. Louis Cardinals’ triple-A team in that city. He was 12 years old. His path to the majors continued during his high school days as he worked both the home and visiting clubhouses in Springfield. After graduation, he spent two years with the triple-A Louisville Redbirds before being brought to Philadelphia by Frank Coppenbarger, a fellow Springfield native and clubhouse employee in the minors and with the Cardinals. Coppenbarger was hired by Phillies general manager Lee Thomas just before the 1989 season. Steinhour finished his tour in Louisville before joining the Phillies organization.
Steinhour worked at Veterans Stadium for 14 years before the opening of Citizens Bank Park in 2004. “The facilities in the visiting clubhouse (Citizens Bank Park) are among the best in the game,” says Steinhour. “I heard that from the players this first season and still hear it.”
Those facilities include a clubhouse of 47 lockers, coaches’ room, manager’s office, trainer’s room, weight room, player’s lounge/kitchen, laundry room, storage area, video room and a small office for the traveling secretary. Oh, and harkening back to Kevin’s roots, there one more room: a small dressing room for the bat boy. With MLB adding instant replays in 2014, that equipment was also placed in the video room. Steinhour’s staff includes four young men, of which two double as chefs, and a bat boy, normally a college-aged person. Steinhour is the lone fulltime Phillies employee.
A typical work week? 9–5, five days a week? Guess again. The National League schedule determines his life for six months. Home games at Citizens Bank Park are a must but road games are different. That is the time to spend working in the vacant Phillies clubhouse, placing his food orders for the next homestand and grabbing a day off here and there. But, he will also make road trips as the Phillies equipment manager.
For a six-game homestand that starts on a Friday night against the Marlins and ends with a Wednesday day game against the Braves, Steinhour’s work begins on Thursday night when the Marlins equipment truck arrives after their night game in Atlanta. “We know the Marlins travel itinerary and will be at the park around the time their plane lands,” said Steinhour. “It’ll take us about two hours to unload the truck and fill the lockers,” he explains. “If we also have to wash and dry dirty uniforms and under garments, it could take a little longer.” The laundry room contains two large washers and five dryers, three large and two small.
For 7:05 night games, he’ll get to the clubhouse around 11:30 a.m. each day and be there until approximately two hours after the game has ended. For a 1:35 p.m. Sunday game, he arrives around 7:30 .a.m. Teams usually leave town about an hour after the last out of the final game of a series which means Steinhour and his crew always have a lot of packing to do. They actually have to begin the packing process as soon as the first pitch is thrown. “Each team has two large hampers, one for uniforms and one for sweatshirts, shorts, t-shirts, socks, jocks and things like that,” he explained. “After the game, the dirty stuff gets tossed in the hampers. Those hampers will go on a truck and head for Shea Stadium where the Marlins next play.” After the Marlins have departed, the remainder of his Sunday is spent waiting for the Braves equipment truck to arrive from their afternoon game in Cincinnati. More dirty uniforms to launder. Then, time to go home. Two night games and a 1:05 afternoon game ends the homestand. The routine is the same.
While visiting teams always have a bus to take them to Citizens Bank Park from the hotel, many players arrive on their own early, sometimes as early as 1 p.m. for a 7:05 night game. The manager and coaches often are early birds, too. Men need nutrition. “Pre-game, we cook burgers, tacos, grilled chicken and turkey burgers for those who prefer something healthier. There’s also a sandwich bar and different beverages but not beer. For day games, we have a full breakfast. Post-game meals are catered,” Steinhour says. What’s the most popular pre-game food order? “That’s easy, cheese steaks,” he said smiling. “Players have said, ‘I’ve been waiting three weeks for a cheese steak.’”
Players, coaches and managers are human beings which means there are all kinds of personalities with which to deal. Does he have a favorite? Steinhour pauses, “Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. Bobby is probably my favorite. A really great person, sort of like an uncle. He’d talk anything, baseball, family, Illinois football. Torre was a regular guy. When he walked into a room you could feel his presence.”
Once in a while a circumstance will arise that requires quick attention. If a team acquires a new player or brings up a minor leaguer, Steinhour may be called upon to quickly put a name and number on the back of a jersey. He and Coppenbarger use a business about 10 minutes from the ballpark to do the sewing. “Sort of wish I could do the sewing but this way is easier,” Steinhour said.
When Manny Ramirez was with the Dodgers, he forgot to pack his blue spikes one time. “His size was 13. Oftentimes we’ll ask his teammates if they have an extra pair. But nobody had his size. I went online and reached out to sporting goods companies that weren’t too far from the park. I was able to find a pair at Dick’s. I said, ‘Don’t sell them. I’ll send someone right over.’”
His most unusual experience happened during the 2008 World Series against Tampa Bay. Specifically Game 5 which was suspended by rain after five and a-half innings, a World Series first.
“After the game, the Rays were going back to St. Petersburg, either way, Game Six or no game,” Kevin said. “So, we had everything pretty well packed. But now (with the suspended game) we had to unpack. On top of that, they had checked out of their Philadelphia hotel and couldn’t get rooms in the city. They wound up going to the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington. Players were asking, ‘Where can we eat in Wilmington?’ I said I’m sure the hotel has first-class dining.
“The weather was still bad the next day and the game couldn’t be resumed. Several players came to the park to hit in the cages. Pitchers threw in the cages. The game finally resumed the next day. Normally, it takes us four innings to pack and we start when the game starts. Well, this time the game resumed in the sixth inning meaning we to move really quickly. During the season, we generally peek at the TV’s but don’t really focus on the score. But, this is the World Series, a potential clinching game, chance for the Phillies to win the championship. We wanted to watch, but couldn’t. There’s no cheering in a clubhouse so when the game ended, we hustled into the laundry room, closed the door and quickly celebrated. Then, back to a somber clubhouse. We had to hide our emotions. After they Rays left, we popped some champagne.”
(This story, written in 2015, appears in my book, the Fightin’ Phillies published by Triumph Books in April 2016).