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Astros, Orbit get rolling with Truck Day

Team gear on its way from Houston to Florida for Spring Training
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- Players' jerseys, pants, belts, plus Orbit's scooter, are all on their way to Florida. This means only one thing -- the long, national nightmare known as baseball's offseason is almost over, and soon, there will be baseball to be played, and watched.

Truck Day -- or, at least, the attention it draws -- is more symbolic than it is a true news-making event, but for Astros fans, the images of the clubhouse staff loading box after box onto a gigantic 18-wheeler is a welcome sight. The truck will eventually arrive to the Astros' Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., a few days ahead of the players, and soon after -- Feb. 13 specifically -- pitchers and catchers will hit the fields to prepare for the 2019 season.

HOUSTON -- Players' jerseys, pants, belts, plus Orbit's scooter, are all on their way to Florida. This means only one thing -- the long, national nightmare known as baseball's offseason is almost over, and soon, there will be baseball to be played, and watched.

Truck Day -- or, at least, the attention it draws -- is more symbolic than it is a true news-making event, but for Astros fans, the images of the clubhouse staff loading box after box onto a gigantic 18-wheeler is a welcome sight. The truck will eventually arrive to the Astros' Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., a few days ahead of the players, and soon after -- Feb. 13 specifically -- pitchers and catchers will hit the fields to prepare for the 2019 season.

Thanks to Truck Day, players will be properly outfitted in hats, jerseys and pants, and they'll have plenty of gum to chew, sunflower seeds to spit and energy drinks with which to hydrate.

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Truck Day is actually the final stage of a months-long process of getting ready for Spring Training. The Astros' staff begins preparing soon after the prior season ends.

"We start [packing] when the season ends," Astros clubhouse manager Carl Schneider said. "It goes gradually over the winter. You like the down time but as things get put together, you get ready to go."

Some players and support staff drop their personal luggage off at the truck, a convenience that makes the process of flying to Florida easier. The athletic training staff also has a lot of equipment that is shipped to Florida, and the clubhouse staff makes sure that everything, somehow, fits on one truck.

"Everything from head to toe, hats to shoes and everything in between," Schneider said. "We've been preparing for this all offseason."

Orbit didn't bring a checklist with him as he has in the past, but judging from his enthusiasm while he loaded his scooter onto the truck, he remembered to bring his usual items: sunblock, moon pies, yoga mat, his "E.T." DVD, extra-strength extra-terrestrial shampoo, etc.

Rumor has it Orbit will be in Florida for most, if not all, Astros spring home games this year. In an exclusive interview with MLB.com, Orbit indicated through frantic gesturing that he's mostly looking forward to soaking up some Florida rays, and he's most proud that he spent his downtime working on tightening up his abs during a long winter in Houston.

"Best shape of my life," he motioned.

Opening Day is still many weeks away, but the welcome interruption of Spring Training helps break up the offseason boredom for fans and players.

The process starts with Truck Day -- a small event on the baseball calendar, but a symbolic occasion for fans not-so-patiently awaiting the start of another season.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

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