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Astros pack truck full of gear for trek to Florida

HOUSTON -- While the Boston Red Sox loaded a truck full of gear before throngs of fans wanting to catch a glimpse of anything involving the defending World Series champions last week, the annual truck day at Minute Maid Park was lower key.

An 18-wheeler belonging to owner Jim Crane's shipping company was tucked away inside a dark parking garage Monday morning and out of the rain -- and public sight -- while Astros employees packed all kinds of equipment for Spring Training.

From baseball gear to front-office possessions, the Astros are preparing to move their operation to Kissimmee, Fla., for six weeks. Pitchers and catchers are set to officially report on Saturday, but many players and staff will trickle into the club's facility at Osceola County Stadium throughout the week.

"We are kind of excited to get going," Astros equipment manager Carl Schneider said. "The winter's slower than the season, and it's kind of good to get back at it."

Schneider and his staff began taping up boxes full of gear when the season ended, and packed it all on the truck on Monday for the 976-mile journey to the Orlando area. Schneider will fly to Central Florida on Wednesday and unpack the truck with his crew.

In addition to baseball equipment, there are whirlpools, exercise bikes, video equipment, food and water and, as always, a few sets of golf clubs that get stowed away. Everything will be in place when the team begins working out this weekend.

The Astros ship a lot of things directly to Kissimmee, such as new batting-practice jerseys and baseballs. The equipment will be used until the team breaks camp on March 27, prior to which Schneider and his staff will load it all back up again for the return trip to Houston.

"We pack here and then pack there in another six weeks, but you get used to it," Schneider said. "Being away from home for six weeks is probably the worst part."

Schneider has worked in the Astros' clubhouse since 1989 in a variety of capacities. He was a batboy and clubhouse attendant for six seasons (1989-94) before being named the assistant equipment manager in '95. He held that post for another 16 seasons before being promoted to clubhouse and equipment manager after the 2010 season.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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