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Truck Day gives Indians fans a sign of spring

CLEVELAND -- It hardly looked like spring in downtown Cleveland on Friday morning. The combination of bitter cold, a biting wind and piles of snow around Progressive Field made it crystal clear that winter is still very much in full swing at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Beneath the ballpark, it was a different story.

Workers whipped around corners on vehicles, transporting pallet after pallet of packaged equipment for the start of Indians' Spring Training. Two 53-foot trucks were loaded and prepped for the 2,000-mile journey across the heart of the Midwest and to the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Each year, Truck Day arrives with the feel of a local holiday.

"I know it's a big day for Cleveland fans to have a sign of spring coming," said Tony Amato, the Indians' home clubhouse and equipment manager. "With the weather and everything, I think it's great for everyone here."

The two trucks, provided by Andrews Moving and Storage, will began their trek on Friday and are expected to pull into Cleveland's Spring Training headquarters by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, Amato expects that the team's clubhouse in Arizona will be fully equipped and functional for the team's players.

While a handful of Indians players have already arrived to the Goodyear complex, pitchers and catchers are not required to report to Spring Training until Feb. 18. Position players will follow suit on Feb. 22, leading up to the team's first full-squad workout on Feb. 24. The report date fell later on the calendar than in previous years, giving the team's equipment staff a little extra time to prepare for Friday.

Amato said his staff begins the ordering process in October and November, using January and the first week of February to assemble and pack the variety of items heading to Arizona. Loaded onto the trucks this year were more than 30 bikes, 25 sets of golf clubs, 12 pallets of water and one pallet of mustard.

Near the end of the loading process, a worker buzzed down the tunnel on the red scooter that belongs to Indians manager Terry Francona.

"I know we had over 50-some skids. It's probably a record," Amato said. "It seems like we were really heavy going down this year for some reason. A lot of personal stuff. Big on bikes. And then all the baseball equipment. I think we're fortunate with our facility in Goodyear that a lot of stuff can be shipped right there for the players' needs. We have someone there year-round."

Along those lines, the Indians ordered 18,000 baseballs, but those are sent directly to the Goodyear facility. Each player also has 18-24 bats, so the team ordered roughly 600 in total. Many of those were sent to Cleveland, where the clubhouse staff spent time labeling them for the individual players before packing them for the trip.

One pallet off to the side had "Kluber" written in black ink on one of the boxes. Pitcher Corey Kluber, who took home the American League Cy Young Award last season, had a highchair among the many items on his skid. Many of the team's players and front-office members send items for their families on the trucks each year.

Amato said the strangest item he has shipped to date was a large safe for a member of one of the team's past coaching staffs.

"[That] was a little bizarre," Amato said. "There's not anything unique that stands out this year."

Andrews Moving, which had its original location beyond the right-field wall of the Indians' League Park decades ago, did make one change this year: one of its trucks included Indians art on the trailer. When the trucks roll into Tigers, White Sox and Royals territory during the trip to Arizona, people will know that Cleveland is coming through.

"It's big. It gets the brand out there," Amato said. "It's great for both Andrews and the Indians."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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