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Snow bids Royals' equipment truck messy adieu

Annual trip to Spring Training complex begins with chilly send-off

KANSAS CITY -- Not 11 inches of snow, not an 11-degree temperature, not a stuck tractor-trailer could stop the Royals' dedicated gang of workers from sending the team's equipment rolling toward Spring Training on Wednesday.

A relentless overnight snowstorm did delay the loading of the truck for about four hours, but a crew of about 25 clubhouse, maintenance and grounds employees got the job done at Kauffman Stadium.

A further delay until Thursday morning would have meant toiling in temperatures that were expected to dip below zero, and no one relished that option.

Before the loading could begin, the moving van that arrived from St. Louis and was parked in the stadium lot overnight had to be extricated from its snowy bed. That took two hours.

Equipment guru Chuck Hawke was overseeing the operation, getting the gang prepared with a lunch that included several boxes of pizza.

Then, with clubhouse stalwarts Pat Gorman, Tom Walsh and Jake Van Oeveren directing the flow, the gang began hauling out boxes labeled "blue hoodies" and "rosin bags" and "Salvy's stuff" and all the rest.

"This is the day-to-day stuff -- socks, hoodies, shorts, equipment bags, helmets," Hawke said.

Bats were being shipped directly to the complex at Surprise, Ariz., by various companies around the country. However, there were 50 cases of baseballs for Cactus League games, all personally hand-rubbed with a special secret mud by Walsh during the winter.

"It takes about an hour a case," Walsh said.

Also loaded up were large blue trunks of an ancient vintage labeled "Kansas City Royals" that Gorman guessed have probably been around since the team's first season in 1969.

There was a bicycle bearing the No. 11 -- obviously the spring riding choice of pitcher Jeremy Guthrie -- and a set of golf clubs belonging to broadcaster Denny Matthews. Already in the Halls of Fame at Cooperstown and Kansas City, Matthews is apparently prepping for the Golf Hall of Fame.

There's also equipment from the weight room, the training room and the front office as well as pitching machines.

In addition to the Spring Training equipment, the Royals also had to pack cold-weather gear because they'll go directly from Arizona to Milwaukee for two exhibition games and then open the season on March 31 in Detroit. It probably won't be balmy.

After a three-hour loading job, the truck took off for Surprise. Although the camp doesn't officially begin until pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, many early birds are already on hand and will continue to arrive over the next several days. So there's no time to waste in transit.

"Snow has hit us a couple of times in Flagstaff (Ariz.)," Hawke said, "and we want to make sure we have no problems."

Not when championship hopes are running so high.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for

Kansas City Royals