By John Bohnenkamp
The loaded bus left the Community Field parking lot at 8 a.m. last Tuesday, taking several members of the Burlington Bees to the airport in Cedar Rapids.
The Bees had played their final game of the Class A Midwest League season on Monday at Kane County, returning home that night.
Corbin Schindler, the Bees’ clubhouse manager, had seen the bus leave plenty of times during the season.
This departure had the sense of finality.
“That’s the moment when it hits you, when you see (team bus driver) Kenton (Cole) driving the bus with all of the guys going to the airport,” Schindler said. “It’s like, ‘OK, it’s over.’ It’s not a six-game road trip, where they’re going to Beloit or Clinton and then coming back. It’s like, ‘They’re gone, it’s over for the year.’”
Schindler’s season isn’t quite over. He and clubhouse assistant Gunnar Fullerton spent all of last week finishing up those end-of-season duties.
The clubhouse had to be cleaned. Uniforms had to be cleaned, with those in need of repair sent off for work. Equipment that belonged to the Los Angeles Angels packed to head to Arizona for instructional league.
“Trying to put the pieces back together after everyone leaves,” Schindler said.
By Friday, the jerseys and uniform pants were hanging in individual lockers. It was hard to tell that, for a 140-game season that included 70 home games, the clubhouse had been home to the Bees players and coaching staff.
“It’s hard walking in the first couple of days of the season, and it’s over,” Schindler said. “It goes from guys jumping up and down and celebrating our 11th walk-off win to now everyone’s home and I’m left here to piece together an empty clubhouse.”
The work for Schindler and Fullerton isn’t like it is during the regular season when, for a 6:30 p.m. game, they would arrive at 10 a.m. and leave at 2 a.m.
“I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll sleep in for an extra hour,’” said Schindler, who would arrive a little later and leave much earlier than on a normal game day.
Schindler has been working in clubhouses since 2015, when he was in spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“I knew then that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Schindler appreciates the clubhouse atmosphere.
“Being a part of the team. I get to be with these guys day in and day out. I get to know them before they get to the big-league level,” Schindler said. “You get to know these guys before what you see on TV.
“When you’re in spring training, there’s so many players around the clubhouse, it’s hard to get to know any of those guys. Then you get here, and there’s 28, 29 guys. You really get to bond with them.”
That’s why it was hard to say goodbye when that bus loaded last Tuesday.
Schindler and Fullerton will finish their work this week.
“I’ve worked hard since March 1. It’s time to back it down a little bit,” Schindler said. “I’ll pack up and head back to Alabama.”
And wait for March to arrive.
“Everybody’s ready for the season to be over, ready for the season to be over, and then it hits,” he said. “And then you’re like, ‘Is baseball season back yet?’”
THE SEASON THAT WAS
A look at the final numbers of the Bees’ 2019 season.
First half: 39-31
Second half: 27-43
One-run games: 28-27
Extra innings: 10-5
Run differential: Minus-43
Overall batting average: .215
Home batting average: .224
Road batting average: .207
Opponents’ batting average: .224
Opponents’ ERA: 3.29
Notes: The Bees played 15 extra-inning games, tied for the most in the Midwest League. The Bees had the most extra-inning wins. … The Bees were 23-13 at home in the first half, 15-20 in the second half.
TEAM BY TEAM
A look at the Bees’ record against the rest of the Midwest League
Great Lakes: 1-2
Bowling Green: 1-2
South Bend: 2-1
Lake County: 1-2
Fort Wayne: 2-1
West Michigan: 2-1
Kane County: 8-11
Quad Cities: 5-10
Cedar Rapids: 4-14
Outfielder Francisco Del Valle finished sixth in doubles with 27. … Outfielder Nonie Williams was fifth in walks with 64. Del Valle tied for sixth with 63. … Del Valle was tied for sixth with 39 extra-base hits. … Pitcher Hector Yan finished second in strikeouts with 148, while Robinson Pina was third with 146.