For a guy who spends as much time on the road as I do, I hate hotels. The rooms are somewhat depressing, so as a result, I spend a ton of time in the lobby. It’s a fun place to people-watch, do a crossword puzzle, drink your coffee or just chat with the guys. Over the years, I have developed a rapport with our players. I feel that they trust me, because what “happens in Vegas…” The bond doesn’t occur overnight. It takes a while to develop. As a young broasdcaster, I adopted the philosophy that this was their world and I was fortunate to have a front row seat. Consequently, I have never taken my position lightly. There have been many times over the years when I could have “broken” stories, but that’s not my job. I ride the same busses, stay in the same hotels and eat at the same restaurants. Whether you are a top prospect, or the 25th man on the roster, it stays in the “vault.” Most people I’ve worked with, understand. Others will never get it. Not my problem, as they drown in paranoia.
I thought it might be fun to spend an hour in the lobby of the Park Inn in Toledo, Ohio. This has been the team hotel for as long as I can remember. Not the best place we stay, but not the worst. Folks who think this is a glamorous job would be interested to find out that there some very mundane moments. Very often, more mundane, than not. So far, catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Mike Rivera have made their way to the restaurant on the other side of the lobby, “Mad Mikes”. I can honestly tell you that in 9 years with the PawSox, I have never taken one bite of their food. Both acknowledged me as they passed by.
A couple of moments later, a gruff, older man approached the front desk. He had gone up to his room and his key didn’t work. He took it out on the front desk clerk. I learned a lesson today. It’s not the front desk clerks’ fault. As he left with his new key, he threatened, “This better work!”
Trainer John Jochim, seemingly always busy, stopped at the front desk and nodded my way as he finished. Pitcher Alex Wilson, a top prospect greeted me with a “Hey Hyder” as he passed by. In baseball, last names, or variations thereof, are the norm. Very few people in the “civilian world” can get away with it. We had a kid that worked in the front office at McCoy, who has since moved on, but he called me Hyder once and I told him that it was acceptable, only if he put “Mr.” in front of it. He got my message. The lobby is pretty quiet, even at 10:00 a.m. Yesterday was a different story. Several wrestlers from the W.W.E. were staying here for a show they did on Tuesday night. It was rather amusing watching these behemoths showing off their new sequins tights to each other.
Over the years, I’ve had some great conversations in this very lobby. I fondly recall the encounters I had with the grandfathers of two of our guys. Chris Carter, an outstanding hitter and super guy, had a grandfather who listened to our broadcasts every night. As I recall, he lived in the Cleveland area. We talked for an hour about baseball, about his grandson and about life in general. He thanked me for being his eyes into Chris’ career. He meant it quite literally. Mr. Carter was blind.
On another occasion, I had the pleasure of talking with Lars Andersons’ grandfather, John. A fascinating man, he is a retired PGA club professional, who worked and lived in Pennsylvania. He told me a great story about being summoned to the golf course one day for a “command performance.” A mutual friend wanted John to join a foursome that included a young man that had just won a fairly big tournament. The man, Arnold Palmer, the tournament, The Masters.
The lobby is still fairly quiet. Lavarnway and Rivera finished the morning meal and when I asked how the breakfast was, Lavarnway lifted up his shirt a few inches and slapped his belly in approval.
Nothing very exciting happens in the lobby, but it’s a comfortable home away from home.