Inside the Visitors’ Clubhouse: Willie Jenks

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Cleveland Indians Visiting Clubhouse Manager Willie Jenks, a graduate of Holy Name High School and Akron University, began working as a bat boy with the visiting clubhouse 16 years ago. In 2007, Jenks was promoted to Head Visiting Clubhouse Manager. Jenks caught up with TribeVibe on Saturday, discussing his typical duties during a series. Be sure to check out Part Two of TribeVibe’s interview with Jenks tomorrow.

Willie Jenks: Most of our series start in the middle of the night. We have to look and see where a team’s coming from, and then figure out how long it might take them to pack up after a game and fly here. The traveling secretaries will give us an itinerary, but that’s usually within an hour, two-hour window, barring any plane problems, customs problems, trucking problems. As soon as that plane lands, an equipment truck will be out at the airport, pull up to the plane and grab all the players’ baseball stuff first and put that in the front of the truck. Then it will grab all the players’ personal stuff, and they’ll go in the back of the truck. The truck will then go to the hotel, drop off their personal bags, so those guys can get a good night’s rest. Then the truck will come to us with all the equipment. We load up our Cushman’s, and they’ll come up here. The first thing we grab is all the wet [laundry]. It takes more time to get that washed and dried than it does to unpack the bags. One person will be scrubbing uniforms, washing and drying the clothes. This is usually about two or three in the morning or nine or ten at night on a Sunday. The rest of the staff is unpacking all the bags, taking all the trunks around. These teams travel really, really, really heavy now. You’ve got six to eight trunks for the equipment manager, the trainer’s got 10 trunks. Each player has their personal bag, and you’ve got the catchers’ bags. You get everything set up so that when these guys walk in the next day, everything’s already done for them. They come in the next day like they’ve been here for a week.

For a 7:05 game, [we] usually start at 9:30 in the morning shopping, get here around 10:30, get coffee on. Coaches and trainers start rolling through the door relatively early, 11:00-11:30. Around noon, the food room guy starts setting up the kitchen and getting ready for the first meal. The first meal we feed these guys can be burgers, turkey burgers, chicken breast sandwiches. We bring Qdoba in every three days, make wraps. We offer these guys a lot of food. We have a full deli case.

Guys come in and get changed. They’ll usually go eat. Some will watch video, some will go down to the cage, some will go outside. Some will play video games. We offer these guys a ton of options as far as video games go. We’ve got an X-Box 360, we’ve got every old-school Nintendo game ever made. A lot of guys grew up in my age range, so we brought the old-school Nintendo in. They come in and have a little bit of nostalgia. These guys spend a lot of time here, so you have to have lots of different things for them to do. Some guys will play cards, some will play cribbage, some will do crosswords. Everyone’s got their own little routine that they always have.

Around 5:10, those guys go out to stretch. When they go out to stretch, we’ll be collecting all the towels, all the dirty clothes from early batting practice. Pretty much every team takes early batting practice now around 2:00. We’ll get all that stuff washed and dried. We’ll clean everything in the clubhouse, sanitize everything down, and then my food guy will get things ready for the post-batting practice meal. These guys will come in, change out of their batting practice clothes, and go right into that food room. That’s always smoothies, ready-made salads, wraps, hot sandwiches, and when it’s cold, we’ll do soups. It kind of depends on the weather. It’s usually something light. After they eat, they’ll put on a new set of clothes for the game, they’ll go out there, and it’s more of the same for us.

Once we get to about the fifth inning, [clothes] are usually washed, dried, and we’ve got everything ready to go for after the game and the post-game meal. If any of my staff has any running around to do for these guys, they’ll take care of that then. Whether it’s Mom’s birthday and someone needs flowers, or whether it’s little Tommy’s birthday and he wants his little G.I. Joe, at that point we send someone out to get those guys what they need. My staff will make phone calls to get those guys anything they need. When you’re on the road so much, there are things that they ask for, and anything that falls into our realm of things that we can do, we try to provide for them.

Once the game’s over, guys will come in, and it’s more of the same. Washing and drying, cleaning clothes. Guys will stick around for usually an hour, hour and a half after the game. Then after that, it’s usually another two or three hours for us cleaning. Then we’re out of here. That usually ends somewhere between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning, depending on what’s going on.

-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor

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