White Pants and Pasta Sauce: A Day In The Life of Greg Larson
By Jay Szech
I’m not sure why I’m so interested in this. I don’t put this much effort into cleaning my own pants, let alone someone else’s. I had always been into sliding into second, third, home, the pizza line, minivan, etc., when I played baseball as a kid, but watching the scrubbing take place in the clubhouse laundry room made me want to call my mother and apologize. I stand there mesmerized and possibly a bit loopy from the scent of oxi-clean and various other cleaning agents circulating throughout the room but I’m shocked back to clarity by what is pulled from the shopping cart next. “What the…” The clubhouse attendant darts into the locker area. “Where’s Pedro?!” A sheepish infielder motions with his eyes towards a corner and then their eyes meet. Pedro broke a rule and he knows it. With barely a word spoken, Pedro erupts from his stool, grabs the pants and begins a vigorous scrubbing in the laundry room. “I’m sorry, Papi!” he yells out the door as the attendant surveys for any other lawless ballplayers eating their post game meal in their uniform.
The baseball clubhouse is different from any other dressing area in the world. It can be energetic, somber, wild, subdued and just abut any other adjective in the thesaurus your grandmother gave you in sixth grade. Within its walls are thirty-three ballplayers, three coaches, one manager, one trainer, a revolving number of rovers (roving coaches working through the system) and one man to look out for all of them. His name is Greg Larson.
Larson is new to Aberdeen, but is no stranger to the game. A native of Elk River, Minnesota, Larsen had his own pro baseball aspirations that like so many others failed to materialize. “I gave it my all and I failed horribly, that was one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life” he says. Fast forward to Larson’s senior year at South Carolina’s Winthrop University. The baseball team was looking for a manager and it just happened to offer a tuition waiver, and Greg just happened to be missing the game. “It’s kind of like moving away from your home town and leaving your best friend behind, and then coming back a few years later and your best friend is still there and you’re still best friends, that’s kind of what it was like for me and baseball”. After spending a year at home in Minnesota after graduation, Larson answered an online job post for the IronBirds attendant position and was quickly on his way to the New York-Penn League.
An average day for the clubhouse attendant or “clubbie” as they are affectionately known by the players begins around nine in the morning, but often earlier especially if a home stand is beginning or ending. Larson’s first stop is usually the grocery store to stock up on supplies for both clubhouses. This is the minors. Meals are prepped by the clubbie and consist of about zero frills. Today’s lunch consists of cold cuts, watermelon and bananas prepared in painstaking fashion in Larsen’s office/kitchen/equipment room. Turkey and ham are laid out with banquet presentation, wrapped with cellophane and placed in an old Coke refrigerator. Greg is responsible for the health of his ballplayers as well as making sure that organizational bottom lines are met. Very little goes to waste and everything must be accounted for much like a household budget. I watch in awe as the rookie clubbie slices a watermelon into sixths and performs a surgical procedure on the melon. “Straight down. Straight down. Straight down. Then you run the knife across and watch the cubes just fall into the bowl.” If he doesn’t have a future in baseball he most certainly has one in catering. Upon returning two hours later I saw the path of destruction left in the wake of the five-o-clock pre- game meal. I figured the spread had been out for about an hour. Larson chuckled and informed that it had hit the table seven minutes earlier. Wandering into the polar bear enclosure at the Maryland Zoo might be less risky than getting near this table.
While Larson spends a good portion of his day lifting dirt stains and slicing up local produce, he’s been known to take advantage of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library on his days off and is an avid reader. It’s not often in the clubhouse you find someone willing to sit down and discuss the finer points of Shakespeare or Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist “It’s all about following your destiny and figuring out what you really should be doing with your life…It’s got a great message” says Larson.
As the cars file out onto I-95 and turn into the soft red glow of taillights fades, the rest of the workday begins. Laundry is placed loops and tossed into industrial strength machines. Food is wrapped and equipment needs are filled for the next game. The clubhouse empties, all except for Larson. He’ll lock up by two, and have the coffee on by nine. I sit in awe as Larson, works over the home whites with his special brush that he keeps hidden from the players. Personally, I would have just thrown those pants out.