There's more to the Little League World Series than throwing out a perfect pitch.
With the series just around the corner, I wondered just how much would be left to prepare for the event. It turns out, there's a lot left.
I first met with Terry Harrington, the housekeeping supervisor, who warned me that the only way to survive the job was to be able to laugh about it.
Groundskeeper Ryan Pysher shovels dirt while Sun-Gazette reporter Alyssa Murphy, trying some of the tasks that fill the Little League maintenance staff’s day, pushes a wheelbarrow.
The housekeeping crew starts at 7 a.m. every day while Terry is there at 4 a.m. Those were times that hardly exist to me because with nighttime meetings, I often do not start work until a normal person's lunchtime. By the time I arrived, I found that I missed most of the fun.
When the teams arrive, chaos follows. Terry told me that each housekeeping girl takes care of about 100 boys and men during the world series. In between doing laundry and cleaning bathrooms, the girls act as replacement mothers. The team members often call housekeeping because a sock has gone missing or because the toilet paper isn't facing the right way.
"That's not the way my mom does it."
I helped with laundry, with which I am no expert. Sure, I survived college and I now live far enough from my parents that I have to do it by myself, but I somehow always manage to do something wrong.
Here, I thought, maybe I can finally improve those dismal skills.
Unfortunately, my tasks included taking the dry blankets out of the dryer, drop them in a bin that could hold ten of me seated comfortably, and then put the wet blankets in the dryer.
No problem, I thought.
Even though I stuff all of two weeks' worth of clothes in the washing machine to save some money, I was no match for this laundry. I tried taking a tiny pile, but one blanket would be caught on another, so I would grab that one, too, but that was attached to another. It was a vicious, endless cycle until I finally emerged from the washing machine with a ball of blankets that made me stagger under the weight. I could not see over top of them either, but I somehow managed to stuff them into the free dryer.
I understood why Terry said I would need a sense of humor. As I fought with the laundry, I heard her laughing near me. I knew I looked like Atlas carrying the weight of the world and I started laughing too.
Still, my pace never was good enough. Terry's housekeeping crew cleaned an entire bathroom in 12 minutes. It took me almost that time to move the laundry from spot to spot. Every time I did it, I challenged myself: faster, faster, faster. Unfortunately, that just meant bigger and bigger piles and more staggering.
Then Terry handed me a broom and a mask for my mouth and nose -- just for cleaning up lint. I quickly understood why. I crawled underneath the dryer to whack lint from the sides. My dustpan overflowed with lint. Yuck.
I then left the cleaning fumes behind to travel with the director of facilities, Gary Mitcheltree.
He gave me a baseball bat and led me to a mechanical saw. I had to saw a large chunk of the bat to see if the company tried to hide foam or other materials to make the ball go further.
It reminded me of shop class back in middle school, one of the few times I worked on my own project rather than beg a friend to do something for me. I pushed the bat through the blade, wondering if I could type this column with only nine fingers if I needed to. Luckily, my fingers stayed attached and there was no hidden material inside the bat. The metal was hard enough to cut. I did not want anything else to interfere.
I admit it, I absolutely cheered when Gary led me on to the field.
I have not been on a baseball diamond since my days of softball back in the eighth grade. Let me assure you, the coach tried to keep from the field as much as possible.
I was given a shovel and told to move the grassy dirt from the ground to wheelbarrow. The more grass I gathered in my shovel, the more that fell back on the ground. Then groundskeeper Ryan Pysher would come along and clean up the rest in one neat motion.
Ryan let me push around the wheelbarrow, which actually proved to be more difficult. Wheelbarrows do not like to go around in a circle.
My favorite part had to be the hula-hoe. I had to bend to the floor, like I was playing pool on the ground. The motion was even the same, except I had to use a lot more force to get it to move.
To any of the Little League players, if you see little grass patches on the field, I'm sorry. I really did try my best.
I can't wait to return to the stadium next week to see how everything looks, now that I know a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes.