Q: You were a bat boy for the St. Paul Saints. Can you tell me more about it?
A: The Saints are part of an independent baseball league in St. Paul, Minnesota. They’re not affiliated with any major-league team; there are like three or four leagues in the U.S. that are independent.
In the mid ’90s the Saints were good and they won a lot. And the Twins were bad and played in the Metrodome. People liked to watch baseball outside and the games sold out for fifteen straight years.
The scene at the stadium was fun and it was a great chance to drink cheap beer with your buddies. It was like a circus mashed with a baseball team.
Q: How was it like a circus?
A: Well one example: The Saints had a nun who would give massages.
Q: Like in the stands?
Q: Who plays in an independent baseball league?
A: There are players who haven’t been able to find a major-league contract and they are trying to get back in the system, or there are players who are playing out their last years. Or they’ve been drafted but they didn’t sign.
Q: What was your role on the team?
A: I was a bat boy. It’s just like it sounds. They drop the bat or their helmet and gloves, and I pick them up.
You run and get foul balls, give the balls to the umpire. The umpire can only hold 3 to 4 balls at a time. Although the Saints had a pig that would bring baseballs out to the umpire.
Q: Excuse me?
A: Yeah, there was this family that would train the pig. The pig wore a satchel with balls in it and he would grow larger over the course of the season.
Q: What else did you do?
A: I would help in the clubhouse… There was a guy who was a designated hitter who played in the Major Leagues for 15 years and was playing one last year, and I would bring him beer between innings… They would have me get coffee or hot dogs for them between innings and get their equipment together for them.
Q: How old were you?
A: It was the summer when I was 15 years old.
Q: It sounds like there were some well-known players on the team. Were you ever star struck?
A: Two times. One was a pitcher — we actually got to know each other pretty well. He would have me send baseballs to girls in the stands to get their phone numbers.
Q: How did that work?
A: He would put a message or his phone number on the baseball and then he’d have me throw it to a girl who was up in the stands. And a few times it worked!
Q: And what was the second time?
A: Bill Murray is a part owner of the team, and he’d come into town probably once a year.
I was getting ready before the game and he came up to me and said, “Hey what’s your name?” And I told him and he said, “In the third inning, I’m doing your job.”
Q: So he put on the bat boy uniform and did your job? Did people recognize him?
A: Everybody knew who it was. He yukked it up for the audience.
Q: That’s cool.
A: Yeah. I got a couple of autographed baseballs from him — one for me and one for my aunt.
I think Minnesotans are pretty cool about famous people — like Bill Murray would be in the stands and people would just say, “Hey,” and pretty much leave him alone, not bother him for pictures or autographs.
It’s like how, when Prince was around, I’d hear people say, “I saw Prince riding a bicycle.”
Q: Wait, what?
A: Yeah, he used to ride around on a bicycle, wearing a purple jumpsuit. There are pictures of it! You can look it up online!
Q: I will do that. Did the players chew a lot of gum and sunflower seeds?
A: Yeah, I’d have to take a huge push broom and clean up the dugout. There were Dubble Bubble and David’s Sunflower Seeds everywhere.
The chewing tobacco was the worst. There were wads on the dugout floor and on the bench. So I never had a desire to chew after that.
Q: Who manages the uniforms? I’ve always wondered…
A: That’s the equipment manager.
I never went on the road with the team but some stadiums weren’t as lucky as ours. Like there would be one washer and dryer for 25 uniforms and the equipment manager would be stuck there till 3 in the morning doing laundry. In the the minor leagues if you don’t get the uniform super dirty it might just get put back up in your locker.
Q: And not get laundered?
Q: Nice. Did people play jokes on one another?
A: The front office would find a kid, like 11 to 13 years old, and he’d be the honorary bat boy for the day. The players would put gum on the edge of a Styrofoam cup, and then they would pat the kid’s helmet so the cup would stick to it.
They would play a game to see how many cups they could stick on the helmet.
Q: Aww. I’m sure he’d find out at some point?
A: Yeah, eventually they’d tell the kid and he would be blushing and they’d give him the ball and it would all be OK. In baseball there’s kind of a hazing culture…
Q: This sounds like an unforgettable experience.
A: Yeah. It was a job I couldn’t believe I got. Darryl Strawberry was on the team the year before I got there, and I would think, “I got a paycheck from the same team as Darryl Strawberry.”