The MLB All-Star Game is commonly referred to as three or four of the busiest days in a baseball season, so when Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte and closer Mark Melancon were named to the National League All-Star team, there was a lot of work to be done.
Work that doesn’t actually even happen on the field.
When Marte and Melancon were named to the All-Star team, clubhouse manager Scott “Bones” Bonnett and traveling secretary Greg Johnson had to immediately go to work, making the necessary phone calls and travel arrangements to ensure that both players have the best experience possible in San Diego, CA at the All-Star Game.
“I like to say people love the invention but don’t love the inventor,” Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “They’re the guys who honestly make things happen for us. They get us where we need to go and do things for us that need to be done as far as traveling and so forth. Those guys do a whole lot for us, and I am forever grateful for their job and everything they do.”
Bonnett is in his eighth season as home clubhouse manager after spending the previous nine years as the assistant equipment manager.
It’s his job to ensure that Melancon and Marte have their jerseys and equipment and that Majestic Athletic, the supplier of all the MLB’s uniforms, has the proper All-Star jerseys made and sent to the Pirates’ two representatives.
Of the two, Melancon was the easier case for Bonnett because he knew a week prior to the All-Star Game that the closer had made the team. So, Bonnett was able to get the necessary gear and equipment bags prepared way ahead of time. Marte, on the other hand, wasn’t so easy — he was named to the team Saturday as an injury replacement.
“Marte is a bit more tricky, but I called up Majestic when I found out, and they already had stuff ready for him because he had the chance of getting in with the Final Vote,” Bonnett said. “They already have it, but the question was if it would be delivered Monday or Tuesday. I’ll send his regular road uniform with him, and if they have to make it there on site, they’ll have it. The (batting practice) tops are made on site and so are the hats and all that.”
As difficult and stressful as that may seem, Bonnett said it was an even harder process five years ago.
“We were making the jerseys ourselves, and then they added these stars,” Bonnett said. “Last year, I believe, was the first year they added the signature to the tail part, so that’s why they now do it on site, to help us out. Sometimes it’s on a weekend, but sometimes, Sunday, someone could be going to the All-Star Game before they’re leaving. That just puts people in a bind, so it’s more of a heat press thing now. It’s not bad now, it used to be worse.”
Pirates reliever Jared Hughes estimated Johnson works from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m the next day. Exaggeration or not, it’s clear Johnson works around the clock to make sure the whole team is well taken care of.
“Greg is very connected when it comes to finding flights,” Hughes said. “He has a phone number for everything, I feel like, and he’s always willing to help. What he does for this team, there really is no way to measure it. It’s extremely important, and we’re all very thankful for him.”
While the vast majority of Major League players are taking a break from baseball for a few days, Bonnett and Johnson — and others in their same positions — are only putting in more hours. In Johnson’s case, he’s also planning the team’s road trip to Washington D.C., which begins when the team reunites and flies out Thursday afternoon.
Chicago Cubs traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani and home clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann have to make the same preparations for not two, not three but seven All-Stars.
While Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward isn’t one of those seven, he was named to the NL All-Star team in 2010, his rookie season, and has a good of what’s going on behind the scenes at this time of the year.
“I feel like it’s a difficult job all year, starting in Spring Training,” he said in PNC’s visitors clubhouse. “To add that All-Star Break to it is another animal in itself. It’s a lot for them all year. During the All-Star break, everybody is going somewhere at the same time, so it’s a lot of organizing, a lot of planning, and it’s one of those overtime hours, even though you always feel like you’re working overtime.”
Heyward made one thing very clear when providing a job description of sorts for clubhouse personnel: They don’t get noticed by fans, but they’re absolutely crucial for players to have a good experience.
See also: Pirates’ midseason report card
“I don’t feel like that position does it for any fan — they do it to help us, our coaches and our families out,” Heyward said. “They’re not looking to get recognition from fans. They’re not looking to do it for any likes or any retweets or anything like that, they do it because they like helping people. It’s not underappreciated by the players, and we make sure to show our appreciation.”
McCutchen said something similar about Bonnett and Johnson.
“It is challenging for them because it’s extra things they have to do when everyone else is taking a break,” McCutchen said. “They are not taking a break, they have to get extra things done on top of the season. That’s why they’re always around the clubhouse trying to figure out what’s next. They make it seem like they’re only talking to you, but, realistically, they’re talking to everyone else. They’re so personable and do a lot for everyone.”
Image credit: @Pirates