By Jessica Kleinschmidt
February 22, 2019
MESA, Ariz. — Packing for travel can be a daunting task.
Imagine doing that for an entire baseball team, and then having to do that overseas.
Longtime A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich has turned what most would shy away from into something he could probably do in his sleep.
And with the team opening up the season in Tokyo against the Seattle Mariners next month, in order for the garb, bats, helmets, jock straps, and everything else they may need, it’s a bit more detailed of a process. But, it’s nothing he can’t handle.
For starters, Vucinich checks things once, then nine more times after that.
“You can’t overnight something [in Japan],” Vucinich told NBC Sports Bay Area. “If we were in Baltimore, for instance, we could probably get something in two to three days.”
But beyond that, Vucinich said it’s not as complicated as it may sound, or how I initially thought it would be.
“Since we’re leaving spring training and we’re not coming back here, they don’t have to pack as much stuff as they do for a regular road trip,” he said. “No. 1, we’re in a controlled environment with the dome, so we don’t need all this extra layered stuff.”
That makes things easier — kind of.
“Opening Day in Japan makes things, I don’t want to say ‘complex,’ but you just have to watch everything and as we’re leaving, I’m going to have one of my guys check off every bag.”
“First, we’re going to do security here and the dogs will sniff everything — after that, it’ll be put on to the truck.”
Will he have to pack a few extra things? Of course.
“Maybe a few extra helmets … a guy like Chapman, somehow his helmet breaks more than anyone else’s,” he smiled.
An A’s staff member told me on Friday Vucinich has been around since day one. And since then, equipment needs have changed. Maybe not the jockstraps so much, but the style of clothing and the number of bats they take along with them certainly have.View image on Twitter
“When I first started, you would have two bags of bats — maybe four dozen,” he explained. “Nowadays, every position player has his own bat bag that can hold up to a dozen bats.”
That doesn’t mean they do, necessarily, but it’s nice to know they have that option.
“Since birch and maple wood has been approved, those don’t break as much.”
Vucinich said the A’s travel with fewer bats than they did ten years ago, but “definitely more than we did 30 years ago.”
Progress. I like it.
And when Vucinich arrives in Japan, he’s the first to set foot. That’s when the fun stuff begins.
“We’ll be the first off the plane and we’ll go through the immigration customs procedure and they’ll take us downstairs and we’ll wait for customs to clear all of the equipment.”
He’s not completely solo on this mission though — not that he couldn’t handle it on his own. MLB provides him with the funds to have an extra pair of hands to join him as they follow the equipment truck in a car to the Tokyo Dome.
“They will have a staff there to unpack and hopefully have a good interpreter,” Vucinich said.
Despite it being a bit more laid-back in the states, there are still the same TSA requirements, and I doubt TSA PreCheck can be implemented in this scenario.
Talking to him for a just a few minutes, you can tell Vucinich been doing this for a while, it’s quite extraordinary.
“There are more details that go into it in Tokyo,” he said.
Details he has down to a science.
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