- Huston Street
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Editor's Note: Oakland A's rookie Huston Street is writing a regular diary for ESPN.com throughout the 2005 season. The 21-year-old former University of Texas standout was recently named the A's closer and was the first player from the 2004 draft to play in the major leagues.
Every fan has their favorite Major League Baseball stadium. Each stadium has a draw, a certain character and attractiveness that compels a return visit. From the Green Monster at Fenway, Memorial Park at Yankee Stadium, the new-age indoor-outdoor stadiums, to Atlanta's Jumbo-Jumbo-Tron -- every stadium has something special to offer its fans. Players, however, seem to have a different measuring scale when it comes to grading out stadiums. Playing surface, weather, and field design all carry a certain weight, but the coup de grâce is most often times the under dwellings of the stadium. Its clubhouses.
For a 7 p.m. game, most players arrive at the field between 2 and 3. Therefore, most of our time spent isn't on the field, but in the clubhouse, basically our second home. The best homes are ones with sufficient space, a comfortable environment, and a few entertainment items to occupy down time. In the clubhouse players don't necessarily prefer a plethora of space. But if you're bumping elbows trying to put on your pants, or if your locker is virtually inaccessible without saying "excuse me" four times, then a player just like anybody is going to feel cramped and agitated. Nearly all the clubhouses satisfy on this end, and the ones that don't make up for it in the next three categories.
Moving up on the hierarchy of importance, we get to idle time. A clubhouse has got to provide something to do for no longer than two hours. The rest of the time, I'll be focused on game preparation. From my short experience in this game, the best ways a clubhouse provides comfort are a few cushiony couches that face a decent-sized television, and enough table space for all the card players and card games to take place. Basically, that means two couches, a TV, two tables and between 6 to 10 chairs. Throw in a movie and you have satisfied two couchfulls of players for those two hours. With two decks of cards, you'll knock out another eight players playing "Casino" or "Pluck" (two clubhouse card game favorites).
A clever saying states, "the path to a man's heart leads through his stomach." This couldn't be more true in gaining clubhouse favor around the league. It's all about "the spread." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it's the food provided either before (pregame spread) or after (postgame spread) each night's contest. Pregame spreads are based more around providing snacks and little fixings that will tide a player over through the game. Usually, it's some cold cuts, a fridge full of Gatorade, and a mini-griller for those who want a hot plate. Post-game spreads, however, are far more advanced. It's a full dinner for all 25 players, coaches and staff. Providing a quality postgame spread is quite an endeavor and why it ranks so high on the list of importance. A bad game can be forgotten over a good spread, but a bad game is just magnified if the spread is subpar. It's a rarity at the big-league level, and that is because of the final category.
A clubhouse is nothing without the staff that operates it. Everything I mentioned earlier is provided not by the team but by a clubhouse manager and the staff he has appointed. They are the ones who get there before the players do to make sure everything is ready once the players arrive. On top of everything above, they also provide a laundry service for not only game clothing but for other various items you might need washed on a particular road trip or home stand. All players have their favorite clubhouses mostly because of the people who run the system.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg