On Your Marc 8/7: Off the beaten path

T hank you Fort Wayne TinCaps and San Diego Padres. The TinCaps, under the direction of the parent Padres, have traveled a scenic route outside the box. I could not offer heartier congratulations. This all goes back to the stories I’ve heard and written about Woody Hayes taking his Ohio State football teams to road […]

Inspiration is wherever you find it

By Marc Katz

Thank you Fort Wayne TinCaps and San Diego Padres.

The TinCaps, under the direction of the parent Padres, have traveled a scenic route outside the box. I could not offer
heartier congratulations.

This all goes back to the stories I’ve heard and written about Woody Hayes taking his Ohio State football teams to road games and visiting nearby historical sites.

The most famous of those might be when the Buckeyes visited West Branch near Iowa City a day before Ohio State was to play Iowa. West Branch was the boyhood home of former President Herbert Hoover as well as the Hoover Museum and Library.

Hayes didn’t like the way a tour was being conducted by the guide, and said so. The guide wondered if Hayes could do a better job. Hayes said he could.

And did.

Most college teams don’t do stuff like that today, even though I used to wonder why OSU’s football team wouldn’t take advantage of a pre-Boston College game by retracing Paul Revere’s late-night ride or why Wright State didn’t visit Little Rock’s Central High School, where nine African-American students in 1957 tested the landmark 1954 Brown vs. The Board of Education desegregation civil rights legislation.

These are called hands-on educational experiences.

It never occurred to me a professional team might make such a trip, as the TinCaps did when they visited the University of Notre Dame and later, the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory.

The bat factory might seem to be an obvious site of interest to baseball players and many have made the trip on their own, but most Class A teams don’t. The TinCaps were passing in near proximity on the way to a series in Bowling Green, Ky., and stopped for a tour. Some even bought bats.

The Notre Dame stop was more unusual, and planned by the parent Padres in spring training.

“The Padres wanted to set up something for the players to experience during the season to get out of their comfort zone a little bit,” said Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras. “We even showed them the film ‘Rudy’ a couple days before the trip.

“It gave players a chance to get a perspective on what an education can do for you, and if you want something, you can achieve that.”

It also gave the several Latin players on the TinCaps roster a look at big time college football, a new experience for them.

On an off day, the players were loaded into a bus and taken to see a remodeled Notre Dame Stadium, Touchdown Jesus, The Golden Dome, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The team also lunched on campus, met Notre Dame’s baseball coach, and heard a bi-lingual presentation focusing on the role of immigrants and how they helped shape the school.

None of them knew much about Knute Rockne, but I’m told that Norwegian-born coach had an impact at the school.

Contreras said, though, trips like this have to fit into the schedule. He wouldn’t advocate taking his team on a day trip with a game that night, or following a long road trip.

In this case, the TinCaps finished a series at Great Lakes and had an off day prior to a series start in South Bend. The trip to Notre Dame was easy to schedule.

So was the trip to the Louisville Bat Factory. The team just scheduled it around the time it was going to stop for lunch, anyway.

For the Padres, these kinds of educational sideshows do not stop when the season ends. The Padres also have scheduled the use of their stadium for minor league players after the Fall Instructional League. The best of every franchise’s players gather in Arizona after the season for special instruction for about a month. Last season, the Padres then bussed about 70 of them to Petco Park in San Diego for three days of instruction and games on the field they all hope to reach some day.

Those players were able to use major league clubhouses and the major league field.

It would be like the Reds inviting the Dayton Dragons down for a day to at least get a tour of the clubhouse.

While the Padres seem to be in the forefront of these trips, I’m guessing my recommendation to Wright State a few years ago might not be approved.

There’s a farm in Indiana on the way to Valparaiso offering observations of cows giving birth to calves.

I thought, what a keen experience for urban basketball players to have.

I’m still mocked over there about my suggestion. But now we have a minor league baseball team visiting a big-time university football stadium.

Anything’s possible.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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