Baseball Journal: Wild Weekend At VCU

The Bulldogs at The Diamond at VCU.

Thursday, March 21
Our team flew from Indy to Richmond, Va. This is the first time in my 22 years at Butler that we've flown to play a conference opponent. During our layover in Atlanta, Bulldog players looked for airport TVs to cheer on the Butler basketball team playing against Bucknell. After checking into our hotel, we rode the bus out to The Diamond (former home of the AAA Atlanta Braves and current home field for both VCU and AA San Francisco Giants) for a short workout. What a beautiful ballpark! The grounds crew was working on the infield, so we played some catch on the outfield grass and our hitters took some swings in a batting cage inside the stadium.  It was a cold, windy night in Richmond!

Friday, March 22
Butler played its first ever Atlantic 10 Conference game against a very good VCU team. In a hard fought game, we won 6-4. With the threat of rain in the Sunday forecast, VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler made the decision to play a doubleheader on Saturday.

Saturday, March 23
With sunshine and temps in the low 50's, it was a good day for baseball at The Diamond. Butler and VCU played two close games with the Bulldogs winning game one 4-3 and sweeping the series with a 7-4 win in game two. Butler senior closer Chase Byerly picked up three saves on the weekend and was later chosen A-10 Pitcher of the Week. Byerly, a former recruited walk-on, is an Academic All-America candidate with a 3.99 GPA. As happy as the Bulldog players are to sweep the series, they were also excited to check out the Butler basketball team's game that night against Marquette University. At halftime, players (many still in uniform) stop by my room to get some meal money and they hustled out to grab a bite to eat before the second half starts. Alas, Marquette pulls out a comeback win in Lexington, Ky.

Sunday, March 24
With no game to play and their flight back to Indy not leaving until nearly 8:00pm, Butler players had some time to kill. The Bulldog coaching staff arranges for the team to lift weights at a nearby Gold's Gym. A light rain turned into sleet as players stopped by Qdoba for lunch on their way back to the hotel. As players packed their bags for the flight home, they could see snow falling outside their hotel windows.

I wanted to find a bowling alley where players can blow off a little steam before their bus ride to the airport and assistant coach Brian Hiscox delivered! The Bulldogs spent a couple of hours at Sunset Lanes. Top bowler was senior Pat Gelwicks with games of 206 and 216!

The Bulldogs checked their bags at the Richmond Airport as light snow falls. When they got to their gate, conditions had worsened and heavy snow is falling. An announcement was made- the 8:00pm flight has been pushed back to 10:40pm. Sensing a possible cancelled flight, I joined a line of passengers at the Delta Airlines counter. Just as I got to the front of the line, the Butler flight to Atlanta was cancelled and word spread that no other flights out would leave Richmond that night. Delta employee Tamela Burroughs came up big for the Bulldogs as she offered some hotel room vouchers. Players and coaches won't have to sleep in the airport! The team headed down to the baggage area to reclaim their bags for the trip to the hotel. A long wait for a hotel shuttle bus forced me to put small groups of players in taxis so that they can settle in for the night.

Monday, March 25
At the team's 6:30 a.m. breakfast, players and coaches learn that Indianapolis has received seven inches of snow in a storm Sunday night.  The team loads up shuttle busses for the trip back to the Richmond airport. Players and coaches re-check their bags. The coaching staff is told by Delta staff that there may be some changes to the team flight plan once they arrive in Atlanta. 

Boy, are there ever some changes! Now in Atlanta, the team of 28 players, four coaches and one athletic trainer learned they will be split up and put on FIVE separate flights to Indianapolis! The earliest flight will leave at 2:30 p.m. and the last flight won't depart until almost 10:00 p.m. Despite the seven inches of snow in Indy, players heard that Butler didn't call off classes for the day.  Many had been stressing on Sunday night that they wouldn't be back in time for class presentations or to turn in papers that were due. When would the luggage arrive in Indy? How would all of the players get back to Butler from the airport? A system of rides was set up, starting with a call to Coach Farley's wife, Lisa, who picked up the first wave of four players and pitching coach Miles Miller. It was 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning when the final shuttle bus pulled into the Hinkle Fieldhouse parking lot to drop off a large group of players, assistant coaches Brian Hiscox and Paul Panik and the majority of the team's luggage.

What an adventure and what a way to start Butler's first and only season in the Atlantic 10 Conference! Effective July 1, 2013, the Bulldogs will be joining the new Big East Conference. As of March 26, the Butler baseball team has not played a home game and has only been on their field for one practice due to snow or frozen ground. The Bulldogs have played road games in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Kentucky and Virginia.