- Created on Sunday, 03 February 2008 03:16
- Written by Scott Paton
In the world of baseball, the cleanup hitter is the slugger who bats fourth in the line-up. Typically the most powerful batters on a team’s roster, players such as Lou Gehrig, Willie Stargell and Albert Belle became legendary for driving in runs—“cleaning the bases” of their teammates who preceded them at bat.
But for Ernie Moore, the term “cleanup hitter” is a whole other ballgame. As the Assistant Equipment Manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, Moore is charged with keeping the team uniforms looking bright, clean and professional, from spring training, right on through to post-season play in the fall. On any given week, Moore and his staff of two full- and three part-timers –working 11 a.m. to midnight—process five tons of laundry consisting not only of uniforms, but workout clothes, socks, underwear and enough towels to outfit a linen supply company.
For sheer volume, says Moore, operations at the Cards’ spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida outstrip the regular season three or four-to-one. “Between the returning players, new tryouts, the coaching staff and the opposing teams, we may be doing laundry for as many as 200 people a day, versus as few as 50 after a road trip.”
But regular season play comes with its own unique set of logistics as well. Just how do you keep the team clean for those away games? “First of all,” says Moore, “players travel with at least one extra uniform. But as a professional courtesy, every organization in Major League Baseball provides laundry services for the visiting team. The exceptions, of course, are the getaway days when we have to bundle all the dirty gear up and head for the airport.” Alert fans may notice that baseball teams tend to wear darker color uniforms while on the road. That’s no accident, reveals Moore. “Yep, the Cards are dressed in gray for the away games. It helps hide a multitude of sins when it comes to road dirt.”
Home for the Cardinals is Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Nestled away in an underground corridor is one of the team’s laundry facilities where you’ll find Moore and his staff tending to their tasks at hand from April ‘til October. Moore’s system is non-automated as they manually operate a pair of Milnor washers. While uniforms hang-dry, two Cissell CHD-75 dryers are employed for towels and other gear.
As one might expect, typical problem stains encountered when providing laundry services for a major league ball team include perspiration, dirt, grass and occasionally blood. While a fan watching a game might be thrilling to the sight of a home plate slide or a diving outfield catch, Ernie Moore and his crew have a different perspective on the action. “Yes, I admit that sometimes we’re thinking about having to getting dirt out of the seat or grass out of the knees of the players’ pants.” When appropriate solutions are required, however, Moore’s methods are simple, yet effective. “I don’t really have any big trade secrets. We simply soak the uniforms for awhile, and our laundry products pretty much consist of Tide With Bleach and Downy fabric softener. That gets the job done.” Moore adds that he and his crew attempt to wash the team uniforms in the coldest water possible. “As the Cardinals’ obviously have a lot of vivid red color in their gear, we try and keep them looking bright.”
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