An Associated Press story published July 30, 2006, reproduced here by permission of the author.
SAN FRANCISCO—Shawn Green brings his own soap on every road trip. Mike Cameron never forgets his lavender linen spray and orange-scented spray for the room. Ichiro Suzuki depends on an electric massager that takes up nearly half his suitcase.
And then there’s Detroit closer Todd Jones, who wears only one pair of underwear when the Tigers leave town.
“I don’t pack any underwear,” he said. “I wear it into the park, it gets washed every day and I wear it out of the park. I guess that’s weird. I’m not proud of it, but I’m cutting down on space.”
Players around the big leagues have all kinds of quirks when it comes to how they fill their luggage for the long periods away from home during a 162-game season. Some trips push two weeks and cover three or four cities, so careful planning is paramount.
San Francisco shortstop Omar Vizquel often begins picking out clothes from his colorful wardrobe a couple of days before the Giants leave town, making sure he chooses the right fabrics for the weather, then matching his shoes and socks and even some funky belts.
Many players have learned the hard way by not packing the right clothes for the climate. For example, they quickly find out that long sleeves often are necessary when coming to San Francisco in the summer.
Green, Arizona’s right fielder, has brought his own soap and dish on the road for several years.
“These guys are filthy. I don’t want to share soap with them,” he said. “I don’t like germs. I’ve got germ issues.”
From special pillows and tea to the latest best seller, video games and DVD players, to the basics such as dental floss and contact lenses—all of these items make it onto charter planes when teams hit the road.
“I don’t pack my pillow or teddy bear like some players do,” Vizquel said, standing over his suitcase recently. “My closet is organized by colors,” he said, staring at hundreds of hip options, all carefully hanging in their place. “I pick out the pants first.”
He goes with an orange pair he hasn’t worn for a while, then finally comes up with just the shirt to match.
While Vizquel and others are conscious of their wardrobes, others pack light when it comes to clothing because they like to shop in different cities during their spare time. Cameron, San Diego’s center fielder, always buys his underwear in San Francisco.
“Golf clubs, every time,” Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe said. “Other than that, I just kind of wing it. For an eight-day road trip, I grab the first eight shirts I see. I end up in Arizona with sweaters. Thank God there’s a mall in every city.”
For Cameron, it’s all about experiencing familiar comforts. “I want my room to smell like home,” he said.
Oakland outfielder Nick Swisher has a sentimental item in his bag. He packs an autographed baseball—a memento from his days with Triple-A Sacramento—signed by seven young cancer patients. When Swisher visited a cancer ward, he asked the children to sign the ball for him.
“I remind myself that as bad as I think it is, it can’t be that bad,” Swisher said. “Sometimes you forget what you have in life and you need that reality check.”
A’s pitcher Barry Zito, known for his eccentric style, brings along a foam roller for massaging his hips, as well as candles and bath salts to help soothe sore muscles the day after a start. Then, there’s his Tempur-Pedic pillow and a photo of him and his girlfriend in a special frame.
San Francisco’s Todd Greene purchased camouflage jock straps for his teammates during spring training, and says he wears his every day.
“I bought 20 of them. I like fatigues,” Greene said with a grin. “I also take a fan everywhere I go for the noise. It helps me sleep. I don’t like going to sleep in silence. And I bring a pillow.”
The Giants’ medical staff packs a half-dozen trunks full of everything the team might need—from weights and wine corks used for applying eye black, super glue, shoelaces and Velcro to sunscreen, safety pins, and the cooking spray Moises Alou uses to clean mud off his cleats between innings.
“We can open our own nail salon,” said strength and conditioning coach Ben Potenziano.
The Giants’ Mark Sweeney has seen some strange stuff over the years. His friend, Robert Fick of the Nationals, brings his own blanket.
“He refuses to sleep on their blankets,” Sweeney said. “I’m not quirky.”
Suzuki has a special pillow from his native Japan made from buckwheat, and his self-massage machine. He has been bringing along his own pillow for 15 years, since his early days as a pro back home.
“My pillow is very important,” he said through an interpreter. “Depending on the person, the size of the pillow is different for health reasons. In Japan, they checked my size.”
He also relies on a five-knob hand-held massager to rub down the bottoms of his feet before and after games—a longtime ritual for Seattle’s star leadoff hitter.
Suzuki’s other must-haves: hand cream, lip balm and eye drops.
For 20 years, Giants manager Felipe Alou has packed green tea for the road. Some days, the 71-year-old Alou drinks up to five cups of green tea, which he sweetens with honey or brown sugar.
“Never cream,” he said. “I love tea more than wine. Wine you can only have after the game.”
When Alou played for the Giants almost five decades ago, most players carried a small bag for a one-city trip to Los Angeles—yet he always brought a bigger one to pick up gifts for family and friends back home in the Dominican Republic. Once, somebody had a little fun and gave him a surprise.
“They packed me the L.A. phone book,” Alou said. “I knew the suitcase was kind of heavy. When I opened it, the phone book was inside. I know it wasn’t my roomie, Jose Pagan. He wouldn’t do that to me.”