Follow us:

Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

September 10, 2007 at 11:29 AM

Jetlag blues

Hi everyone. I’m working on a new post for this morning, now that I’m caffeinated enough to have gotten the cobwebs out of my brain. Always tough flying cross-country after a game. One of you asked me awhile back if I travel on my own and the answer is yes, I do. The era of media traveling with the team sort of went out with the Dodo bird. Relying on a team to get you to their games (something the Mariners graciously offered to do this season when MLB scheduled those ridiculous Cleveland make-ups throughout an already difficult schedule) isn’t the best way to foster an independent press. No, having a team fly you to one game (at a cost, mind you) won’t make you their “Pocket Lint” for years to come. But it’s the principle of the thing. Start accepting too many freebies, too many favors, and over time a sense of being on “the same team” can start to develop.
Anyway, big digression there. We’re not trying to be enemies, either, but the bottom line is there are times when providing proper media coverage and going along with the team’s view of what that is will clash. So, we all make our own arrangements.
For games other than West Coast affairs, we all fly out a day in advance. It very often involves making a connecting flight, so the hours get eaten up rather quickly. To be in Cleveland early enough to have dinner (at 8 p.m.) and not waste an entire day on an airplane, I had to wake up at 6 a.m. (after covering the Angels game the night before and arriving home at 12:30 a.m.), catch an 8:30 flight to Minneapolis and then an ensuing flight that got me in to Cleveland by 6:40 p.m.
Any of you who travel regularly know that the entire air system, no matter the airline, is on the verge of collapse this summer. If not financially, then, at least in terms of reliability. Airlines nowadays figure that arriving 20 minutes late isn’t even worthy of an announcement over the plane’s PA system. It’s gotten so bad that if I’m within a half-hour of my scheduled landing time, I’m thrilled. And that’s after the airlines already factor in a huge chunk of delay times into their expected “arrival times.” So, even if a flight only lasts an hour, you’ll often see a one-hour, 45-minute gap between the departure times and arrival times as noted on your ticket. It wasn’t always that way. Nowadays, that extra 45 minutes is added on because of all the runway congestion, air traffic backlogs and daily mess-ups that tend to plague the industry.
So, when a plane is “only” 20 minutes late for a two-hour flight, chances are you’ve been sitting in that plane for 3 1/2 hours if you factor in the boarding time before takeoff.
In other words, I have to take this “unreliability” factor into account when I’m planning a trip. There is no way I ever schedule a connection time of less than an hour to change planes. The current system is not dependable enough to allow me to do that.
Yesterday’s schedule, interestingly enough, was about as smooth as it’s gone all year. My flight was scheduled to take off at 7:32 p.m. from Detroit and actually pulled away from the gate at roughly that time. The plane lost auxilliary power for a bit, delaying our departure roughly 10 minutes, but we pulled up at our gate in Seattle about 15 minutes after the scheduled arrivial time. No announcements or anything. I suppose this was as good as it gets for the modern air traveler and to be honest, I was thrilled.
To make that flight involved having most of my Mariners newspaper “notebook” done during the game, writing about 50 percent of my game story while the 14-7 contest was still going on, and then staying in the clubhouse for the shortest time possible to get what I needed. No lingering around waiting for someone to finish a 20-minute shower. I’d arranged with a cabbie the night before for him to meet me outside the ballpark at 5:30 p.m. Detroit is not a good taxi city and you don’t want to be looking for one on the street when time is of the essence.
So, when it took two hours to play the first four-plus innings yesterday, it became a concern. Fortunately, the final few innings breezed by. I was back upstairs by 5 p.m. from the post-game interview sessions, finalized my pre-written notebook, then spent 20 minutes completing the game story and was in the cab by 5:40 p.m. along with two other reporters who had not made advance arrangements and would have had to wait for one otherwise.
The half-hour ride to the airport gave me just enough time to grab some Burger King, go to the departure gate and update the post-game blog for 15 minutes, using our internet wireless card — slamming my computer shut just as they boarded us. I do get to pre-board with other “elite” passengers, which is a break as we all fly coach and need to find room to put our carry-on and computer bags. Once in a while, we get upgraded to first class, because of our airline status, which is a nice perk. The upgrade usually comes last-minute, right after I’ve downed a three-course breakfast in the airport, which means I have to force down a second one. But that’s my choice.
When you travel as often as we do, it’s best to stick with one airline or alliance of affiliated airlines. That way, you build up loyalty points and receive perks that make your day easier. This will include quicker “elite” security lines that are extremely helpful at some poorly run airports. This can often save you a half-hour in the waiting process. Crucial when you’re sprinting out of a ballpark to make your flight. I have spent this entire season traveling with a carry-on bag only. Made sure to invest in a top-quality bag for maximum space and the least amount of weight. It was a pricey investment but well worth it. When you connect as often as we do, the odds of losing a bag, or having it delayed in getting to your arrival is just too great nowadays. On a three-day trip, I can’t afford to have my bag get there 36 hours later. Too much work to be done.
Likewise, when racing to get to an airport after a ballgame, I can’t afford to add another half-hour time for bag check-in. Even though I always print my boarding pass in advance and have access to the first-class check-in line, some airlines assign fewer personnel to those lines so the waits are just as long. Can’t afford to do that any more. There is too much work required of me in this job to be spending time standing in lines when I don’t have to.
So, there you have it. As I said, last night was as good as it gets. I was actually standing outside waiting for my lift home at SeaTac last night and saw Jose Vidro wave to me as he got into his own car. Seems our schedule last night was just as bang-bang as the team’s charter flight home. I thought about it and it made sense. That type of quick scheduling is very difficult to do, since the team is out of the stadium 60 minutes after final pitch, on its plane within 90 minutes and out of Dodge about two hours after tha game ends.
So, I hope that gives some of you an idea of what the travel life of a baseball writer can be like. Woke up at 10 a.m. today, jetlagged as always, but am getting ready to make a regular post. Hope this tides you over until then.
By the way, if you want a real issue, other than my travel schedule, to sink your teeth into, how about this one? Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus, Jay Gibbons? Where will the trail end? Are these guys guilty of anything yet? No, they aren’t. But their reputations, and the game’s, are about to take a huge hit.



No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►