Rookie level Cardinals' driver flies the coop

Rookie level Cardinals' driver flies the coop Live

The Johnson City Cardinals know how to let one get away.

That's not a jape at the Rookie ball club's bullpen ERA, which entered last weekend at a 4.63 clip.

But it has been a rough week or so.

The Cardinals have lost nine of their past twelve games, and in an only-in-the-minors turn of events, one bus driver along the way.

After the team's 8-3 loss at Greeneville (Houston Astros) on July 11 - their fifth in a row at the time and third straight in the series - frustration began hitting critical levels. Although the team never anticipated losing had such an obscure reach.

The Cardinals were left stranded in the parking lot some 50 minutes away from Johnson City when their buss driver, upset with how long the team took to board after the game, quit and simply walked away with the keys..

"He lost his cool," Johnson City hitting coach Chris Swauger said. "He took the keys and walked off down the hill. It was actually pretty funny."

"Our manager (Johnny Rodriguez) has been in the game for 40 years, I was in the minors for six years," Swauger said. "Nobody had seen anything like it.

The befuddled Cardinal players began chronicling the events on Twitter, even starting the hashtag #PrayForJC as they stood there, not knowing if help was on the way. 

It came about an hour later, when the company sent a replacement driver. In that time, SOS's were sent across social media, the bullpen bonded like never before, and at least one player realized there is something worse than coming in second. 

The club's post-game stop for food typically lasts a little more than a half hour anyway, so the Cardinals actually ended up getting back to Johnson City at a reasonable time. 

"(The organization and the bus line) did a genuinely great job of resolving the situation," Swauger said. 

But at first, it looked as if the club could be stranded all night. 

Rookie ball is filled with just that - rookies. Many players on the Johnson City roster are in their first year of professional baseball. 

Welcome to the minor leagues.

That, of course, means more than bus rides, dollar menus and tiny towns. Minor league baseball also means promotions wackier than the events that sparked them. 

Earlier this season, Short Season State College played in flamboyant Fresh Prince of Bel-Air-themed uniforms, to honor the sitcom that went off the air 18 years ago.

And of course, Johnson City didn't miss the chance to keep the memory of the bus snafu alive.

After the team's road-warrior plight became news, Johnson City offered free tickets to anyone holding a commercial driver's license needed to legally drive busses.

Bus drivers were let in free to Howard Johnson Field for the rest of the week, the entirety of the three-game series with Pulaski (Seattle Mariners).

"As a result of this incident, the Johnson City Cardinals are looking to be proactive in relieving the stress many bus drivers accumulate over the years," the team penned in tongue-in-cheek fashion on its website. "The Cardinals' hope is that bringing out bus drivers for a great night at the ballpark free of charge will help prevent this sort of problem in the future."


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