Detroit – In past seasons, the media had access to the clubhouse. A couple hours before the game, maybe 45 minutes after, we could over the course of a season gain some insight into the club’s interpersonal dynamics, the various cliques that may or may not form, the harmony or disharmony – whichever the case may be, and in some years, it could be both.
Now, in these pandemic days, the clubhouse is the players’ and coaches’ personal bubble, off-limits to the prying eyes of the media, even the team’s own broadcasters and social media team. The only way we get a glimpse of what’s going on in there is if a player lifts the curtain up for us.
Thankfully, Tigers reliever Buck Farmer did just that in a Zoom interview Wednesday afternoon. And the scene he painted was very different from what used to be pre-virus, and also very encouraging.
“It’s a funny thing,” he said. “The clubhouse is great, the atmosphere is great, but it’s kind of weird because we can’t exactly have those celebrations we used to have after a good win. This year it’s kind of been taken off the field.”
In the past, if a rookie makes his debut like Rony Garcia did Tuesday night, and the team won, he’d get a beer shower. Music would be pumping, players would be hanging around a lot longer, eating, having a beer and savoring the win as long as they can.
This year, not only is social distancing being enforced, but cleaning crews are standing by to scrub the place down. So post-game now is shower, post-game therapy and get out. Quicker the better.
The celebration continues via text messaging these days.
“It’s on a group chat,” Farmer said. “We were all on a chat after last night communicating with each other on cell phones, texts. ‘Hey, great team win. Let’s keep it going.’ That goes a long way because we can’t do it in the clubhouse now, texting it is a way we can let each other know we’re still thinking about the win.
“It just gives everyone the reassurance that we’re in this together.”
Farmer is the dean of the Tigers’ bullpen now and they have their own little clubhouse on the field. They can no longer congregate in the bunker during games, so they sit under a canopy in a newly-constructed section of seats behind the bullpen.
“Yeah, our little pavilion we have out there is pretty nice,” Farmer said. “We can all sit up underneath there and talk to each other as a whole bullpen, being able to sit out there and mesh with each other. It’s probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve been a part of.”
When pressed on why the group has come together so quickly, Farmer said he thought it had to do with the core of the group being similar in age and MLB service time.
“When you have guys at opposite ends of the spectrum and nothing in between, I don’t want to say it creates separation, but, we have guys who are pretty much on the same playing field as far as maturity goes,” he said. “We don’t have an eight-year guy and a 30-day guy and no bridge in between.
“We have the gaps filled in with everybody.”
But the cohesion goes beyond the pitching staff.
Farmer said, too, the additions of veteran players like Cameron Maybin, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Austin Romine and Ivan Nova have made a noticeable difference in the clubhouse.
“It’s like a puzzle almost, where the pieces have fallen into place and fit together really well,” he said. “Before there was never any animosity or anything like that, it’s just like, sometimes you felt like you were trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.
“But from the pitching staff to the group as a whole, it’s one of the most comfortable clubhouses I’ve ever been a part of, quite honestly.”
The catalyst for this, Farmer said, has been Maybin.
“Cam Maybin has been a massive part of that, bringing everybody together,” he said. “He’s just a great clubhouse guy, a great teammate, a great person. His energy, his vibe just brings everyone together. It’s tough to explain, but that’s Cam, that’s Maybs, that’s what he does. He’s always one to open up a chat or a group text, ‘Great win, let’s keep it going. Stay healthy.’
“We’re having a good time.”