Former St. Louis Cardinal bat boy visits Macoupin
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Attending a Major League Baseball game can be a memorable experience. However, there is one particular seat that many have classified as the “dream chair”. Kevin Corbin occupied this spot for six years.
On Monday, the former St. Louis Cardinals’ bat boy stopped by the Macoupin County Historical Society to talk about his career with the club and reflect on memories he made with the team. Corbin also brought along multiple pieces of merchandise for his visit, including his helmet, a magazine, autographed baseballs, a picture with Mark McGwire, an old piece of turf, used baseballs and a cracked bat.
Corbin was hired by the organization out of high school in 1995 – a year after a Major League Baseball strike-shortened season.
As soon as he arrived at the ballpark, Corbin quickly found out that he was going to have a very busy schedule. A normal work day was 11 hours on average, with four different bat boys in action.
“We did about nine carts of laundry per day. I had to wash the players’ workout clothes, batting practice uniforms and everything they wore with their in-game uniforms. This meant socks, underwear, running shirts, T-shirts, you name it,” said Corbin. “After we did the laundry, it was time to stock fanmail. These would come in gigantic bags and each player had their own slot. So, our job was to sort everything accordingly. It was hard work, especially if I had to do this for a more famous player like Ozzie Smith or Mark McGwire. Once that was done, the team would usually arrive. That was the signal that it was time to get everyone’s equipment ready to go – baseball bats, wristbands, helmets, gloves – and placed in the dugout. I then had to watch batting practice just in case something got mixed up, broken, or even stolen. With all the traffic of people running around down there, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of everything. We also had to make up two 10-gallon coolers – one of Powerade and one with water – and bring those to the dugout. A five-gallon one went to the bullpen. We had to use lemon-lime flavor so the jerseys wouldn’t stain from a spill. And, of course, we had to provide a supply of seeds. In Major League Baseball, there’s not just sunflower seeds. There’s pumpkin, ranch flavor, jalapeno flavor and a lot more. Tubs of gum were also a must-have.”
During a game, Corbin was responsible for tending to baseballs and bats. Although he classified this as the ‘easy part’ of his work day, he was still on his toes.
“We had to go through about 144 balls over the course of a regular game. An average Major League baseball lasts about three pitches. Once it hits the ground, it’s scratched and we can’t use it because it gives the pitcher an advantage. He can dig his nails into it and get a little more rotation on the ball. If the ball is hit by a bat – particularly a black one – it leaves a mark. Now, the advantage goes to the batter because he can identify and see what kind of spin the pitch has on it. So, we would store and use those baseballs for batting practice the following day.”
Corbin’s postgame tasks included a second set of laundry and hand polishing footwear. Then, he got to enjoy advanced catering with the players as a reward for his efforts that day.
Corbin also traveled with the team, so he got to attend spring training games as well.
Corbin has made friends with multiple Cardinal legends, including Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Bob Gibson, Jack Buck, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. He also met other famous icons outside of the Cardinals’ organization – Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Bob Knight, Hank Aaron, Bill Murray and Shaquille O’Neal.
One of Corbin’s fondest memories came on September 8, 1998 – the night in which McGwire became the new single-season home run record holder at Busch Stadium II.
“That day was ridiculous,” reflected Corbin. “When I got to the ballpark, there were 26 different news crews covering this game – including one from Japan. As the night went on, you could feel the build-up. The whole world was stopped. On every pitch, flash bulbs from cameras were popping like crazy. Then, when he hits that ball down the line for his shortest home run of the year, it was instant pandemonium. With that being said though, I had some pressure on my shoulders because I had to go retrieve his bat without it getting lost. MLB had to take it to Cooperstown to be placed into the Hall of Fame. When Mac crossed home plate, the whole melee took place with the players swarming and high fiving him. While this was happening, I dropped the bat for a brief moment as I was coming back to the dugout. There’s television footage of me crawling around trying to find it. So, when you watch this game on ESPN Classic and see a blur of a person running with the bat, that’s me.”
Additionally, Corbin treasures special miniature deeds and tasks that he was assigned. He earned $25 for running car keys over to a player’s wife that was new to the St. Louis area. Another player, Shawon Dunston, tipped Corbin $25 to watch his kid during a game. As a result, Shawon Jr. had a shining moment with Corbin as his babysitter.
“I had one job. I had to go get Dunston’s bat after he gets a hit, but I let little Shawon Jr. go grab the lumber instead,” said Corbin. He couldn’t even carry the bat because it was so heavy to the point of him having to drag it. So, he decides to do a belly flop at home plate and he gets a standing ovation.”
Corbin also earned the nickname ‘Urkel’ while the team was watching ‘Family Matters’ in the clubhouse.
Throughout his tenure, Corbin gained lots of respect from players. He was provided with $5,000 cash to pay for an eye surgery and his mother was offered $500 to cook requested meals.
Corbin left the Cardinals in 2000, but he attempted to stay in baseball to work in business management. Although he aced his interview with Cardinals’ general manager John Mozeliak, a hiring freeze stripped Corbin of his opportunity.
Today, Corbin works as a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Springfield. Though he has moved on to a new chapter in life, he remains in touch with the St. Louis baseball community.