Biker chic: O's players using two wheels
More and more, cycling to work becoming a common sight
BALTIMORE -- On a balmy summer day, Orioles left fielder Luke Scott burst through the Camden Yards clubhouse door from the garage. Shirtless, with his backpack securely strapped around him, Scott wheeled his black bicycle in front of him, parking his method of transportation out in front of his locker.
Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie -- a fanatical bike rider since he started playing professional baseball -- sports a sticker on his locker that reads "one less car."
In a profession where large contracts, outrageous signing bonuses and generally well-paid salaries usually lead to some very nice cars pulling into the players' lot, the 2008 Orioles are taking a new approach to getting to the ballpark. At last count, six members of the Orioles do not roll up in a Range Rover, a Mercedes or any kind of car at all -- they bike to the ballpark.
Their reasons range from pure convenience to exercise to environmental consciousness and rising gas prices, but regardless of each person's specific motivator, the biking urge has taken to so many Orioles that they can almost fill an entire lineup card solely with those who bike to work.
"All of the above -- A, B, C and D," Scott said when asked what his reasons were for biking. "Driving here in Baltimore is a disaster. With the road construction, the traffic, it takes 15 to 30 minutes to get here sometimes, and I live a mile and a half away. On my bike, it takes five to 10 [minutes] at the most, and when I get here, my legs are already loose. Instead of getting on the stationary bike, I don't have to do anything. I like it, I like riding the bike. I like getting outside."
Scott, who is in his first season with the Orioles, joins Guthrie, Aubrey Huff, and pitchers Garrett Olson, Brian Burres and Lance Cormier in the crew who hop on their bicycle daily on their way to Camden Yards. At times, corners of the clubhouse are so overcrowded with bikes that the next addition to the home team's locker room might actually be a bike rack.
Guthrie, who was tabbed as the team's instigator, has been biking to the ballpark since the Indians nabbed him with their first-round Draft pick in 2002. From the Arizona Fall League that year to his time with Double-A Akron, Triple-A Buffalo and Cleveland before joining Baltimore last season, Guthrie has biked to the ballpark in every city that he's lived in as a baseball player.
"I didn't ask anybody to do it, but I think when someone sees it and thinks about it, it makes a lot of sense," Guthrie said. "Why wouldn't you? From the short distances a lot of us live, I think a lot of people probably do it for convenience, because on a busy night after a game, it is actually much faster. It makes sense. ... It's kind of a European thing I got acquainted with. People don't drive there, they walk. Or if they have to go somewhere, they take a bus or they take the train. They don't drive just to drive, whereas in the United States, it seems like everyone just drives for convenience."
|"I didn't ask anybody to do it, but I think when someone sees it and thinks about it, it makes a lot of sense. Why wouldn't you? From the short distances a lot of us live, I think a lot of people probably do it for convenience, because on a busy night after a game, it is actually much faster."|
-- Orioles pitcher|
With a higher awareness across the country and perhaps across the world to "go green," as well as the recent skyrocketing gas prices, the Orioles' cyclists could be at the start of a trend that sees many more people ditching their four-wheeled vehicles in favor of a bike.
"I have an Infiniti QX 56 -- it's a large SUV," said Scott, who drove to the ballpark last season in Houston because he lived 25 miles away. "I get about 14 to 18 miles per gallon, but I've saved hundreds of dollars just from biking. If I didn't make as much money as I do now, playing in the big leagues, and I lived in a city or lived close where I could do my errands on my bike, I would do it on my bike. ... The gas prices are so absurd that for some people, they make enough money just to drive to work."
The Orioles may be the team with the highest volume of bikers, but they aren't alone in the whole of the Major Leagues. Most new stadiums, though, are built so that it's almost necessary to take a freeway to get to them -- making it hard for someone on two wheels. The bikers still exist, though. In Seattle, pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith does it, and Rays manager Joe Maddon is a known biking enthusiast -- even arranging to ride a bike from his hotel to the ballpark when the team is on the road. Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster used to bike to Wrigley Field, but had to stop after his bike was stolen.
It has gotten to a point in the Orioles' clubhouse where it's so common that players are now vulnerable to be teased as much for their brand of bike as they are for anything else.
"My first bike I had was [a Schwinn and] I bought it at Target for like $170," Scott said. "And I come riding in here and Jeremy starts hounding me and the rest of the guys, they're like, 'Man, you're in The Show, you've got to have a Show bike.'"
But regardless of the brand, the benefits of being a biker are almost as numerous as the reasons the Orioles list for their decision to do it.
"I live close enough to bike, and you don't want to mess with the traffic," Huff said. "Every time we get out of here ... the way they block up all the roads, it takes probably 30 minutes to get to my house -- and I live five blocks away."
Players have also listed exercise and the obvious environmental benefits as to what they get out of riding their bikes, but they admit that it is a bit of an unconventional travel method for a professional athlete.
"I don't think people would think there'd be a Major League baseball player on a bicycle," Huff said in regards to whether people recognize him on his bike. "They probably don't even notice."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.