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The Soft Side of Hardball

CINCINNATI — The 2007 Major League Baseball (MLB) season provided fans with many memorable moments: embattled slugger Barry Bonds becoming the game’s all-time home run king, rookie pitcher Clay Buchholz hurling a no-hitter in just his second major-league start, the Colorado Rockies winning 21 of 22 games en route to facing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, and so on.
And through the grind of spring training, a 162-game regular-season schedule and then the playoffs, clubhouse managers and their staffs labored behind the scenes to clean piles of dirt-stained, sweat-soaked uniforms and towels in time for tomorrow’s game.
It’s a task that Procter & Gamble Professional takes delight in being a part of.VET REMEMBERS TIPPING THE 'CLUBHOUSE KID'
“Life outside of the playing field has changed a lot,” says Carl Erskine, author and retired pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, “but things inside the foul lines have stayed very much the same.”
Erskine threw two no-hitters and won 122 games from 1948 to 1959. He pitched on five World Series teams, including the 1955 champions.
“I’m getting a piece of big-league experience again because I do fantasy camps for the Dodgers,” says Erskine, who’ll turn 81 in December. “All your stuff comes back each day laundered, nice and clean, nice and white, nice and soft. That’s pretty different than the old days. I don’t know how many days we used the same towel, but I’m sure it wasn’t clean every day.”
Today’s baseball players, with salaries averaging around $1 million, live much differently than Erskine and his contemporaries, who often took second jobs during their offseasons.
“You didn’t get [your uniform] washed every day,” Erskine recalls. “You got it dried out maybe. Maybe. I learned real early on, in traveling and having clubhouse kids taking care of your wet stuff, if you’re gonna tip anybody, you might cheat a little in the dining room but you’d better take care of that clubhouse kid. Otherwise, your stuff would never get washed.”
Today’s higher sports revenues create opportunities for increased luxuries in the locker room and a sharper focus on players’ comfort, including providing exceptionally soft towels – a focus that P&G Professional is happy to help with.
MLB franchises need only turn to trusted household products like Tide and Downy in commercial versions for on-premise laundry systems, says Norb Mayrhofer, vice president/North America of P&G Professional.
P&G Professional only recently began reaching out to professional sports teams and promoting the benefits of clean, soft and white towels, Mayrhofer explains.
The company currently works with several MLB teams, as well as teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL), and sports teams in Europe.
“People don’t like giving up little comforts they’re accustomed to at home,” Mayrhofer says. “For the professional athlete, that means soft and luxurious towels that feel and smell like they were laundered at home. When we began serving customers in professional sports, we found a huge volume of laundry and a clear desire for towels that are exceptionally soft and clean.”
Taking care of the large volume of professional baseball’s laundry is a full-time job. Buddy Bates, who has spent the last 39 years as an equipment manager in the major and minor leagues and now works for the St. Louis Cardinals, has become an expert on the topic.
“Basically what I do every day centers around laundry: uniforms, sleeves, socks and towels,” Bates says.
This level of care that Bates and other P&G Professional customers provide gets noticed – giving players the quality they want and deserve.
“We clean about five tons of uniforms, sleeves, socks and towels a week,” Bates says. “But you really never hear players comment on laundry unless it doesn’t come out clean. Since we began doing it right and using products like Tide, we don’t get any complaints.”
Off the field, many would argue professional baseball has changed significantly from Erskine’s era, but these changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
Growing revenues have allowed for an increased focus on many behind-the-scenes aspects of the sport, including laundry. And P&G Professional says it’s poised to help the “Boys of Summer” find the softer side of hardball.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].