HOUSTON -- There were vacuum cleaners and baseball bats, copy machines and baseballs.
The Astros worked diligently to pack up an 18-wheeler Tuesday morning, cramming it with just about anything you could imagine to sustain nearly 60 baseball players and a couple of dozen staff members for seven weeks together at the team's Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla.
The annual packing of the truck, which is just enough this time of year to get most baseball fans eager for the start of Spring Training, is more than just a photo opportunity. Months of planning go into making sure everything gets on the truck for its 976-mile trek to Osceola County Stadium.
"It's not anything we haven't done before," Houston equipment manager Carl Schneider said.
Schneider and his staff began taping up boxes full of gear when the season ended, and early Tuesday began loading it on an 18-wheeler provided by owner Jim Crane, who made his fortune in the shipping business. The truck is scheduled to arrive in Kissimmee on Thursday.
The equipment staff will fly to Orlando that morning and drive straight to the complex to spend a day emptying the truck. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report camp on Monday and work out for the first time on Tuesday. Position players will come later in the week.
The biggest difference in loading the truck this year is that Schneider's load was somewhat lightened, thanks to the Astros' rebranding efforts. About half of the team's new uniforms, caps, jackets and undershirts were shipped straight to Kissimmee from the manufacturer.
"There's a lot less going from here to there because a lot of the new stuff got shipped straight there," Schneider said. "That's pretty much the only difference with the rebranding."
Of course, Houston is the youngest team in baseball, so gone are the days when veteran players ship their golf clubs and children's toys and bikes.
When the players arrive later this week, their bats, uniforms and whatever else they had shipped to Florida will be waiting neatly in their lockers. Schneider has done the process so many times, he just smiled when asked if he's ever misplaced anything.
"Not yet," he said.
Schneider has worked in the Astros' clubhouse since 1989 in a variety of capacities. He was a batboy and clubhouse attendant for six seasons (1989-94) before being named the assistant equipment manager in 1995. He held that post for another 16 seasons before being promoted to clubhouse and equipment manager after the 2010 season.