CLEARWATER, Fla. - A couple of additions to the décor of the Phillies' spring-training clubhouse have been made in recent days.
A 75-inch television has been mounted on one of the walls. It pops with color - superbly rendered in hi-def - and the sound of T-Mac and the boys calling the game upstairs.
Over on the other side of the room, a bright, yellow toy school bus sits atop Aaron Nola's locker. It has been dubbed the Sensitive Bus and you don't want to find yourself riding on it.
It all started last season when assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz showed up one day with a little toy bus. If one of the pitchers got a little sensitive, Kranitz placed the bus in that guy's locker.
Kranitz is the head pitching coach this season and the bus has been upgraded, thanks to assistant athletic trainer Shawn Fcasni, who ordered a new one for $20 on Amazon and had it shipped to the clubhouse. The new bus, adorned with a whining emoji, sits atop Nola's locker because, as de facto leader of the pitching staff, he is in charge of finding some little figurines, possibly ones that look like some of the pitchers on the team, to give the bus some life.
"It's just a little fun thing," Kranitz said.
Kranitz equated it to a Kangaroo Court. Some might scoff at this stuff, but these types of light, off-beat exercises can be valuable in building camaraderie.
"You know, sometimes guys get a little sensitive about things," Kranitz said. "They start jabbing each other a little, getting under each others' skin. It doesn't even have to be about baseball. You have to have tough skin. The boys, they don't ever want the bus in their locker."
So far this spring, Kranitz has not had to put the bus in anyone's locker.
"Nobody's earned it this year and that's great," Kranitz said.
Though it started as a thing between the pitchers, a position player, under special circumstances, can find himself riding the Sensitive Bus.
"If somebody gets on somebody's nerves and there's some sensitivity, I'll just go get it and put it in their locker," Kranitz said with a laugh. "Hey, I might put it in my own locker."