VIERA, Fla. -- Walla Walla, Washington. That’s where Washington Nationals pitcher Blake Treinen calls home during the offseason. But for six weeks from mid-February through the end of March, like the rest of the Nats, the town of Viera becomes Treinen’s home.
So on Super Bowl Sunday, Treinen hopped in his pickup truck with his English bulldog Maxx and embarked on a corner-to-corner, cross-country cruise that has to be some kind of record for the longest road trip made by a baseball player headed to spring training -- or not.
In honor of his record(ish)-setting journey, the hard-throwing righty was gracious enough to break down the game tape. Here’s the recap:
Vehicle: 2012 Dodge Ram 2500
Time of departure: Sunday, Feb. 7, 5 a.m. PST
Time of arrival: Friday, Feb. 12, 9:30 p.m. EST
Travelers: Two (Treinen and Maxx)
Number of stops: Six (Pocatello, Idaho; Laramie, Wyoming; Osage City, Kansas; Rogers, Arkansas; Jackson, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia)
Miles driven: 3,200
Hours driven: 46
Maxx effort: "Maxx was in the cab with me, but I kept him in the kennel because I didn’t want his hair everywhere," Treinen said. "Don’t worry -- we stopped every few hours so I could let him run around.”
Dangerous curve: “If you’ve ever driven between Rawlins, Wyoming, and Laramie, they have huge wind farms out there. It’s just open and windy, like 50 mph gusts all the time. Right before we got to Laramie, we came around this corner and all of a sudden there’s this massive snow drift. My truck hits it, the wind hits me at the same time, my tail end slides, and I’m sideways. By the grace of God, nothing happened. But I was like, 'I’m going 40 miles per hour the rest of the way.'
"Once [Maxx] hits the snooze button, that dog doesn’t wake up for anything. You can roll him, you can flick his legs a little bit, bounce him up -- he doesn’t budge. He’s a rock, so I doubt he even knew it was happening. He was locked in on sleep."
Getting scrappy: "[Maxx is] so attached to my wife, Katie, that when we’re on the road, it’s really hard to get him to eat. He drinks a little bit at night. This year was a lot better. Last year, he didn’t really eat for three or four days on the road. Once we get to where we’re going, he feels more comfortable. I think he just gets a little on edge, a little stressed out. But on the road, if I’m eating something and I have some scraps, I’m more than willing to give it to him because he doesn’t really eat much. I’m sure it’s pretty stressful for him. Whatever lightens the load for him.
"He’s not really allowed to do it when he’s just at our house in Washington. But once we get on the road and we’re at other people’s houses, if they throw little scraps here and there, Maxx will start begging. When he’s allowed to get close to you, he’ll start drooling a little bit. He’s good at blowing bubbles out of the corner of his mouth. I swear, he goes from looking like an average bulldog to looking like the best-looking bulldog. He knows how to put on a face to win some food over. He’ll whine a little bit. If anybody knows bulldogs, they don’t bark. They wobble. It’s kind of an interesting noise. It catches you off-guard. If you've never heard [it], you’d probably give him scraps because it sounds so sad."
Submarine pitch: “I was just snacking all day because I didn’t want to stop too much. Lots of chocolate-covered pretzels and protein bars. That’s not anything anybody really wants to have. You’d rather have a good meal. But a lot of the highways have Love’s gas stations that have a Subway attached. So I ate a lot of that, too. I used to get fancy with the chicken sandwiches there, but now I’m just a Subway Club guy.”
Home-field advantage: “I really like driving through the Midwest because you go through Kansas, which is where I grew up. The rolling hills bring back a lot of memories. My folks still live in Osage City, so I spent two nights there. Best meal of the trip was fish that my dad had caught in Oklahoma and grilled up for us.”
Breaking ball: “My uncle lives in Arkansas, so I stopped there real quick. I played catch with the head coach of the high school, then hopped right back in the truck and headed for Tennessee. I threw in Savannah, too, except there I actually stayed overnight. When I got up the next morning, I played catch with [Nats pitching coordinator] Paul Menhart. He just happened to be there.”
Mind games: “I like the open road. It gives me time to think, time to pray. I also listen to music -- mostly country and Christian on Sirius. But if I start hearing the same song too many times, I’ll turn off the satellite radio and switch to my phone.”
No. 1 starter: “When it comes to going to the bathroom, crushing coffee doesn’t help the cause. But I tried to wait until I had to stop for gas.”