HOUSTON -- With chilly temperatures and a steady rain falling at Minute Maid Park on Monday morning, the 18-wheeler carrying everything imaginable that the Astros will need during their six-week stay in Spring Training was proof that warmer and sunnier days are ahead.
In a telltale sign that baseball season is near, about a dozen Astros employees boxed up everything from waffle irons and golf clubs to dozens of boxes of baseballs and bubblegum in preparation for the 976-mile trek to the team's facility at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla.
"It's not anything we haven't done before," said Astros equipment manager Carl Schneider, who's been preparing for this day for months.
Schneider and his staff began taping up boxes full of gear when the season ended, and early Monday began loading it on an 18-wheeler provided by owner Jim Crane, who knows a thing or two about moving large amounts of equipment. Crane made his fortune in the shipping business.
"We were able to work out a good deal on the truck," Schneider joked.
The truck left the ballpark on Monday and will arrive in central Florida on Wednesday, just ahead of Schneider, who will fly to Orlando later that day and go straight from the airport to the facility to begin unpacking everything in preparation for the players' arrival.
Astros pitchers and catchers will work out for the first time on Monday, and the full squad will hit the field less than a week later.
"No matter what you do, it doesn't take you as long to unload," Schneider said.
In years past, Astros players have put non-baseball items -- such as kids' toys -- on the truck, but with the Astros being a young team and most of the players not yet having families, it was mostly baseball stuff on this year's truck, save for a few sets of golf clubs.
Among the items shipped on the truck are 30 pounds of rosin, 150 helmets, 200 Astros jerseys, 200 belts, 288 pairs of black socks, 300 Astros caps, 600 pounds of laundry detergent, 1,000 pairs of baseball pants and 6,192 baseballs. There were even a few exercise bikes and hot tubs.
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 and his staff have yet to misplace anything, and they don't plan to start now.
"When it comes to this day and you're loading everything, you just want to make sure you don't forget anything," 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.