GARY | The 11-game homestand that the RailCats opened Thursday is the longest in their franchise history.
Home for 11 games is not the norm in independent baseball, nor the three-series stand. In the Frontier League, a team has to give permission before a home or away stretch of more than six games.
"You can't ask for a better 11-game home stand if you're going to do it," manager Greg Tagert said. "I think if you're gone more than six or seven days, you're gone too long and you miss two weekends."
Behind a series sweep at the hands of Sioux Falls, the RailCats are 7-8 at U.S. Steel Yard this season.
In the Tagert era, the team has only been sub-.500 at home one season: 2010.
"Frankly, we haven't played that well at home," Tagert said. "I think one of the tough things we've learned here is that there's so much ... travel with 11-hour bus trips. The travel is something in this league and you spend so much energy in some of these places, then you get back home and I'm not quite so sure how we'll respond. Will we be relieved or re-energized or not too relaxed to go out and play your best, or be exhausted from the trip."
In the RailCats history, this is the eighth.
The benefits of the three-series homestand are many. The players can sleep in beds their used to, not have to travel every day by bus and their routine is standard while they're at U.S. Steel Yard.
The negatives, however, can be found.
The front office didn't volunteer for this outing and it's as brutal to that schedule as it is for the players.
"I think it's more exhausting for the players," RailCats general manager Kevin Spudic said. "We're glad to have that many games at home, but it's more of a fatigue thing. These are long days for the staff, too. We work from nine in the morning to midnight for a 10- or 11-day stretch, it's hard on everyone."
While the team is home, the coaches plan to work out a few undrafted college seniors. The team is holding 11 pitchers and 11 position players, not typical for a Tagert team. The RailCats have picked up two relief pitchers in the last week -- Billy Spottiswood and Boomer Potts -- but are in need of a utility infielder.
"We knew going into (Tuesday's) doubleheader that we're a little short on position players," Tagert said. "We're still trying to find a guy to play an infield-outfield role for us, but eventually we're going to have to balance the two needs, the extra pitching that we needed and we can not wear these (batters) out. We're in a tough stretch in terms of number of games consecutively, but it gets tougher in July."