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"The following year, when the bucket was passed, the money was supposed to go to the team as a whole, to buy something for the clubhouse," wrote Bilancini. "It didn't seem like they received anything from the collected money, so many people stopped contributing, and eventually the buckets stopped circulating."
That doesn't stop the Crushers' most loyal fans from giving back though.
Mary Jane Edgar says that the boosters got started because during the first season, the father of one of the players passed away, and the poor kid couldn't come up with the money to buy a plane ticket home for the funeral. A group of host families and fans rallied together to raise what he needed. They've been supplementing the players in whatever ways they can ever since.
"We just want to help out," says Edgar.
That's what it might cost to buy pizza for the team after a game, speculates former VP of Crushers' operations Dan Helm. And he says it's worth every penny.
"That's a cost that some teams may just say, 'It's black and white, let's just cut that number,' instead of, 'What happens if we spend the money on pizza and they're happy because we fed them?'" Helm says in an interview. "Then, the players are happy when they go out into the community. They're happier to sign autographs. They're happier to represent your brand."
Helm says that, compared to other Minor League teams he's worked with — he's now a consultant for new Minor-League teams' front offices — the Crushers treat their players extremely well. Things like facilitating the host families and taking care of the majority of expenses goes a long way. Helm also feels that the players are qualitatively different in independent ball.
"You get two types of guys," Helm says. "Those who are still trying to make it or those who were released from an affiliate and are just trying to hang on to the dream. So they're all a little more humble, because they've probably all been cut, released, or told no at some point, and that makes them want to be there.
"The cool thing is that they kind of cherish each moment a little bit more, which leads to them enjoying playing on the field, enjoying activities off the field a little bit more. You'll see a lot more guys signing autographs, because this could be the last season, or it could be gone quicker than they ever thought it would be."
But it also really could be the doorway to baseball's more recognizable tiers. Helm estimates that 15 to 20 guys from the Frontier League get picked up each year.
"That ends up being about one guy per team," says Helm, "and that's a pretty good number." He says that at least five former Crushers went on to single-A or double-A ball, most of them pitchers. "So there are pretty good shots to be had, if they go out and perform. The dream is alive."
aka, minimum wage. That's what Don Schiffbauer makes every hour guiding people to their seats, showing folks to the restroom and having answers locked and loaded for any Crushers' related question you may have. He says he'd watch the Crushers for free.
"I'd watch them just as good as I'd watch the Cleveland Indians," he says.
He's a retired postal carrier, and he values the three years he's spent at All-Pro Freight stadium. He thinks the people in charge walk the talk.
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