Thrifty minor leaguer to live in school bus during season

In this photo taken Jan. 21, 2019, a renovated school bus is viewed in Durham, N.C. The bus was purchased by Jack Labosky, a minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and his girlfriend Madi Hiatt. They plan to live out of the bus during Labosky's first full professional season. (Madi Hiatt via AP)
In this photo taken Nov. 28, 2018, the interior of a school bus being renovated is viewed in Durham, N.C. The bus was purchased by Jack Labosky, a minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and his girlfriend Madi Hiatt. They plan to live out of the bus during Labosky's first full professional season. Labosky used his $3,000 signing bonus to buy the bus, and he and Hiatt renovated it this offseason. (Madi Hiatt via AP)
In this photo taken Feb. 21, 2019, the renovated interior of a school bus is viewed in Durham, N.C. The bus was purchased by Jack Labosky, a minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and his girlfriend Madi Hiatt. They plan to live out of the bus during Labosky's first full professional season. (Madi Hiatt via AP)
In this photo taken with a timer Oct. 30, 2018, Jack Labosky, left, and Madi Hiatt pose after purchasing a school bus in Lynchburg, Va. Labosky is a minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and he and Hiatt, his girlfriend, plan to live out of the bus during his first full professional season. The couple hopes to save money on rent to help offset Labosky’s meager minor league salary. (Madi Hiatt via AP)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Grueling, late-night road trips are a loathed hallmark of minor league baseball, and most ballplayers can't wait to leave bus life behind.

Jack Labosky is traveling in a different lane. A relief pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Labosky used his $3,000 signing bonus to purchase a school bus, and he and girlfriend Madi Hiatt plan to live out of the renovated "skoolie" during the 2019 season. A healthy dose of whimsy went into that decision, to be sure, but it's also a creative way for the couple to stretch Labosky's meager minor league salary.

"It's kind of the one time in my life I feel like I'm able to do something like it," Labosky said.

The Rays selected Labosky, a two-way player at Duke, in the 22nd round of the draft last June. He quickly accepted the signing bonus — trivial compared to the millions earned by most first-round picks, but for Labosky, "$3,000 was hard to come by as a college student, so that was great to me." He played the final 2½ months of the season with Class A Hudson Valley in Wappingers Falls, New York, living with a host family to stretch his $1,100-per-month salary while Hiatt, his high school sweetheart, went home to California.

The stint at Hudson Valley was a test run in minor league life for Labosky, who is hoping to be assigned to Class A Bowling Green in Kentucky for opening day. After a few months apart, he and Hiatt determined that in future seasons, wherever Labosky goes, Hiatt will, too.

The problem: Labosky made only about $5,000 during his first season, including the signing bonus, and is not expecting much of a raise in 2019. With Hiatt focused on getting a master's degree in educational psychology from Purdue University Online, there isn't much room in the budget for rent.

"Around the first offseason is when I realized, 'Hey man, I'm pretty broke,'" Labosky said.

Their first thought was to get an RV. Parking figured to be cheaper than rent, and a mobile home could move with the couple as Labosky hopefully climbed the minor league ladder. But RVs and fifth-wheel trailers cost at least tens of thousands of dollars.

The internet led them to a thriftier option: renovated school buses, or "skoolies."

"It's a little hippie," Labosky said with a laugh. "Personally, I don't consider myself, like my grandma says, the flower children of the '60s, living in buses, stuff like that. I don't really consider myself on that level. I'm doing it more for, I'm 22, turning 23 this summer, I don't really have much responsibility outside of baseball."

"We just decided, 'Why not?'" Hiatt said. "Why not just take a leap?"

They bought a 1999 Blue Bird International for $4,000 from a private Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia. Labosky drove it back to Durham, North Carolina, to begin the renovation process.

"It had crayons and candy wrappers and homework under the seats," Labosky said. "It was kind of crazy driving it home."

Their approach to the makeover mirrored that of HGTV's Joanna and Chip Gaines — Hiatt took charge of design, Labosky handled construction. To save money, they did nearly everything themselves. They ripped out seats , insulated the walls and installed electrical wiring, water pipes, heating, air conditioning, a stovetop and more. They have a full-sized bed, a toilet and a shower. The floors are dark, the walls are tan and the cabinets are white — basic, but an impressive use of 172.5 square feet.

"People say it's modern," Hiatt said of the aesthetic. "There is nothing real special about it, to be honest."

They painted the exterior white because white paint was the cheapest. Aside from a few small details — like the curtains sewn by Hiatt's grandmother — the bus was ready to go by the time Labosky left for spring training in late February. Total cost, including purchase price: around $13,000.

The skoolie is staying behind until Labosky learns where he'll be on opening day. The right-hander had a 2.63 ERA with Hudson Valley last season and seems a good bet for a promotion to Bowling Green, but it's possible Tampa Bay holds him in extended spring training in Port Charlotte. He's hoping for the former, since players don't get paid in extended and trailer parks are cheaper in Kentucky than Florida.

Once Labosky has his assignment, Hiatt's dad will help her move the bus because Hiatt hasn't learned to drive her house yet, and a long road trip isn't the best time for a crash course.

And then the adventure is on. The couple started an Instagram account, The Grand Bus Adventure, to document the journey. Hiatt might follow Labosky and the team bus on the road once or twice during the season, but the plan is for her to stick around Port Charlotte or Bowling Green, find part-time work, study for her master's and keep up with her own athletic training — she's a collegiate runner-turned-marathoner who is preparing to run the Boston Marathon on April 15.

Labosky has gotten some ribbing from past and current teammates about the bus, but mostly they're impressed by the final result.

"Once people see the finished product and they realize, 'Oh, it's a motorhome, it's pretty normal,' they're a lot more positive toward it as opposed to being like, 'Hey, I live in a school bus.' That just sounds crazy," Labosky said.

Crazy, but certainly creative. And easing the anxiety of planning a life around Labosky's pursuit of big league dreams.

"I've learned throughout the process when Jack did get drafted and went to New York that this lifestyle requires no planning," Hiatt said. "Now I'm not that stressed out, because we have a house on wheels. Now, everything I own literally comes with us."

___

Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Must Read

Mississippi town mourns deaths of 3 couples in...

Aug 15, 2016

Three married couples killed in the crash of a small airplane in Alabama all lived in the...

French mayor bans 'anarchical' Pokemon settlement...

Aug 16, 2016

A French mayor has denounced the "anarchical settlement" of "Pokemon Go" characters on the...

Oklahoma man jailed in killing accused of...

Aug 17, 2016

An Oklahoma man suspected of fatally shooting a male neighbor was accused of harassing and shouting...

Body donations on the rise at US medical schools

Aug 17, 2016

Many U.S. medical schools are seeing a surge in the number people leaving their bodies to science

Anti-imperialism schooling now a must for...

Aug 17, 2016

Bolivia's president inaugurates new 'anti-Imperialist' academy for military officers, where...

About Us

Started in 2015, Science Of The World offers in-depth news about the latest scientific discoveries. If you’re looking for a reliable source, Science Of The World is the one for you.

Contact us: sales[at]scienceoftheworld.com

Subscribe Now!