Bullpen life a roller coaster for Lookouts' relievers - WSMV Channel 4

Bullpen life a roller coaster for Lookouts' relievers

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Jody Reed played in the big leagues for several seasons and has been around the game all his life, so the Chattanooga manager has a pretty good idea what goes on 180 feet away from his dugout at AT&T Field.

But if he's learned anything in his career, it's that a bullpen is usually better off left to its own devices.

"They are a sub-culture all to themselves," Reed said of relief pitchers. "You have to a different animal to be out there."

That sentiment is apparently one the Lookouts' pen embraces quite literally, considering they are separated from the field by wire bars.

"We kid around in the bullpen and say it's a zoo out here," said reliever Kyle Cofield. "You don't feed the animals through the cage."

Being separated from the rest of your team in a controlled habitat offers its share of freedom. However, the group also makes a few sacrifices.

"There's a lot of gnats out here and a lot of mosquitos. Really any kind of bug you can imagine, they're all out here," said Cofield. "We have candles burning during the game. We have five different sprays we put on during the game."

"Plus, if it says 90 degrees on the TV, it's 110 degrees in there."

Fellow reliever Steve Smith is often one of the first to jump at the opportunity to play catch with an outfielder in between innings. It's a rare escape from the cage.

"It's definitely warm in there," he said. "When you come out here to play catch, that's the only time you can get some air flowing through you. That's when you get to feel a breeze."

They're primary concern over the first few innings is supposed to be the game, charting pitches and tracking opposing hitters.

But then again, not everyone is going to pitch every night, forcing the group to find creative ways to fill the time.

"We toss the ball to see who can get closest to the plate. That entertains us for about an hour until we get bored with that," Cofield said. "We come up with all kinds of weird and random things."

Added Smith: "We take two cups and toss them halfway full of water to try to get them to land on this ledge above the bench. It's anything you can think of to pass the time."

That is, of course, until the bullpen phone rings.

"Your heart starts to pound. Every bullpen guy will say that," Cofield said of hearing the ring. "The adrenaline starts kicking in and you get anxious to see who is going in."

A few warm-up tosses can easily can the arm loose, but flipping the mental switch after several innings off is more difficult. Pitchers often focus on that aspect during their journey to the mound.

"(That walk) is when you can get your mind right," Smith said. "It gets your blood flowing, but it even get that's adrenaline rushing through you to calm down and slow down."

Getting the call and finding success in a precious few moments on the mound is a reliever's primary goal every night he arrives at the park.

However, he knows it also comes with a heavy price: he must trade in his bullpen freedom.

"It's great being in the dugout and being closer to the game and all that when you go in, but  it gets pretty tense in there," Smith said with a smile. "When it gets uptight like that and you're used to it being loose and relaxed, man, I'd much rather be in that bullpen."

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