Every day, he wakes up in a hotel room, maybe not completely sure of the city he is in.
But most days, he could almost drive blindfolded to the office, on roads locked into his memory.
Hotel. Road. Office. Oh, and baseball. Lots of baseball.
This is how it's been for 14 seasons of long hours over 144 games, with each day incredibly similar to the next.
Mike Jirschele is something between permanent visitor and part-time Omaha resident as he leads a unique lifestyle.
He is the manager of the Kansas City Royals' Omaha affiliate, which to outsiders may seem exciting — and it often is during the times Jirschele is undertaking the public part of his job on the field, strategizing and coaching during a game.
But that is only a slice of what he does. Follow him for a day and you find that managing a professional baseball team is a series of routines that revolve around the ballpark and his small office inside the clubhouse. It's not that much different from thousands of other business managers around Omaha — except, yes, Jirschele also throws batting practice.
When asked if a reporter could tag along for a day, Jirschele offered a good-natured response:
“I'm pretty boring.”
» When the team is in town and plays a night game — which is typical — he's usually at Werner Park nine hours before the first pitch. He's still there for an hour or more after the final out.
» He eats nearly all of his meals in the team's clubhouse.
» A big night for Jirschele is, when his wife is in town for a day game, to go out for dinner — a chain steakhouse (Outback) and a chain seafood place (Red Lobster) are his preferred picks.
Another season is coming to a close — Jirschele has managed Omaha since 2003 and previously held the same job from 1995 through 1997. The final game of the regular season Monday will be his 2,013th with Omaha.
He leaves his extended-stay hotel about 10 a.m.
Jirschele, 54, isn't too far past his playing weight, but he has been trying to stay in shape and lose a little weight during the season. That's his focus when his day starts.
Once in the clubhouse, he'll get a bite to eat for breakfast, change into workout clothes and then spend time working on an elliptical machine.
He's a former professional athlete — a fifth-round draft choice of the Texas Rangers in 1977, he reached Class AAA by 1982 but never broke through to the major leagues, and essentially finished his career with the Omaha Royals in 1989.
Workout finished, it's getting close to noon, a little more than seven hours before game time.
And Jirschele waits.
Steady and consistent
And this part of the day is where it gets really repetitive — home or away.
He'll carefully fill out his lineup card.
He already started thinking about it when the previous game ended: Is the opponent starting a left-handed or right-handed pitcher? Who is nursing an injury or just needs a day off? Who's hot and can possibly move up in the order? Who's struggling and could use a break in a less pressure-filled spot lower in the order? Will juggling a player's position in the order affect his confidence? Where does the organization want a particular player to bat in the order, regardless of performance?
He'll talk with hitting coach Tommy Gregg and pitching coach Larry Carter, both of whom usually arrive around the same time, rehashing what they'd already talked about after the last game or adding new thoughts on the same subjects.
“Once all the players get here, guys are moving all over, and you don't have the peace and quiet,” Jirschele said. “So you get here early.”
He'll usually field at least a couple of phone calls each day from members of Kansas City's front office. Farm director Scott Sharp. Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo. General Manager Dayton Moore has been calling more frequently this season, Jirschele said, asking for the skipper's insights on Omaha players.
Players begin trickling in to the clubhouse, walking past Jirschele's office. Saying hello, short conversations.
“You get to this point and every day becomes 'Groundhog Day,' ” Gregg said, referring to the movie where the same day repeats itself. “And it's not that it's boring, it's that it's a routine. If you're happy with that, it isn't boring at all.”
Meat, cheese, crackers. Strawberries and pineapples. Those are Jirschele's five food groups. It's what he eats nearly every afternoon.
“I'm pretty boring,” he repeats.
Like his food choices, he is steady and consistent.
Those are the qualities players are expected to demonstrate before making the jump from Class AAA to the major leagues.
Jirschele is there, ready, waiting.
“Most of our managers are like that,” Sharp said. “They like to get to the park early. We don't mandate that, but it's one of those things where they feel like they are the ones running the ship, so they want to be the first one there and they don't want to be rushing around.”
The office TV is on most days. Jirschele might have one eye on a crime show — a TV drama series or real-life documentary. That's his standard entertainment during his cardio workout.
Many days there is extra work on the field to be done and Jirschele, an infielder in his playing days, takes particular interest in that area of instruction. Former first-round pick Christian Colon has been adding second base to his résumé in addition to shortstop, and Johnny Giavotella continues to add versatility to his game. They are two of the team's higher-profile pupils.
It's a focused, 15- to 20-minute workout.
A trip to the Mart
Jirschele upgraded his office furniture this season — replacing Storm Chaser-issued folding chairs with a “pleather” sofa and love seat. It was paid for by player fines. It was Jirschele's first trip to Nebraska Furniture Mart.
“That's a pretty big place,” he said.
Jirschele knows a thing or two about furniture. Back home in Clintonville, Wis., it's his longtime offseason job, touching up furniture that may have been damaged while being delivered to a local dealer.
Batting practice is a nearly everyday experience. Jirschele throws one of the three rounds each session — his dry verbal sparring, sarcastic but good-natured, sometimes part of the show.
Then he'll wait some more. Occasionally, Kansas City will give him a late-afternoon request to maybe hold his starting pitcher or another player, just in case a callup is needed.
Jirschele rarely plays golf. He reads the newspaper some — but not about the Storm Chasers. He doesn't watch local news much.
But he knows his way around town. And, when asked, he knows who the mayor of Omaha is.
“A woman just won it — that I know,” he said in early July. “She beat the incumbent.”
Visits to the zoo? Nearly an annual event, as his two sons and daughter spent time here in the summers while growing up and again now that they are providing grandchildren.
He's spent time in the Old Market, renting bikes and riding them around. He and his wife enjoy walking down by ConAgra. They've walked the pedestrian bridge to Council Bluffs and back.
“That was pretty neat,” he said.
Most days are the same.
“I go out of my room, get in my car, and go to the ballpark,” he said.
If the schedule is right, he'll watch the Royals' pregame show — and if K.C. is on the East Coast he might be able to watch an inning or two — before heading to the field shortly before a 7:05 p.m. Storm Chasers start.
Check the Royals' lineup these days, and usually five or six played for Jirschele in Omaha.
“I've told a lot of guys they're going to the big leagues,” he said.
The game plays out
Jirschele makes strategic moves where he can, but there are players who need to play and not get replaced by a pinch-hitter, pitchers who are scheduled to get innings.
He coaches third base, as minor-league managers typically do. Fans scream at him for putting up the stop sign for runners at third — fans who don't understand these are professional outfielders, not little-leaguers, who can usually throw to home plate with precision and power.
Fans moan as he leaves struggling pitchers in, unaware that Kansas City's orders, or perhaps a thin bullpen, often leave him no choice.
He's been through it before.
In the minor leagues, the game isn't about winning 100 percent of the time. Prospects play to develop. They learn. Sometimes you have to accept losing today to have a chance to win tomorrow anyway. Get a player hurt because you're trying to win a game and you're in trouble with your bosses.
Jirschele has lost more games than he's won in Omaha (he's 993-1,017, through Friday), and has barely topped .500 in his career (1,206-1,133).
It means nothing.
“The Triple A level is such a unique dynamic,” Sharp said. “Obviously you're still developing players, but you have a lot of older, veteran players, guys who have been in the big leagues and are trying to get back. You have a lot of different personalities and mindsets and agendas. And Jirsch does a great job of dealing with all that.”
The game ends.
Work day not over
Jirschele has reports to fill out. Technology has advanced to the point that Kansas City front office personnel can watch games live, or access video. But the on-the-ground observations are important, too.
First, there's a computer report. Then a voicemail report. Maybe a 20-minute process.
“You try to just go over the game, things that were good and things that weren't,” Jirschele said. “You always try to stay positive. Some nights I worry about getting a phone call the next day because I might not have been very positive.
“You try to give them a picture of what happened without them being here. A lot of times the stats don't show what really happened.”
There's one last meal for the day — the postgame spread. A quick conversation with a player or two in the clubhouse. A “See you tomorrow,” hollered to a player on the way out the door.
“He's been doing this for a long time, and he's really good at it,” Gregg said. “He just knows how to handle and communicate the right way with these players. It's neat to see how he can go from the teams we've had the last two years with mostly younger prospects and a few veterans mixed in — staying on them, doing the work, teaching and developing — compared to this year where it's mostly older players, keeping them motivated while trying to teach and yet understanding it's harder to teach older guys who are locked into their ways.
“It can become a selfish environment — and I think he does a great job controlling the environment and keeping guys on the right path.”
Back to the hotel. Tomorrow he'll get up and shower. Lather, rinse, repeat.