Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Minor league survival kit

June 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Misc

Every year, the Major League Amateur Draft brings me back to June, 1989.  It was the year I was drafted into pro ball.  A couple days later a scout from the organization arrived at my house and officially signed me.  He told me I was going to Sarasota, FL, for a mini-camp with other signees.  The organization would decide from there where we would be sent.  During our conversation, I asked him “What should I bring?”   He was stumped.  I didn’t think it was a tough question but aside from a glove and spikes, he really had no answer.  Having always been someone fairly anal when it comes to organization and structure, his lack of an answer left me a little uneasy. 

Looking back on that first season (Short-season Rookie ball – Appalachian League) followed by four more seasons worth of pro ball, here is my list of must-haves for the player who is about to head off into the world of professional baseball.

(FYI: The list is not in order of priority) 

Two pillows.  Bus rides are horrible but if you want to play pro ball, you cannot avoid them.  Two pillows are a must.  One is for your head and the other is for the arm rest or any other hard object that naturally will stick into your ribs as soon as you get comfortable.  The pillow cases also make a good carry-all bag for iPods, cell phone, snacks, cards, books, and magazines.

A good book.  Or 50.  I graduated high school and college before being drafted so I did my fair share of reading in school.  I also hated every second of it.  I am an avid reader these days and my appetite for pleasure reading started after my first road trip in the Southern League.  It was a 14 hour trip to Memphis.  Trust me.  14 hours to think about your last at-bat is no fun.  After listening to every CD I brought and looking at every box score in the paper ten times, I quickly realized I had better find a bus hobby or I will literally die of boredom.  I wasn’t a card player so I bought a book at a Wal-Mart.  Been hooked ever since.

A sense of humor.  There is such a thing as baseball humor.  If you’ve been on a team, you’ve experienced it.  If you don’t have the “funny bone” in your body, minor league ball will be tough.  The game has a way of driving you insane.  To deal with it, you’d better know how to laugh.

A thick skin.  Did I also mention that much of that humor will eventually be directed at you?  Baseball humor means nobody is off-limits.  The more you fight it and even worse, take it personally, the more of a target you become.  You’d better be able to shrug off insults and/or grow some thicker skin because it’s coming and it’s coming hard.  Trying to get them to stop only makes it worse.  It’s the nature of having 25 guys coexist for an entire season.

Selective hearing.  I’ve been told that in a major league stadium, players mostly just hear noise.  Because of the size of the crowds it’s tough to pick out and hear one person’s comment(s) in the crowd.  Not the case in the minor leagues.  You hear every single comment uttered by people in the stands.  Jokes about your girlfriend, mother, the error you just made, the 0-15 rut you’re currently in, etc.  You hear every single word.  And trust me.  If you acknowledge the person by looking up and appearing angry, look out.  You are in for it the rest of the night and if the person is a season ticket holder, the rest of the series.  Ignore it.   At least pretend to.  Also re-read “sense of humor” above.

A love for the simple things.  My first season in pro ball I roomed with three other guys (and a stray dog we found) in a one bedroom efficiency.  I slept on a box spring.  Not a mattress.  A box spring.  Only after one of our guys in our place got promoted did I get a mattress.  That was half way into the season.  In small-town, minor league America, you’d better appreciate the simple things because that’s all you’re going to have.

Tolerance.  On every team in America there is/are guys from other countries who speak other languages, practice different religions, and come from very different cultures.  There will also be at least one alcoholic, gambler, womanizer, laugher, comedian, idiot, brain, hot head, thief, loud mouth, Bible guy, atheist, musician, and strip club connoisseur.  You’d better be able to get along with most of them because you all get crammed into buses, locker rooms, and hotels together for an entire season.

A love of fast food.  Ask yourself this question.  When the game ends and you’re either on the bus, back at the hotel, or at your apartment at about 10:30-ish, what’s open?  The answer is “nothing.”  If you are in a big league city, you probably could walk or take a cab to about a dozen options for a good meal.  In minor league America, you’re lucky if a fast-food restaurant is open.  If a Denny’s is nearby, you are golden.  If not, you have to get creative.  When on the road, I would often find a sandwich place open during the day, buy an extra sandwich and place it on the cranked up air conditioner to keep it cool until I got back from the game.  Actually, there is one place that is usually open.  The local bar.  More about that later.

A good eye for roommates.  Remember this line above? – There will also be at least one alcoholic, gambler, womanizer, laugher, comedian, idiot, brain, hot head, thief, loud mouth, Bible guy, atheist, musician, and strip club connoisseur.  Which ones will you end up rooming with?  It’s your choice but pick wisely.  As your parents probably said … “one of the biggest decisions you make in life will be who you decide to hang out with.”

An autograph.  You will sign your name about 100,000 times during a season.  You’d better like your signature.  If not, work on one.  Nothing worse than a signature that looks like a 3rd graders that should be written in crayon.

Common sense.  You’ll need it when …

  • You go 0-15 and you want to punch the clubhouse wall.
  • You want to kick said wall.
  • A teammate dares you to do anything at one of the many truck stops you will be visiting.
  • When that group of middle-school girls that attend every home game asks you for a ride home.
  • When that group of middle-school girls that attend every away game asks if you need a ride back to the hotel.
  • When your girlfriend calls you and asks “do you miss me?
  • You and 15 of your teammates walk into any local bar on the road.
  • When that bar closes, one of your teammates says “I know another place that’s open all night!

Pro ball could be the best time of your life or the worse time in your life.  You decide!

Did I miss anything in my list?  Email additions to BaseballByTheYard@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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