Tuesday, January 25, 2011
COLLEGE to PRO: Team-Issued Gear
In college, you have it made. You are given everything you could ever need while playing or preparing for the game of baseball- you could literally show up on day one of practice without a single possession and you'd be perfectly fine. Your school dresses you, puts a glove on your hand, places a bat on your shoulder, and slips a fresh pair of cleats on your feet- and just in case, there's an extra pair sitting in your locker. Back in school I was all about the free gear, so naturally when I made the jump to pro-ball I assumed there'd be even more handouts. To say I was let down is an understatement.
On my first day in Rookie Ball, I walked into the clubhouse equipment room expecting the full treatment. In my mind I saw maple bats, a table filled with different glove models, and a tailor running toward me with a measuring tape, eager to form-fit my uniform. I mean, this was professional baseball!
What I got was an entirely different experience, however. I walked in thinking I was hot stuff, and I left realizing I was nothing but a name checked off a list for having received his pro-ball gift basket.
What I had come to know in college as a thorough process of careful perusing and selecting was now a whirlwind of flying clothing and quick-draw 'yes or no' questions. I stood still, a target for the clubbies as they ran around, throwing socks, jerseys, shorts, and hats in my direction. It was all hands off- no options or choices, aside from uniform number and bat model.
"Alright, you should have everything now."
I was in a daze. I walked out of the room not knowing what had just happened. My arms were open and holding on tight to things I wasn't even aware had been given to me. Two bats were clenched between my elbow and my hip. On my head sat my new hat, covered up by my new helmet, which served as a resting place for my new glove. Careful not to drop anything or unflex any body parts that were holding something in place, I waddled over to my newly assigned stall to sort out the essentials of my new life.
I spread everything out and checked out the makings of my pro-ball variety pack: sanitary socks, stirrups. three Jerseys, two pairs of pants, T-shirt, pair of shorts, jacket, belt, game hat, helmet, two bats, and a cheap-looking glove.
Not bad. But it was no college spread.
The first day of practice every fall in school was like Christmas had come early. Divided by class, we would march into the equipment room, all of us giddy with anticipation for this year's crop of goodies. The variety would change from season to season, but it usually looked something like this:
Two pairs of socks, four t-shirts of different designs and colors, couple pairs of shorts, personalized sweatpants and sweatshirts, fleece pullover, jacket, three game hats, helmet, two bats of the model of your choice, practice pants, belt, batting gloves, tight-fit long sleeve, under armour cold gear, two pairs of custom cleats, sneakers, a pair of turf shoes, and, although we didn't get them at the time, we knew once games started up, one of our five uniform sets would be waiting in our locker.
We then spoke with the Wilson representative who was present and picked out a glove model of our liking. And come February we'd march right back into that equipment room and get a little tune up, settling all equipments needs before games started. Ahh, that was the life.
As I recount the long list of free gear we were given, I can't help but feel a little spoiled- we were given everything. And as much as I longed for the college setup on my first day of pro-ball, I miss it even more every year when Spring Training approaches and I go over the list of pre-season baseball-related purchases I have to make. Not once in college did I ever think about how much all of that gear would have cost me in the real world. Now I know. Who knew batting gloves and cleats were so expensive. And gloves! Those prices are ridiculous.
But the uniforms I got that first day in Rookie Ball were professional baseball uniforms, and I looked at them in awe. This is what I'd wear to work. I was playing baseball for a living- I was competing for a chance to some day play Major League Baseball.
In college, I was living on Easy Street. Minor league life would be harder- it had to be. In addition to talent and potential, organizations want to see who's tough, who's determined. It's not glamorous. If a life in the Minors was easy then what would be so special about making the Big Leagues?
I was closer than I had ever been to my ultimate goal, and I wasn't going to let a decrease in team-issued wardrobe let me forget that. I won't make lots of money, I'll miss my family and friends, and I'll go through my share of slumps- but as Emile Hirsch wisely put it in The Girl Next Door, "The juice will be worth the squeeze."