Tuesday, January 18, 2011
MiLB LIFE: Being the New Guy
Being the new guy is never easy. Whether you were traded, signed late, got moved up or bumped down, the process is all the same. From my experience, it usually takes around one week for a new player to become fully acclimated and feel like part of the team- but boy that is one long, lonely week.
The minute you walk into the clubhouse you're under the microscope. Your new teammates size you up as whispers about what position you play and which round you were selected in swirl around the room. You are a threat to several players in that clubhouse- you are now their competition for daily at-bats and future opportunities. Not to mention you are totally wrecking the flow of a clubhouse full of players that have spent the bulk of a season together- everyone knows each other's quirks and habits, they're well aware of their pet peeves, and they all have their own routines that ultimately contribute to the overall team routine. 'Hey man, that's Johnny's seat.' - 'Franky hates when people touch his glove' - 'Hey hold up, Sandy always hits first in our group.' As the new guy, you know none of this. You will inevitably mess something up on day one and step on a few toes along the way- all part of the process.
The team trainer is your new best friend. He welcomes you, gets you squared away with a locker and uniform, and gives you the full tour. But once the pleasantries are over, you're on your own. There will be a few guys who come up to you on their own and introduce themselves, and instantly you think these are the greatest guys in the world. I try to be one of these guys- a simple handshake and an exchange of names goes a long way for a kid feeling out of place.
There are other guys, however, who will make no effort. Days go by before any contact is made, and then you reach that point where way too much time has passed- introducing yourself is out of the question. All you can hope for now is that a conversation sparks that associates the two of you in an organic way. No introduction will ever occur but you both know who the other one is- you share a moment of communication, both acting as if you've spoken before, and then boom- you're teammates.
The most awkward part of being the new guy is finding a place to live in your new city. In some cases, the roommates of the player you have replaced will approach you and give you the rundown on their living situation, asking you to simply fill the void- a great situation for both parties. The alternative is to ask a group of guys you've never met before if you can live with them- probably the most desperate and pathetic feeling I've ever experienced my first time around. After five minutes of communication, you find yourself mentally forming a list of potentially good guys to live with. After a few weeks, it's always fun to look back on your first impressions of some guys and compare it to how you now look at them- they're almost never the same.
As the new guy, you must put forth a balanced blend of outgoing and reserved qualities. You could be the funniest kid in the world, but if you walk into a foreign clubhouse running your mouth and acting like you belong without proving yourself, most guys will never even take the time to get to know you. Be confident, but not cocky. First impressions are crucial. It sounds ridiculous, but aside from questions I may ask about the daily schedule or team protocol, I speak very little in my first few days, and I consider myself an outgoing guy. I don't sit in a corner by myself, but I acknowledge the fact that people instinctively don't like the new guy, and so I try not to give them any more reason to go with their natural feelings. Over time, I open up naturally as my presence in the clubhouse becomes more familiar and less threatening to others.
There are circumstances that make the entire process a whole lot easier, however. Knowing someone on the team that can vouch for both your baseball ability and your character is always a plus- as well as a major help during the housing search. Also, having a new guy come shortly after you arrive expedites your acclimation process because you already know so much more than the 'newer' guy. Total role reversal. You've been here for two whole days, you're a vet- check out the clueless new guy.
But lastly, the best way to get accepted as the new guy is to play hard and achieve early success. If you have a good work ethic and perform on the field, your acceptance on the team will rapidly increase. After all, we are all baseball guys, and as a whole we respect talent. Maybe it's superficial, but you go 3 for 4 with a walk-off hit in your first game, you're 'one of the guys' a whole lot faster than the kid who starts out slumping. You belong. And if you keep hitting like that, you're gonna be the new guy a lot as you make your way through the system.
It's never easy, but everyone has to be the new guy at some point- introduce yourself.
MiLB LIFE Series
My First Call-Up
A Typical Game Day [Part One]
A Typical Game Day [Part Two]
Being the 'K-Man'
A Taste of the Minor League Off-Season
New Helmets Issued, Players Respond: "Are You Joking?"
The Fines of Kangaroo Court