Thursday, January 13, 2011

MiLB LIFE: My First Call-Up

This guy and I have the same exact physique, it's uncanny.

They say you never forget your first time. It was around 9:00 AM on August 9th. The phone rang next to my bed in the dungy Innkeeper Lodge and I immediately wished death upon the unknown caller. Our bus had rolled into the motel's parking lot a mere six hours earlier- a lengthy drive away from the setting of the previous night's game. I had no intention of opening my eyes for another couple hours. Actually getting out of bed? Maybe another hour or so after that. But 9 o'clock? Who the hell was looking to grab breakfast at 9 o'clock?

I almost didn't answer but then realized it was the only option that would put an end to the shrill ringing. I blindly reached for the phone and put it to my ear. Through the morning grog, I was able to voice an annoyed "Hello?"

"Hey, it's Skip. Listen, come down to my room..."

Suddenly I was awake and instantly aware that this phrase usually led to one of two things. He took what seemed like an hour to start the rest of his sentence.

"...You're getting moved up. They've had a couple outfielders go down with injuries and you're the guy they want. We're still working out how you're gonna get there so get your stuff together and head down here in about 15 minutes. Room 116. Hey, congratulations- just keep doing what you're doing." He hung up.

What just happened? I didn't really know what to feel. I was excited to be the guy they wanted. This call confirmed that at least one of the higher-ups in the organization was aware of my existence, which from time to time you tend to doubt in the Minors. I was on their radar, I couldn't believe it. I heard bed sheets move and Kenny, my best friend and road roommate, roll over: "Who was that?" he asked, still asleep. "That was Skip." Suddenly he was awake too. "You movin' up?" I was moving up.

As I quickly showered, I grew more excited as I began to fully grasp what was happening, but I couldn't help feeling a little nervous, as well- not for baseball reasons, I had no doubt I could play at the next level, but for comfort reasons. I had spent the last two months with my Rookie Ball team- this was my draft class, these were my friends. But, as we're reminded all too often in this game, these teammates were also my competition for every opportunity along the way.

I packed up my bag and went around to a few rooms to inform my closest friends of the move and say goodbye. These interactions always have a weird dynamic- they're sad to see you go and maybe a little jealous of your progression, but ultimately, your close friends are happy for you.

I headed down to the manager's room for a thank you, a best of luck, and a goodbye. He led me to our trainer's room to grab my laundry loop, and then out to the parking lot to gather my baseball gear which had been stowed underneath the bus. It was then that I was informed of the mode of transportation that would serve as my chariot into A-Ball: taxi-cab.

A cab? Yep, a cab. Not just any cab- a minivan with no AC or radio. Let the sweaty, uncomfortable small talk with the strange cabby begin- and then continue for two hours. Who cares, right? This was a great day- I was on my way to A-Ball! Well actually, the cabby forgot his GPS at his house so there was a slight 20-minute detour to retrieve it, but after that, then I was on my way to A-Ball!

I was in the backseat of the cab when I looked at my bag and realized that I only had enough clothes for what was supposed to be a 3-day road trip. Two collared shirts, a pair of shorts, three pairs of boxers, two pairs of socks, and a T-shirt? Yep, that should last me the next month. And what about the bats and gloves that filled my stall in the clubhouse? Or all of the belongings at my apartment? I had left everything behind.

But my lack of inventory was not worrying me at the moment. I spent the rest of the ride texting friends back home and calling family members to update them on my current transition. Their excitement only fueled my own excitement, and before I knew it we were pulling into the parking lot at my new stadium. The jump in facilities between levels was astronomical, and judging by the drive in, even my new town was a promotion from my previous spot. I caught myself singing The Jeffersons theme song under my breath.

I hopped out of the cab, gathered my bags, and handed the driver the cash-loaded envelope my former manager had given me. This was it. I had experienced my first call-up, and, as a friend had reminded me earlier via text message: four more and I was in the Bigs!

(For Those Concerned: Luckily, Kenny was called up 5 days later and was able to load all of my belongings into his car and bring them along with him. The nickname 'Stinky' subsided shortly after.)

MiLB LIFE Series
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
Kangaroo Court

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