Tuesday, January 11, 2011
MiLB LIFE: A Typical Game Day [Part Two]
In case you missed it, check out MiLB LIFE: a Typical Game Day [Part One]
Now that you've had breakfast, watched a movie, taken a nap, phoned home, surfed the web, and grabbed lunch - it's time to go to work.
3:00 PM - Arrive at the Ballpark
Enough sitting around - time to head to the office and earn that sorry excuse for a paycheck. Pack a snack, throw on a collared shirt (team dress code), and hop in the car with your roommates for another trip to the stadium. When you walk into the clubhouse you're greeted by a crop of sweaty early bird pitchers who have already lifted and done their running. You will also see the position players who live with those pitchers who have no other ride to the park and so have been napping on the clubhouse couch for a good hour or so. There are card games, music blasting, TV's catching you up on the previous night of sports - kudos to whoever first dubbed it a 'clubhouse.' That's exactly what it is - a place for guys to be guys. The Little Rascals would be proud.
3:45 PM - Head Out for Warm-Ups
After popping a sufficient amount of Ibuprofen and getting dressed - game pants and BP top (team issued T-shirt) - it's time to head out for 'Orientation.' This word was totally foreign to me when I entered the professional ranks, but it's basically a wrap-up of the previous night's game along with an outline of the day's schedule and maybe even a scouting report if it's the first day of a series.
Unlike every previous sports team I've played on, game recaps are discussed by the manager the next day rather than right after - likely to give the coaching staff time to exchange opinions and also because of the fact that there are so many games - no single game is worth a post-game meltdown. During a losing streak? Maybe. But no one loss, no matter how heart-breaking, will ever be addressed by a manager until the following day.
After orientation comes a long, drawn-out stretch, led by the team's strength coach. Despite knowing how important it is for both a warm up and injury prevention, the whole stretching process is one of the worst parts of my day. Perhaps I become bored too easily, but stretching for 15-minutes is nothing more than a necessary evil in my book - total snooze fest.
Next comes the throwing program. My enjoyment of this activity relates directly to the soreness of my left elbow. Having experienced pain in my arm since Little League, the range for how my arms feels goes from 'Pretty Good' to 'Oh my God, cut it off please.' We throw for about 10 minutes, starting at 30 feet, making our way out to 180 feet, and then working our way back in. Once every one is done throwing, the team simultaneously hopes that there's no Infield/Outfield practice that day - a choreographed defensive warmup complete with fly balls, groundballs, and every situational throw one could ever dream of making in a game. Today, no Infield. 'Woo!' The team is pumped, and the manager loves that he holds such power over the team's morale.
Next comes batting practice which is awesome - if you're one of the five guys in the group that's hitting at the moment, that is. Pitchers have to shag balls in the outfield or do the bucket, and all position players who aren't hitting are either fielding balls at their position or doing base-running drills, which battle stretching on a daily basis for the title of Worst part of my day. "Ohhh, you take a lead off of 2nd and if the outfielder catches it, you tag up? Are you sure? Because I've been playing baseball for 20 years now and I've always just started running toward 3rd once the batter makes contact with no regard for where it ends up. Sometimes I just run right over the mound toward home. You mean that's wrong?"
Once in the cage, your group's on the clock for 15 minutes - it's up to the pace of your BP pitcher and how quickly the players in your group get in and out of the cage that determines how many rounds and swings you get. I love hitting. The confidence you get after a good round of BP can be parlayed directly into a great night at the plate. These 15 minutes will never get old for me.
5:00 PM - Back to the Clubhouse
After BP it's back to the clubhouse for some more downtime while the opposing team hits on the field. You take off your sweaty gear, check out the spread the clubbie has laid out, grab some food, and relax. How you spend this time is up to you - I usually concoct some type of shake or smoothie and weasel my way into a card game while one of the players is up getting food. A lot of guys use this block of time to catch up on current events via TV or a newspaper, some guys will huddle around a day game on TV, and some throw on their headphones and get taken away by whichever artist on their iPod is serenading them. For me, food, cards, and the latest Men's Health usually does the trick.
6:30 PM - Pre-Game Stretch
Time to throw the uniform on and head back to the field for some more of that good stretchin'. This is usually a quick stretch, followed by some light dynamic running and a couple of 'steal break' sprints. Once again you get your arm loose, or 'game-ready', and then it's up to you to do what you gotta go to be prepared for the first pitch. A few games of 'Pepper' will break out among position players while the pitcher's enjoy their games of Two-Ball and Flips further down the line. The more focused players will take dry-hacks and visualize the night's at-bats or get in some more warm-up sprints. To each his own. I always try to interact with some of the fans down the line at least a little bit every night. Hell, I probably enjoy it more than they do.
7:00 PM - First Pitch
Play Ball! Finally, the time has come to actually play a baseball game. This is obviously the most fun part of the day. The fans are into it and you're playing a game you love for a living.
10:00 PM - Work Out
Depending on the day, a workout will often follow a game for position players. There is a weight room located somewhere near or in the clubhouse where all team lifts occur - these lifts are usually geared more toward maintenance and injury prevention rather than building strength, but after a long day they can still be rather strenuous. I found it odd that we lifted after games, given the fact that we have so much down time during the afternoon, but it is important to the organization that baseball comes first - they don't want you sore or tired before a game.
After the lift, you grab a Protein shake and/or bar and head off to the shower. I joke that the free supplements are the best part of pro ball - but seriously, they are. I was a supplement junkie in college - nothing crazy, just Protein and vitamins and whatnot - but it always amazed me how expensive all that crap was. Now all of this stuff was at my disposal for free. My teammates seem far less impressed by the free snacks than I am, however - I'm taking bars by the handful as I leave every night, knowing full well how much those would cost me in the real world.
11:15 PM - Dinner
Your dinner plans revolve around your workout schedule and the length of that night's game. Two-hour pitching duel and no workout? You're looking at an actual sit-down restaurant! In some of the towns we visit you have to adjust your standards, however - a sirloin from Applebee's starts tasting like a premium cut from the Capital Grill after a month or so.
If you're looking at a post-game workout, you'll be lucky if any fast food place is open, which makes it tough on guys like me who do their best to eat at least mildly healthy. The Taco Bell fresco menu became a favorite last year, while the lunch staple of a Subway sandwich often made a recurring appearance some nights. If you have the proper groceries, throwing some chicken or steak on the grill with some veggies usually proves as the best option for a late night meal.
The rest of the night is up to you. You wanna go out and get crushed, that's your call - there's no chaperone. Every one has their nights, but for the most part, I head home and hang out with some of the guys while SportsCenter catches me up on all things important in the world. Mix in a weekly poker game, a movie night, and one or two nights out and you've got a pretty tolerable living situation, my friend.
This is the daily life of a Minor Leaguer. It's not glamorous - in fact, it's rather monotonous. But as I've said before, come 7:00 PM every night we get paid to play baseball, and even though it's chump change relative to our Major League counterparts, or any other real world job for that matter, it's still kind of cool to me that this is my job. I'm sure I'll get sick of it when there comes a time when I want to purchase something more expensive than a $5-footlong, but for the time being, the dream is worth both the monotony and the empty pockets.