Friday, March 11, 2011
MiLB LIFE: First Day of Spring Training [Part One]
After six months of waiting, the day had finally come.
I arrived at the Arizona hotel at 9:00 PM on Tuesday night experiencing a rare combination of exhaustion and excitement. I had spent the bulk of my day in airports, planes, and shuttles and had finally reached my much anticipated destination.
I lugged my bags upstairs and was eager to do nothing more than immediately test the sleepability of my hotel bed. But as desperate as I was to get some rest, I was even more anxious to awake from that slumber and begin the opening stages of my season. Spring Training was just a night's sleep away- actually, it was even closer than I expected.
"DO NOT EAT OR DRINK AFTER MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. THE BUS LEAVES AT 5:45 AM. PLEASE PEE IN THE CUP IN THE MORNING."
I found this team-issued memo sitting on my night stand, accompanied by the aforementioned "cup," of course. Day one was coming, and it was gonna be a long one.
5:45 AM - Bus Heads to Complex
After a 5 AM wake-up call and an invigorating shower, I'm ready to start my day. I pack up all of my baseball possessions to bring to the clubhouse and make my way out to the bus, resisting the allure of the free lobby coffee along the way. I could have used the caffeine boost, but I had been warned- there would be no eating or drinking this morning. (Although to onlookers we probably looked like a group of apple juice enthusiasts on the way to a tasting, all of us with "samples" in hand.)
6:00 AM - Arriving at the Clubhouse
We walk into the complex and carry our equipment through the doors of the minor league clubhouse. After looking aimlessly through a few rows of lockers, I finally realize that the locker layout is sorted alphabetically. I track down my stall, and can't help but smile as I look at my last name stitched onto the back of a Big League jersey. Pretty cool stuff.
Aside from the jersey, my locker is fully stocked with this year's crop of new gear. I scan through it quickly, nodding in approval, and then unzip my bag to add my own equipment into the mix. I'm careful to find a good spot for everything- cleats, turfs, gloves, batting gloves, toiletries, shirts, shorts, sliders and socks. It's a good-sized stall, but by the time I'm done unpacking, every nook and cranny is filled with daily baseball essentials.
6:15 AM - Physicals
After unloading all of my goodies, it's time to hop in line with the rest of my teammates who arrived the previous night. What are we waiting in line for? A morning filled with pokes, pricks, tests, and who could forget the intimate touching? It's the preseason physical, and it's a process.
You start by drawing what feels like two pints of blood, then head over to the next station for a forearm prick and a tetanus shot that still has my right shoulder feeling sore. After the human voodoo doll treatment, you walk into the the next room for simple recording of height, weight, and body fat percentage. Next they check your blood pressure, measure your wing span, and even test your hand strength with some type of high-tech gripping device.
Then you head to the next room and get hooked up to what I can only guess is a heart monitor machine. Lying shirtless on a trainer's table, you're hooked up to wires through the twelve stickies spread throughout your upper body- the fun part is when the nurse rips them off, along with a handful of stray chest hairs.
Next comes an eye test, which didn't get off to the greatest of starts for me.
"Read line 8 for me."
"Umm, where's line 8?"
Luckily I was able to save myself late in the game with some 3D glasses experiment, eventually earning the "Pass" grade.
After proving my visual competence, I'm just a quick check-up away from completion. I have full range of motion in my shoulders, the insides of my ears look good, and my tonsils aren't inflamed. Once Dr. Rob gets to know me on a more personal level, I'm all set. Luckily, I'm given a clean bill of health and am approved for all upcoming baseball activities. Time for breakfast.
7:30 AM - Breakfast
After fasting for what felt like far more than eight hours, it's time to get some nourishment. Guys who didn't have their physicals start filing into the clubhouse and make their way to the food line as well, looking to load up on scrambled eggs, oatmeal, cereal, and fruit. I was actually somewhat pleased with the offered selections, but I was assured by veteran teammates: "It gets worse every day."
You serve yourself buffet-style and then grab a seat at any of the available picnic tables outside. Time to get some food in you before a long day of baseball under the hot sun. Day one started early, but three hours later it's only just beginning.
I look around the tables and find myself surrounded by dozens of faces I haven't seen in months, and even more I've never seen my whole life. Strangers and friends- this is our organization; this is my Spring Training family.
Now, time to hit the field and chip away at some rust. Baseball season has begun.
What happens next? Check out MiLB LIFE: First Day of Spring Training [Part Two]
MiLB LIFE Series
Packing for Spring Training
The Dip Police
Do You Have an Agent?
How Long Until You're in the Bigs?
Being a Senior Sign
Universal Big League Dreams
Explaining My Profession to Non-Baseball Minds
Wasted Hat Collection
Dealing with Heckling Fans
Being the New Guy
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