Thursday, March 24, 2011
MiLB LIFE: "The Manager Wants to See You"
"The manager wants to see you." These words mark the beginning of the end.
The second this sentence is aimed at you, you're a dead man - and everyone knows it. As you make your way toward the manager's office, you creep closer to the end of your baseball career with each step.
The phrase casts a hush over the clubhouse. For that moment, everyone feels vulnerable. You could be a first-rounder in the middle of an all-star season, but in that instant, you can't help but fear you will be next.
Regardless of your relationship with the player in question, you feel awful. He may be your direct competition for a starting job or a promotion - his release may ultimately translate into more opportunities for you - but for the moment, that's not important. This is a kid who has spent his whole life playing baseball, just like everyone in that clubhouse - and today, the game he loves is being taken away from him.
For everyone who marches into that manager's office, it is likely the first time in their baseball career they've been told they didn't have what it takes. After a lifetime of getting picked first in recess, they are now the odd man out.
The announcement shakes up the entire clubhouse. No one wants to see a teammate sent home, but losing teammates is part of the process. Unfortunately, that also means losing friends.
Today, one of my best friends was released.
As I made my way out to the practice field this morning, I noticed him walking the opposite direction back toward the clubhouse. There was this blank look on his face. Something wasn't right.
I asked where he was going. "Forgot my seeds," he responded with a forced, tight-lipped smile.
That response rattled me. We both knew he wasn't making the long walk back to the locker room - cleats and glove in hand - just to retrieve some sunflower seeds. A coach had been sent out there to retrieve him.
Did he not want me to worry? Was he trying to convince himself it wasn't what he feared it was? Was he embarrassed? The entire day I wondered what was running through his mind walking that baseball Green Mile.
When I arrived at our dugout, Kenny and I exchanged concerned looks. We tried rationalizing the meeting. Our buddy went through some major arm injuries last year, perhaps it was simply a status check? We traded a couple of other theories, but we both knew the truth - our friend wasn't coming back.
After a long practice and an even longer intrasquad scrimmage, we finally returned to the clubhouse where our suspicions were confirmed in the form of an empty locker. Just like that, he was gone.
It's amazing how quickly it can all be over. Last night, a group of us were at Outback Steakhouse celebrating his birthday without a care in the world. Today, he was put on a plane ride home - fired from his dream job without warning.
It's a great game, but at the end of the day, it's a business. There are only so many spots you can fill, and unfortunately today, my pal was on the outside looking in.
"Play every game like it's your last." It really is great advice, because in the world of Minor League Baseball, it just might be.
MiLB LIFE Series
First Day of Spring Training [Part One]
First Day of Spring Training [Part Two]
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