Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Big League Picture Day

What you can't see are the mesh shorts and shower shoes that DJ's sporting underneath that stoic pose.

It's the picture you want everyone to see. Family, friends, thousands of screaming fans - if they see it, you've made it.

Yesterday was picture day at the ballpark for all Minor League players. After finishing breakfast, we were instructed to make our way to the media room where a photographer had set up shop. Once we arrived, we were each given a jersey and a hat - a Major League jersey and hat. This was no ordinary mugshot - this was the picture that would be shown on stadium scoreboards if you were to play in a Big League game at any point during the season.

It seemed ridiculous to me. Over the course of the morning, over 100 players lined up to get their mandatory headshots taken. With each player I saw in line, I estimated their odds of making the Bigs by year's end. Most players received an insensative, yet realistic 0.00% - yet there we were, in a line that rivaled the wait at the DMV.

In reality, maybe a handful of players in that line will get to experience a call to The Show this year. Their pictures will be shared with the world - the rest will likely be deleted and forgotten.

This was the ultimate "Just in case" procedure. Over 100 guys were waiting in line to say "Cheese", and most of them were fully aware that their odds of playing Major League Baseball this season were equal to those of the man behind the camera yelling "Smile!" 

I couldn't help but wonder if the organization gave the photographer a list of top prospects ahead of time, perhaps in an effort to save a little money: "Make sure to load film in the camera for the following players - as for the rest, film will not be necessary but please still act as though you are actually taking their picture."

As one of the younger guys in the organization, I found myself among the majority of players whose Big League chances weren't exactly overwhelming - for this season, at least. I sat in line impatiently, rolling my eyes at the process and thinking of things I'd rather be doing. Then, suddenly, I was up. 

I threw on the Big League jersey, located a 7 1/4 sized lid, and made my way in front of the spotlight. My chances of making the Majors hadn't changed in those ten seconds, but I couldn't keep my mind from wandering as I stood in front of that camera. When would that life-changing phone call finally come? What stadium would I be playing in when this photo debuted? How cool must it be to step out of the batter's box and look up at your own face glowing on a Major League scoreboard?

As these thoughts raced through my mind, I made sure to put on my best smile as the camera snapped in front of me - I find few things more ridiculous than purposely trying to look intimidating or tough in pictures. This was my Major League debut - I wanted to look good.

Suddenly, the possibility was real. I was no closer to the Big Leagues than I was when I had gotten into line, but just the mere taking of my picture served as validation of my baseball existence. It wasn't likely - but it wasn't out of the realm of possibility either.

Maybe the picture I took yesterday will never be seen - and maybe next year's version won't be used either - but as long as they're taking your picture, you're in the mix.

We're all just a phone call away - and when that call comes, I just hope I'm not distracted by that handsome face on the jumbotron.

MiLB LIFE Series
"The Manager Wants to See You"

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
Bus Rides
Wasted Hat Collection
Draft Day
Dealing with Heckling Fans
Clubhouse Rules
Drug Testing
Being the New Guy
Fat Camp
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
Kangaroo Court

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