Wednesday, April 13, 2011
MiLB LIFE: Extended Spring Training
I find myself in Baseball Purgatory. It's not Spring Training. It's not the regular season. It's not even a plane ticket back into the real world job market. Nope, it's Extended Spring Training - and both the length of my stay and my next destination are unknown.
When Spring Training ended last week and team rosters were published, my name was nowhere to be found. As teammates and friends began to pack their bags for greener pastures, I stayed put. I was a man without a team - and Spring Training was far from over.
There were about twenty of us left behind. A few days later, forty more guys who hadn't been invited to Spring Training showed up.
Suddenly, it was day one all over again - the introductions, the meetings, the drills. As my friends prepared for the start of a 140-game season, I was beginning Spring Training all over again.
As discouraging as it is to be in Extended, I do take comfort in a simple phrase that has served as consolation to millions before me: "It could be worse." It's true. I'm healthy, I didn't get released, and I'm living in a city that is far nicer than any town I'd be playing in had I made a roster. It could be worse.
The truth is, I thought I had done everything to make a team during Spring Training. I swung the bat well, I played great defense, and I really believed I had impressed the coaches and earned my spot. Little did I know, nothing would be enough.
I was caught in a numbers game, and I had been slotted for Extended even before I had reported to camp last month. Our organization is simply overloaded at the Outfield position. The team I was playing on all Spring Training broke camp with five outfielders, all of whom were drafted a year or more before me. They're the older guys - they get the first wack at it. If they do well, they'll move up. If they struggle, they'll be on the hunt for a new job.
And me? Well, I wait. I'll stay here in Extended, work every day to get better, and play hard during games with the hope of getting called up.
And if that call doesn't come before early June, well then I'll try my luck as a member of one of our short-season teams. Again.
I'm optimistic, however - something will happen. An injury, a hit streak, a slump, a release - any of these events sets off a domino effect that restructures the rosters of every level.
And knowing the control that other players have on my future, I find myself checking the box scores almost every night. Who's hot? - who's off to a slow start? - who's on the chopping block? - how old is that guy? All of these questions have answers that may affect my career.
But there are 60 guys here in Extended checking those scores every night. We all want out of this holding cell.
Our time here may seem insignificant, but every day is a competition. You can't afford an off-day in Extended. Opportunities are few and far between, but that phone will eventually ring - and when it does, it's up to me to make sure I'm the guy they're asking for.
MiLB LIFE Series
Big League Picture Day
"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
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