Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's Why It's Called Development

"I hate baseball. It's dull. Nothing happens. It's like watching grass - no, Astroturf - grow" - Jeff Jarvis

I think what separates baseball from other sports is how frustrating it is. Not to say that basketball, football, golf, tennis, and ping pong aren't frustrating in their own way, but baseball is unique in its ability to thwart success. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase "I hate baseball" from baseball players, i'd be...well, richer than I am now. It's absurd to me that men who give hours upon hours of their lives to a game that gives back so little in return continue to play it relentlessly day after day for 6 months a year. As we've said earlier, baseball is a game of failure. It is a game where you MUST reevaluate what your definition of success is. I think this is part of the problem with us baseball players. We play the game with the same set of standards for success that we did when we were in little league or high school. We suppose (surely don't expect though) that we should hit .350, have a < 1 ERA, and lead the league in "awesomeness". Those expectations are ok when the you're 12. The problem is that now the filter for people who make it through to our level has tightened so that those who make it are just as qualified as you are to make these claims. We have these grand ideas of what we are capable of (and rightly so) but the fact is, we won't all get there all at once. I suggest (via advice from Rick Waits) that we be ok with simply improving. I've heard from more than once great baseball mind that the only way to make it and stay up there is to be content with getting a little better every time you strap on your cleats. If you can improve, even the smallest minutiae, from yesterday then you should consider it a success. "I hate baseball" comes from the disconnect of where we are to where we expect to be. It takes many games and many seasons to be great...ask any hall of famer. Nothing in this game happens overnight. There are very few meteoric rises, and many many more rags to riches stories in baseball. Patience is the key to development. Just like the herb garden Ashley and I are tending to, it takes time, work, and faith that these tiny bulbs will grow into what we expect them to be. If everyday we cursed them saying "I hate herbs", we'd be insane. Everyone knows that plants take time to flourish. Here's a secret...Baseball players do too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Visiting Clubbies

"The bases were drunk, and I painted the black with my best yakker. But blue squeezed me, and I went full. I came back with my heater, but the stick flares one the other way and chalk flies for two bases. Three earnies! Next thing I know, skipper hooks me and I'm sipping suds with the clubby." - Ed Lynch

Every team in the Minor leagues has a clubhouse manager. These are the guys responsible for cleaning/maintaining the clubhouse, washing and drying (well, sometimes drying) our jerseys pants and personals, and making sure we have food before and after games. Clubbies (good ones at least) have a much broader job description than just these "chores" however. They are hired by the organizations to take care of us players and relieve us of as much stress as possible. From picking up family at the airport to making sure that I have some sort of alternative to peanut butter (allergies) before games, clubbies are our saviors. Don't get me wrong, though, they aren't our personal assistants. We do our part to make their jobs as easy as possible by putting all our clothes in the right places, keeping our demands reasonable in both price and etiquette, and most importantly tipping well. They usually have a set base price per day that we owe them, but for those clubbies who go above and beyond, players will pay a premium for their services.

What is funny to me, though, is the phenomenon of the "visiting clubby". Just as each team has a home clubhouse manager, they provide the visiting team a clubby as well. These vagabonds are responsible for the enemy's well-being...or ours if we're on the road. They tend to be one of two extremes. They are either completely apathetic people who do the bare minimum for the minimum tip, or they are bad-ass ex-army drill sergeants who do any and everything you need without thinking twice about it. "Sarge", the Augusta Greenjackets visiting clubby, is simply the best. He has been a clubhouse/equipment manager for years in both Hockey (his first and true love) and minor league baseball. He does what you need and surprises you with things you didn't even know you wanted...like Captain Crunch with Crunchberries on an early sunday game. Sarge always has a good story or a funny/kind of inappropriate joke, but he doesn't bother you. He understands that the little extra he puts in pays (literally) at the end of the series when guys get their wallets out. Of course in the big leagues every player makes a lot of money and tips well, but in the minors guys are a little tighter with their wallets. We're not stingy, necessarily; we're just frugal. I will, however, pay for Crunchberries.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Will Not Go Quietly Into The Night

We just got back from one of our community service days at H.V. Jenkins high school. We have three days overall in their school, spaced out over about a month, the goal being to help them develop a public service announcement (PSA). The reason we are in the school is because the PSA is about exercise, healthy eating, and turning off the TV...three things we are "experts" in. Anyway, I think it's a good idea seeing as how the obesity rate in this country is astoundingly high. The only problem I have with the whole thing is the way it is being organized, or lack there of, by the teachers, administrators, and players. The kids aren't responding to the project and I don't blame them. It's hard to focus on a solution when the guidelines are unclear. We had teachers sitting in their offices unwilling to get involved, administrators sending us into the classrooms with no expectations, and players too "shy" to say or do anything resembling community service. These kids don't even know what a PSA is and yet they are expected to deliver on one in a short time. They are set up for failure, and I hate it.

The typical American loves the underdogs because they are expected to fail and yet they succeed. Circumstances out of their control are against them and yet by sheer willpower they overcome obstacles and come out victorious. What I hate, though, is when people are made to be the underdog when they shouldn't be. Just because the Yankees are the Yankees doesn't mean that whoever they play are automatically the underdogs. If a team is playing better than they are, then they are just as likely to succeed (if not more so) than the Yankees. In the same way, just because these are kids from a low income high school in Savannah doesn't mean they are incapable of making a great PSA. If the teachers get involved, if we manage their expectations better, and if our players take it seriously, these kids can create something to be proud of. They shouldn't be underdogs in this situation, but that's what we've made them.

I waited 7 days this week to pitch. I'm a piggyback pitcher right now which means that I eat the scraps of innings left behind from the starter. Unfortunately for my inning total, our team has three starters who eat lots of innings and I'm behind one of them. I waited 7 days to pitch 2 innings last night. Let's call a spade a spade here, I'm not a starter right now. They may call me a "starter" and I may pitch on a schedule of 5-7 days, but starters don't throw 2 innings. Starters don't come in for mop up work in the 8th and 9th. I'm not pitching my best right now and that's frustrating because my room for error is MUCH smaller than the other starters. If I give up a run one inning I don't get the luxury of throwing 6 shutout innings behind it to clean up my ERA. I get 2, maybe 3, innings to go throw shutout baseball and if I don't get it done, so be it. I can't help but feel like I am being set up for failure just like the kids today. I have no defined role, no set schedule of when or how innings I will throw. I have no management of expectations because, honestly, I don't know if they have any expectations for me. I am a good pitcher, sometimes a really good pitcher, but right they've made me the underdog. The odds are for me to fade into the abyss of our minor league system and vanish as quickly as I came. This being said, I know I have family, friends, and fans who are rooting for me to overcome...who wouldn't, I'm a nice guy. But I refuse to be the odd man out here. I refuse to take lying down, the assumption that I am not good enough to compete with any one of the starters in our organization, or baseball in it's entirety for that matter. I am not an underdog and I will not accept that label, because no matter the hand dealt to me so far, the odds are still in my favor. It's not the pitching arsenal that makes a winning pitcher, it is his ability to take what has been given to him and make it into something more. I have a good array of pitches, but what separates me is my capacity to make it into something special. I have so much more to give than what is expected of me right now. I'm sure some of you out there can appreciate this. If you can, I give you this encouragement: Do not settle for less than you are capable of, and don't let anyone tell you what you cannot achieve. Life is too short to fade into the abyss. Rise to the occasion and don't let anyone write your story for you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grayson Stadium in Savannah, GA

It's kinda rough quality, i know. But i'm working on it.

Playing Minor League Baseball...Priceless

“It's not your salary that makes you rich, it's your spending habits.” - Charles A. Jaffe

I thought that I would stop eating Ramen Noodles once I got out of college. I mean, they're good don't get me wrong, but I always assumed that I would be able to afford real food. For sure when I got married the days of canned tuna and saltine crackers would be long gone. I didn't account for one thing though...Minor League Baseball.

Each day we are on the road we get a whopping $20 for food!! When I found this out, my first reaction was "I can make that work." Then I realized that $20 really means about $12 after you take out $5/day for the after game spread and $3/day for clubhouse manager dues. So $12...what to buy, what to buy?? I could venture over to the two restaurants nearby to the hotel, but one meal at either of the two chain places and I'm out for the day. So I decide to move to option B. I walk over to the supermarket across the street, hoping to stumble upon a good deal. I walked around the place looking for something filling yet inexpensive. Sandwich meat and bread? No refrigerator in my room. Ramen Noodles? No microwave in my room. Oven pizza? Obviously no oven close by.
                                                                  As I looked around, my stomach humming a low tune, I figured it was between a bag of cheddar cheese pretzel Combos or a cylinder of Pringles (preferably sour cream & onion). As I made my way down the cracker isle, I was reminded of my Paw Paw and his affinity for cheap yet filling snacks. Moon pies, I thought? Not in Delmarva. Ahhhh yes...just as he would pack lightly for a golf outing so as no to fall prey to the cart girl and her overpriced candy bars. I give you Lance cheddar cheese Crackers. Yum. When life gives you lemons...be thankful, they're too expensive for some of us.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's Delmarva?

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest..."  Proverbs 6:10

Delmarva - Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. It's a city at the corner of the three states. Technically it's Maryland, but I like to think that it's in the magical space in between them all. In my quest to experience a little piece of the local delicacies of each city...Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. "Crab cakes and football. That's what Maryland does!"  It took us 12.5 hours on a chartered bus to get here, only to be informed that we couldn't check in for another 2 hours. So we did what any self-respecting group of 20 somethings would do, we went to the local shopping mall.  We walked around aimlessly (the way most mall walkers do) until we could check in and get some sleep.

Not to say I needed sleep after 2 Nyquil and 12 hours of aggravated bus dozing, but it would be nice to bend my knees at least.  Some cannot sleep on a bus. I have no such problem.  I can sleep just about anywhere and anytime of the day. A blessing and a curse for sure. Whereas I can sleep on a bus, I can also sleep through breakfast everyday in the hotel. However, after reading my daily Proverbs chapter and seeing Solomon's wise council, I decided to try my hand at pre 10 a.m. food. I woke up to my alarm and eyes that wouldn't quite open all the way. Not because I was really tired, but because I had eaten some peanut butter cookies on accident the night before and my reward was red puffy eyes. Where's Ben Stein and his Visene when you need him. Breakfast was a success though. Two cups of coffee and a shower later and these eyes were back to normal and ready to seize the day. Carpe Delmarva!!