Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Training Crash Course

Spring Training for us Minor Leaguers (pitchers and catchers) is just on the horizon...literally. Like tomorrow. I've been getting a lot of questions over the past month about what Spring Training is like.

"Who all is down there?"
"What team are you gonna be on this year?"
"Are you going back to Savannah again? I mean you liked it down there right?"
"When will you figure out where you're going?"

etc., etc., etc.

I think a Spring Training crash course is in order. Allow me to expound.

Spring Training (abbreviated ST from now on because I'm not a good typer) is roughly one month long; spanning from March 5 to April 3. The Mets ST complex is located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. It's 45 minutes north of West Palm Beach on the Atlantic side. 2 hours north of Miami for a South Beach reference. They've been there for over 25 years, every spring. At our complex we have 5 full size ball fields situated in a group behind the big stadium (where our High A team plays during the season). We have 2 smaller fields consisting of just an infield and pitcher's mound that we use for drills. There are 20 bullpen mounds scattered throughout the complex and 10 batting cages complete with pitching machines in each. We have a large locker room/training room/weight room/cafeteria for the 180 or so minor leaguers at camp, and the Major League guys stay in their locker room over at the big stadium.

The Big League guys do their workouts in the morning before 11, presumably so that they can play their games in the early afternoon. In reality though, they get their stuff done in the mornings so that they can play golf all afternoon and maybe catch some fish at the local ponds. Rough life. We do our workouts after them, usually about 10:30 to 4:30, in the heat of the Florida midday. You can usually count on a 15-20 minute rain shower somewhere in that time slot. We get our work in, eat lunch, and then come back out to play games in the afternoon. If we're not playing that day we usually have to watch the other games and do some sort of pitching chart for them. If we get to leave early...GOLF!! You can usually get 9 holes in if you leave at 4:00, but if you leave at 2:00 then 18 holes is a definite possibility.

We live in one of a few places. Either in the Hotel that the organization puts us up in, the condo complex just behind the hotel if we're big shots, or in our own apartment if we're married/really big shots. Yes, I'm married, but since my wife isn't coming down until the end of ST I'm living in the hotel. Trust me, it's easier than trying to find an apartment on our own for a month, then doing it all over again once the season starts. Truth #956 about the minor leagues: MOVING SUCKS.

So what team am I gonna be on? Believe me, If I knew I would tell you. The fact of the matter is that no one really knows what team they will be on until the day they post the rosters the last day of ST (kinda like in High School tryouts). You can try to guess where you'll be based on how you did last year, how you did during ST this year, and how you stack up against the competition, but the hard truth is no one knows for sure. People get hurt, traded, released, and retire. Any one of these things along with plenty more excuses have a ripple effect all the way down. If a big leaguer gets hurt then a AAA guy will replace him, then you need someone to replace the AAA get the progression. So I can say with about 0% certainty that I should start out in St. Lucie playing for our High A team this season, which is one level higher than Savannah where I played last season. But I guess we'll see.

All we can really do is play hard, try to stay healthy, and realize that God is the only one in control of this roller coaster. I truly believe that I will play Major League baseball, whether this year, the next, or a few down the road. I'm in good hands. That's enough for me now.

I'll keep posting from ST starting on Sunday. Like it or not, you're gonna get a first hand look at what it's like down there. Buckle in.


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