The food is way better. Not that it's that difficult to be better than the food I've had in the past couple years, but it's a step in the right direction. We don't just have spreads after BP and after games, we have snacks. There's pudding, granola bars, ramen noodles, fresh fruit, oatmeal, coffee, powerade, spaghettios, juices, etc. I know this doesn't sound like a lot (it isn't) but for those of us who are used to only PB&J, it's nice. The service is much better as well. We have clubbies, both home and away, who give a damn about you. They have apparently realized at this level that they are getting paid to serve the players...and they get rewarded nicely for it. Clubhouse dues are steeper, but the bump up in service makes it well worth it. In general, you are treated more like adults than at any level previous. It's kinda refreshing. On to the challenging.
The hitters aren't necessarily that much more talented, they're just more seasoned. They've seen pitchers for a couple years longer and have a better approach at the plate. They're not afraid to get to two strikes and make you work. They hit the ball more consistently because they choose their pitches more cautiously. It's no longer just one or two guys in a line up who can hurt you. It's a big league type line up with speed and power. All that to say, I pitched pretty well against my first Double A lineup. I didn't over do it and I didn't try to change what I do well. I just did it better. The second time out I faced the other challenging aspect...umpires.
The umpires aren't bad. They still miss calls and they still can be inconsistent, but they keep a tighter strike zone. As the hitters have seen more pitches coming through the ranks, so have these umpires. They move up just like we do and hone their skills in the same fashion. My second outing I nibbled on the corners and got burned. Ball one. Ball two. Whereas in Low or High A I could usually get away with one of those pitches if I was consistently hitting that spot, here I was getting what I deserved...behind in the count. When I get behind in the count (as i mentioned earlier) the hitters get that much better. I gave up 4 er in 4.1 innings on 90 pitches. As I mentioned on my Twitter account, there is a learning curve here. I can see what I need to do to be successful, now I must simply execute. Easier said than done, right.
Minor league baseball is still as challenging as ever. The travel is hard. Long bus rides in cramped seats. Day games after extra inning night games. Hotel beds, your bed, back to hotel beds. Sore backs. Being away from your significant others...Ashley. It's hard. Fun, but hard. I still have no idea how long I will be up here for. I could pitch great and get sent back down, pitch bad and stay here, or any other combination of pitching and moving. It's in God's hands, not mine. It's hard to relinquish control over my career, but it seems to be the best option every time I do. We can adapt. We always do. But someday it will be over, and so far I can say I've given it my all. In the end, that's all we can ask for.