Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Field 5 All-Stars

It was the last week of Spring training, and I sat watching the pre-game warm ups on field 5. Stretching on the right field line were a smattering of players, all at differing levels of the minor leagues...but minor leaguers all the same. Some of them were playing just for a chance at making a club. Some were already cemented into a roster spot on one of the 6 minor league affiliates. Most were young. Some were older. All were tired. This was week 7 of camp and most everybody was over playing games where nobody kept score. Where statistics don't matter, and on field 5 where the games more resemble The Sandlot than Minute Maid Park.

The way the facility was set up, each full season affiliated team had a field to itself. The big stadium was for the big leaguers, obviously. Fields 2-4 were for A-AAA respectively. Then, back about 400 yards from the rest, field 5 stood in solitary confinement. It was reserved for the rookie ball guys and whatever other castoffs needed to get some work in. Those players relegated to the daily game on the back field gave themselves the ironic and self deprecating nickname of "field 5 all-stars". These games on field 5 never had real umpires, instead they commissioned rookie ball coaches to stand behind the pitcher's mound and call balls and strikes. Like I said before, it was always a mish mash of young and old, bright-eyed and bitter, full of expectation and full of unrealized expectations.

As the game began with an unenthusiastic "Play ball..." from the coach/umpire, I could immediately see the difference between players on field 5. It wasn't that the talent levels were so much different between veteran and rookie. In fact, with no names on the back of jerseys it would be nearly impossible to distinguish someone with 5 years of big league time from a player fresh out of the draft...except for one glaring characteristic. I could tell immediately which guys took this field 5 all-star game seriously and which ones saw the game as an obligation beneath their talents or experience. Not to say that either of the groups was right or wrong in the scenario. However, when it came to execution and ultimately the result of the game, those who treated being a field 5 all-star as a worthwhile job came out on top. So as an older player, the running joke continues. It's just accepted that if you are chosen to be a field 5 all-star on any given day, you're probably gonna get shown up by a bunch of fresh faced teenage newbies. And nobody seems to take that reality very seriously, because the thought is that when games really begin to matter, the more experienced group can turn it on and compete at the level they should. Maybe they can. Maybe it's as easy as flipping a switch. But if the game of baseball has taught me anything, it's that this game is NOT THAT EASY.

I've been around long enough by now to understand why these things continue to happen, but as I sat and watched a group of young energetic ball players fight and scrap for nine innings in front of no fans on one of the last days of camp, I saw something that resonated. The rookie field 5 players took their back field game just as seriously as the big leaguers took their big league game. They don't know any better because that's all they get. Their lack of experience makes every field 5 game the most important game. But because the older guys have seen what else is out there, the field 5 game feels like a demotion unworthy of their best efforts. The lie in that logic, however, is that just because where you are isn't as "flashy" or important, that the work you're doing is also not important. I feel like we've all experienced this to an extent in our lives. Perhaps you've spent 7 long years working hard and getting the best grades at a good college and law school, only to be saddled with a first job that has you pushing papers 80 hours a week for little pay. Maybe you changed career fields and starting from square one seems like a giant step back. Quite possibly a child or older adult came into your life and "work" became less suit and tie and more diapers and strained peas. Whatever the case, I encourage all of us to remember that work as a field 5 all-star, though maybe less sexy, is just as important as big league work. The better and more consistently we execute our jobs on the back fields of life, the more prepared and confident we will be when we're invited back to the big ones.

13 comments:

  1. Collin, in you I saw a big league pitcher tonite. Your stuff was nasty as evidenced by your 12k's. You belong in the show. Just remember that.

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  2. You kicked serious ass tonight in Seattle. I hope Houston treats you well

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  3. Wow, well-written and communicated. the part about the mishmash of faces can be applied to so many fields.

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  4. Outstanding post and what an amazing performance last night. Congrats!

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  5. Thank you so much for giving Astros fans something to cheer about. Just curious: did you add something new to your pitching repertoire or incorporate some new technique since you were last in the majors? Good luck and congrats.

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  6. Collin! Brilliant performance Tuesday. Best of luck keeping the ball rolling on Sunday. Make the Mets really regret trading you, and have some fun.

    --An intrigued Braves fan

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  7. Great follow-up performance on Sunday! Keep it up man, and I hope you keep the updates going here. As an Astros fan, there was no better feeling than seeing you deal like that to the A's.

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  8. I hope you stay focused and prepared like the first 2 games. The Astros need a spark and you've been dealing...You belong...you can do it, Collin!

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  9. I'm so grateful that you're a member of the Houston Astros. I hope that your expectations of Houston are exceeded and you and your wife can finally call our city "home" for a while. I've watched both of your games against our divisional opponents and was floored; I feel the same way after reading your blog. Keep it up!

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  10. Collin, Mets fan here who remembers your 2012 debut. Real happy to see you doing well again. Hope you get the shutout next time. Nice writing, too!

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  11. Colin,
    I just read some great things about you and your recent move to Houston. I remember you as that kid on First Dana with the crazy swords, but you've come a long way and I'm glad things are looking up for you. Having read a few of your first blog posts from 2009 and a few more recent ones, I see you've become a well rounded and upright man. Congratulations, and best wishes!

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  12. You Sir, I am a fan of! I hope you know that your writings and you performance has made you a true hero. I hope you are able to remain in the big leagues as I would love to watch you pitch in person ( even though you smoked my team, the A's). As an Oakland fan for many years, we appreciate the resurgence of careers and the talent of the often overlooked... and overlooked no more! Congratulations and I Hope Houston can keep you, and if not, I wish you could pitch in Oakland!

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  13. I really enjoyed reading this post. My son was one of those fresh faces from the draft out there playing on field 5 all stars with you!! He, like you, is a Division III guy!! I cheer extra hard for you Div. III guys and I have been very proud to follow how well you are doing on the big Astros team this season. Keep up the great work!! Keep working hard and knowing that many people are cheering for you!! And keep posting too~I enjoy reading about your experiences :)

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