“March Madness”

 @DimTillard pic 27

by @DimTillard

  • MINOR League Spring Training is a roller coaster.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s a rookie in his first spring, or a salty veteran who’s lost count, spring training can be tough, but incredibly fun.
  • Every spring is important for a player.  Because each spring training season could be where something ‘clicks’, and it’s off to the Bigs.  For most minor leaguers the pre-season is an amusement park ride that brings exhilaration, stress, and joy.
  • After an offseason filled with family, home, workouts, vacation, relaxation, it’s time… for the CIRCUS.

“Good-bye my LOOOVE!”  The beginning of March means the return of baseball.  And for many players, it means packing up the suitcase they’ll live out of for the next 6 months.  It also means traveling to Florida or Arizona, and leaving behind families, friends, and loved ones.  (and when players fly to spring training, usually there’s a “gamer” glove in the carry-on)

“Got a package people!”  When players walk into the spring training complex, lockers look like the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Boxes upon boxes, with names like, Wilson, Rawlings, Nike, Louisville Slugger.  Boxes filled with spikes, turfs, gloves, bats, BG’s, and catching gear.  Thus begins the, “breaking-in” of the equipment. (this is where guys start wishing they’d spent more time standing in their driveway wearing spikes)  The first week of practice is full of SHIN-SPLINTS, (sunblock), (baby powder) and “New glove!” comments after an error or bad PFP.

“Meetings about the meetings about… the meetings.”  It wouldn’t be spring training without the occasional meeting.  Some short, some long, but all are necessary.

  • Meet the staff
  • Meet the players
  • Meet the front office
  • Meet the APBPA
  • Hitters meet
  • Pitchers meet
  • Drug test meeting
  • Meeting about chart keeping
  • Meet about rules
  • Rotator Cuff meeting
  • Medical meeting
  • Meeting about scheduling meetings

“Oh the weather outside is weather.”  There’s a reason all 30 organizations have made either Florida (The Grapefruit League) or Arizona (The Cactus League) their spring training home.  Some players already live in the warmer climates.  But for the ones who leave the snow and arrive in the sun it’s GLORIOUS!  (and the first player to complain about the heat gets punched in the face)

“Please don’t feed the animals.”  After months of no baseball everyone is bursting with excitement for spring.  Including fans.  With a half dozen fields at a spring training complex, players run from one field to the next, in and amongst the observing fans.  People line the fences watching and pointing at ballplayers marching by.  Players love the energy even a small crowd can bring to just a simple practice drill.

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”  For Major Leaguers, spring training is about getting in shape for Opening Day.  For Minor Leaguers, spring training is about being in shape, making a team, and beating the odds.  Each organization has 200 minor league players (give or take), and only 100 will make opening day. (heads I lose, tails you win)

MARCH may be the toughest month for a minor leaguer, like… leaving home, learning a new position, being sent to a lower level, changing a delivery, getting released, trying a new pitch, climbing the ladder, being sidelined by injury, or making a team.  BUT for a baseball player, there’s no place like it. (It’s the greatest show on dirt!)

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.”  Rogers Hornsby


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