The Long Road: Life in the Minors
By Noah Carter aka SappeltMan17
Everyone has that old minor league stadium near them. You Know, the one with the grandstands that aren’t ever full and of course the giant 5×10 aluminium signs advertising ” Dave’s Used Car World “. The stadiums in the downtown city or the seemingly wide open cow pastures in the middle of the mid west. These are the places where in July you can find teenagers making memories that they won’t ever forget and in September you can find some of the best baseball in the country. To the general public these fields are considered to be a retreat, a vacation of sorts to a pastime that is in some places long forgotten but to the players on those fields it’s a daily grind to try and out-do or 1-up the other guys in the farm system. Its a long 8 hour bus ride to Savannah or its a roach motel with $20 meal money. All of these things add up to equal: The Minor Leagues.
After recording the win April 11th Adam Conley showers in the home clubhouse and then prepares for the 7 hour bus ride from Greensboro up to Salisbury MD. Conley is leading the team in strikeouts and ERA while posting a 2-0 record to start the 2012 Greensboro Grasshoppers season. He is considered to be the one of the Hoppers best pitchers but he isn’t getting a call up anytime soon because the Marlins have 7 more of him in their farm system. Conley like every other minor league player sits in his hotel room and dreams of the day he’ll take the mound in a Marlins uniform. A day that may never come. Adam was drafted out of Washington State in the second round of the 2011 draft as a sophomore. He most likely got a decent signing bonus for being taken as such a high pick but most players are lucky if the get 1,000 dollars BEFORE taxes. So as Conley plays cards with his fellow teammates in the middle of the night somewhere in Virginia on a tour bus, the Marlins are busy wheeling and dealing for the newest SS or the next Randy Johnson. This constant emotional roller coaster ride is why some guys never reach their full potential while toiling in the minors. Such a sad story that is written far too often.
Around 11:30 the Grasshoppers pull into the local Motel 6 or Best Western in Maryland. They unload their duffel bags find their roommate, and hunker down before a 1 O’ clock game the next day. The Hoppers will be on the road for the next 6 days with a series against the the Lakewood Blue Claws in NJ after Delmarva. Typically minor league players get around $20 a day for meal money on each road trip. That’s $120 extra dollars that these guys just got. After talking to players they say that they save this money to fly their wife out for a series later on in the season or just for everyday living expenses. Many divorces and separations have come as a result of the constant pressure these players have to face everyday. After the game, different groups will split up and go to different places, some might go to the local mall while others might pull out a laptop and work on online classes they have to take since they signed out of high school. My dad used to talk about in college when they would go on road trips they would sneak into the other schools gym and play basketball in the middle of the night ( A pretty dumb idea ). One thing is for sure: tomorrow, when it’s time to play they will all be ready.
When the Grasshoppers get home they will be greeted by their host families who have graciously given up a spot in the fridge and a bed in their house for a complete stranger. These families try to make that constant change that is the minor leagues somewhat comfortable. A factor that is somewhat unknown that plays a key role in a players success or failure is how comfortable they feel. Players feed of of little things like how many fans are at the games and how they are treated in the clubhouse. It’s simple logic: If a player feels comfortable they will play comfortable. Some of the smallest things make the biggest difference. So as Adam Conley arrives back in Greensboro and settles into his bed before he pitches the next day he thinks about what it will be like to toe the rubber at the new Marlins Ballpark just like everyone else. It sounds childish, like a 8 year old in the back yard pretending to be Babe Ruth but it’s a dream that these big kids plan to live out.
There is always the occasional Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg that is so good they receive V. I. P. treatment but for most of these kids it’s a hard knock life. Not everything is luxury hotels and gourmet meals and first class flights every week. These guys give everything for a slim hope of fame and wealth that might not ever come.
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