You’ve been traded……….

Let’s transport back one year to the date, the Frisco Roughriders are sitting in Springfield, MO waiting for the rain to pass and all the sudden an ESPN flash comes across the screen to let us know Cliff Lee has been acquired by the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak and ‘minor leaguers.’ Those minor leaguers turned out to be teammates of mine for 4+ years and more importantly friends. Although you are happy that they get a better opportunity in a different organization with a fresh start, you are sad to see them go as well. One of those people in that Cliff Lee trade was my roommate for many years both in season and during spring training and my best friend in the organization. Hearing about him leaving was extremely bittersweet for me, on one hand I knew I was going to lose a good friend but in the process I knew what an incredible opportunity this was for him. It was like watching your best friend, whom you played with all the time as a kid pack up and move away for good.  During the Lee deal and the Cantu deal we slowly watched our teammates pack up and leave one by one heading off to different pastures, and you always think the opportunities they are getting and if they are going to be in better situations, and as a player you always kind of wonder what it would like to be traded.

When I woke up the morning of my fateful day, I had an ESPN update message that the Rangers made a trade for Cristian Guzman, and I immediately had a bad feeling in my gut that I was somehow involved in it. Still till this day I don’t know why I had that feeling, but I just did. I was on the way to eat breakfast with my girlfriend when I got the text message, and I immediately told her to re-route the car and head to the field.  I got to the field and my agent called me and told me I needed to be by my phone in the next fifteen minutes because he had some news and right then I knew what was going on. I jumped on twitter immediately, and saw the confirmation from the Texas Rangers beat writers that I was heading to the Washington Nationals, but there was a problem there was also another player to be named. I sat at the field and waited around the clubhouse, slowly packing my stuff as my teammates filtered waiting to hear the “official word.” After a few hours manager Steve Buechele called Tanner Roark and I into his office where we were on a conference call with player development director Scott Servais who proceeded to tell us what we already knew. After all the goodbyes from the teammates, and subsequent packing of the locker it was time to head out.  Tanner and I stayed around that night in Frisco and watched a little bit of the game, and said goodbye to the “frequent fans” that always cheered us on, it was a very bittersweet moment for us.  We had to wait until the next morning to get our travel itinerary from the Nationals as to where we were to report.  The arrival in Harrisburg and getting ready to meet your new teammates is a very exciting, and very eerie feeling because not only did we have teammates and in the rangers organization, but they were guys that we have come up with every step of the way and they have become good friends to both Tanner and I. When we pulled up to the stadium, the starting catcher hit a walk-off HR for the win so everyone was in a great mood when we got the clubhouse. Everyone was really nice and welcoming when we got to the clubhouse and was asking us different questions about being traded, and what it felt like and it seemed that we were welcomed with open arms right away.

                As soon as we got to Harrisburg, everyone was asking if we had places to live and the team gave us a few night stay in a local hotel to try and get things situated and get our living situations together, once our couple of nights in the hotel were done we were responsible for subsequent days in the hotel. We wound up finding a place at a local extended stay that we stayed at for about six weeks. The move was very shocking, as soon as I found out I was traded I immediately called my parents to let them know the news and they were really excited for me, I also called my extended family to let them know about the news and overall people were genuinely excited for me because they knew how great the opportunity was for me. It’s a very odd feeling to be traded, on one hand you think that you are expendable to one team but on the other hand there is a team out there that picked you from all the minor leaguers in the organization so you feel special to your new team it’s almost conflicting. I can be totally honest and say I never thought I was going to be traded, so throughout the year it did not affect me. Usually the minor leaguers are the throw ins on the trade so we don’t know anything until it happens, scouts are at every game and so you just kind of ignore them and don’t think much about it.

                You definitely feel a little pressure when you arrive to your new team, because you are eager to prove to them that they got a good player and made the right decision by getting you but you also have to stay within yourself and play the way you were because that’s why they traded for you in the first place. You get adjusted fairly quickly to your new team, and I found it was extremely easy to make friends with the guys in the Nats organization and it continually has been. Overall it’s a whirlwind of an experience with a ton of emotions flying everywhere, but you find out what you are made of trying to keep those emotions in check. Because after all no matter what team you are with, you there are 29 other teams constantly watching you and it is the goal to get to the big leagues with someone and any coach will tell you that.

                I hope this gives you a little insight in the players world on what it’s like to be traded.

I thought I’ve experienced it all

 

This photo is just the hotel lobby from the 3rd floor, it is a beautiful lobby   

Looking straight across from the third floor

Down into the lobby

Looking into the gaping hole where there is no more glass, supposedly where the lady committed suicide from the 6th floor, they just never replaced the glass.


      Minor league baseball is full of quirks and anomalies that continually make me shake my head throughout the years. Seeing on-field talent such as Myron Noodleman, Birdzerk, The Zooperstars, and the cowboy monkeys you get a sense that the teams of minor league baseball really try to add in a entertainment and spectacle value into the games. I have been fortunate enough to see all these talents perform at their highest level, and I highly recommend an of them if you ever get a chance to catch a game with them performing. Throughout my 4 1/2 year MiLB I have pretty much seen it all, both at home and the road, but I have to admit this last road trip I had a “first” happen to me.

     Upon arriving to Scranton, PA it seemed just like any other minor league town one that was a little more quiet with nice people, little food choices and a historic past but this town was holding something that a first time visitor like myself was not prepared for, the Radisson Lackawanna.  Here is a description of the hotel from Wikipedia  

          ”The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, formerly known as the Delaware, Lackawanna and Westrn Railroad Station, is a histoci building in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1908 and widely considrered one of the most beautiful railroad terminals in the east. The buidling was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1977.”

So this hotel is extremely old, but absolutely gorgeous when you first walk into it.  Whoever tried to preserve the history of this building did an incredible job with it because it still has original clocks, doors, fountains, stairs, ceilings, walls, floors and pretty much everything else. The team arrives to the hotel, some people scattering in before and after the bus because they chose to ride with wives, girlfriends, fiancés, or family who chose to go on this short trip so there wasn’t much chatter going on about the hotel. Everything goes normal and people load onto the bus just like the last 100 or so times we have this year, but immediately after we get to the field the topic of conversation turns to one that I have again never had in all my years of professional baseball.

            “Hey! You do know this hotel is haunted right?” comes over my right shoulder as I am changing into my BP clothes, and immediately my curiosity is peaked. Pretty soon, half of the team is joining in on stories about how a CF from another team (don’t know the name of course) swore he saw a ghost in his room or how a coach woke up in the middle of the night to his TV being turned off and pushed back into it’s standup dresser. For every guy on the team, there were 2-3 stories to be told per person and although the details seemed to be a little vague and no one knew names it was enough to get the blood going, and we still had 3 more nights in the hotel. For three straight days people came to the field, some a little more sleep-deprived than others, asking if anything happened to a teammate that night and anxious to hear another story.

            Or trainer swore it was a tactic being used by the SWB yanks to get us a little on edge before the series so we weren’t at our best but everyone seemed to believe the stories that were being told, everyone had a little trepidation some more than others. Although nothing major happened during our stay there were a few things and stories that made guys very un easy throughout the stay that I’ll share. 

One of the stories that was told was back during the early days of the hotel a woman found out her husband died while she was in the train station and went up to the sixth floor and jumped off and she hit so hard she cracked the tile flooring and no matter how many times workers tried to repair it, it re-cracked in the same spot so one they just leave it.

Another one is that apparently at night if you go to the sixth floor there is a waiter running around the hallways dressed in his best still serving the patrons of the hotel from beyond the grave. People have witnessed him running by them and when they turn around to see him, he’s vanished.

Third story that creeped everyone out actually happened to a member of our team, although not on this trip. Apparently he came back to the hotel room to his room smelling of fresh flowers so strongly that he couldn’t even walk in. He went down to the front desk to tell the ladies there to please ask the maids to lighten up on the scents to which the front desk lady replied that none of their maids have anything like that. So e proceeded to ask what the smell was and she told him that when it was a train station dead bodies used to be left there for families to pick up and it stunk so bad that people would throw anything that smelt good on them to stop the stench and what he is smelling might be an un wanted visitor.

            I, personally never ran into anything while i was there but I did watch two people ghost hunt around the lobby for about 30 minutes before I had to catch the bus, and one of my teammates swore that after a game his girlfriend and he were sitting and chatting in the lobby and we watched a glass slowly slide across their table and crash onto the ground with no one around it or touching it. So take it for what you will believers and non but this was something that was most definitely a first for me and I had a lot of fun with it.

Friendly Rivalry

How do the players maintain friendships when they are also on the diamond competing for spots on the various affiliates and ultimately for the big league squad? Although we are all on the field competing we also understand that this is now a business and the ultimate decision is not down to us.  Everyone understands that the only control you have over what is going on is what you do in between the foul lines, if you go out there, compete and are successful, it doesn’t matter what organization you are in you are going to move.  As a player, if you sit and fret about why a certain person was moved and you were not, you will make yourself crazy! You have to learn very quickly that you have to only worry about what you can control which is your own work ethic, preparation and performance between the lines. If you can concentrate on these things and be successful at them then good things are bound to happen to you.  There are very rare exceptions in which they will move a person when they have struggled at a certain level, but the truth of the matter is that everyone in the organization is friends with one another. You have to treat your organization like a family when you are out here, everyone out on the field is in the same situation and they are going through the same process as you, and although the affiliates might be different the experience is going to be about the same.  A lot of my close friends are fellow pitchers, and there has never been a time when anyone has rooted for a pitcher to fail or to do poorly in any situation. It’s actually quite the opposite, everyone is pulling for each other and they want to see each other succeed because when individuals succeed then the team excels and if that continues to happen then championships are won.  Every affiliate is going after their league championship; because everyone wants to win a ring, there are a lot of things that can be overlooked on a team if you win a championship.  No matter what level you are at, championship rings are very much coveted and every person is trying to win one whether you are in short season A ball or in the big leagues. 

                Competition is a funny thing, as it can bring out the best in people and make them excel or they can shrink into oblivion never to be heard from again. The competition that the nationals have forced on its players is going to tell a lot about the personality of the organization and its individual players. Since they have been drafting and trading so well, there is a stockpile of talent in the minor leagues which is a good thing for the organization. They are creating internal competition to see what guys are made of, and too see who wants their dream the worst. There is no time to sit and feel sorry for yourself, yet it is time to step up and show what you are made of as a person and ballplayer. As of right now there are about 98+ pitchers for 72 spots available which includes Florida and extended spring training rosters. There is never anyone that is safe from not making a team or starting a level lower than where they expect to be, everyone has something to prove and when we all step in between the lines it’s all about business and making sure that you show what you got to the fullest of your ability. But when we all step off the lines, we are all still that same family and baseball is pushed to the side and the focus shifts away to other things. There is a time and place to think and concentrate about baseball, but there is also a heavy need to separate from it as well and think about other things and be with the people you care about the most. No matter if you have a good or bad performance there is a time and a place to think and analyze it, and then it’s time to move on. The nationals have promoted a lot of guys from within to the big leagues, which doesn’t go un-noticed by other players and there is a lot of excitement in this organization because we all know that we are going to get our chance to excel if we can prove we got the stuff to do so.

                During spring training it is a time for the individual player to show off what he has worked on, and what kind of direction he can take. When we all leave our affiliates we all know certain things that need to be worked on, and when you report its chance to show that you were motivated and disciplined enough to do those certain things and it’s a chance to show the club that you are dedicated to do whatever it takes to win and to be successful.  Many people have the misconception that people report to spring training to get into shape, and although that might have been the case a few years ago now this is the time to prove your worth as a player and to show continue to grow as a player.  The baseline of the performance is started in the off-season and spring training is a chance to continue to get better and get setup for a successful season.  If you are unable to prove your worth down in Florida, then when the decisions are made they will not be able to send you to an affiliate in full confidence knowing you can compete and be successful. The organizations are not going to set a player up to fail, in contrast they want everyone to succeed and develop to their fullest potential and ultimately help the big league club so sometimes you are put on a roster that you might not think you belong on.  

Out of the millions of kids that play little league ball we were 1 of 1500 that had their name called on that fateful draft day. You only get one chance to chase down your dream so doesn’t it deserve everything you got? I truly believe that the biggest regret in life is saying what if……..

Oh the Places You’ll Go

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

            This might be one of the greatest books ever written, and it not only have I been blessed to travel to places that I might not ever go to again, I have been more fortunate to meet people that have touched my life more than they realize. I’ve never understood the rationale of putting some of these minor league teams in the smallest cities around the United States, and quite often there is nothing to do during the days, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, and when it comes to attendance during the games there are some pretty paltry ones day in and day out. I have been at this as I am in my fourth full season now, and not only have I been blessed with the ability to travel everywhere but I have also been blessed to meet amazing people down this crazy path.

            They say “Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget” and I can say I have met some truly amazing people that have helped me along this path, whether it be emotional, spiritual, or physical help there have been multiple people who have helped me along this path. I do not want to go into any names as to embarrass anybody, but they know who they are and I want to extend an enormous thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point so far, the journey has been fun and I truly hope there is a lot more of it left in store for me.


             Well, we are officially on all-star break and if any arm chair pitcher can see the first half of my season didn’t quite go so well. Unfortunately those gaudy numbers that are staring back at me aren’t ones I’m too proud of. It is said “We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt” and I am ready to finish. I was able to sit and talk with some people before I left and attempt to sort out what happened and where exactly this wrong turn was made and I believe some very positive things have come out of it, and I feel extremely confident in my-self as the second half approaches. Playing this game you are constantly tweaking and adjusting things, and it’s weird that the more you fail the more you feel like you have to change things and the less you actually trust what got you to where you are in the first place, and this has been my realization. Sitting down and talking with people a lot smarter than me, a question was posed, I was asked “What made you successful last year?” To which I replied “I got no idea, I just pitched.” BINGO! I wasn’t adjusting arm angles, finger pressures, trying to spot my pitches or trying to think what I think the batter is going to do I just knew my stuff was better than his and attacked.

            I think everyone falls into that rut sometimes, they never believe that the solution to their problems might be the simplest ones that is staring at them in their face. Many people, myself included, tend to overlook the simplicity in their problems and go off and try to implement this wacky, complex, over-analyzed solution they think they need because they over-think their problem(s).  Having this talk really helped, because that’s exactly what I was doing just thinking and anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that can hurt you a lot more than it helps. So as I sat in front of my locker and reflected on what was told to me, I realized that I had the answer all along and I implemented it last year but I made this problem into something I thought I knew nothing about and yet I already had the solution before it even happened.

            I really am enjoying my time off with my girlfriend for these three days, and then it’s to Leigh Valley to start the last half of the season, and for me it’s the beginning of a new season.

 

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…”

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Job Skills?

Sitting in the bullpen, you come across various topics of conversation both serious and not, but today it wasn’t about the conversation during the game that really struck a cord with me it was a simple sentence that a parent said too me while I was signing autographs. As always, after the game the fans come rushing down to the field to try and get you to sign everything from hats, balls, gloves, arms, legs, torsos and everything in between and I love to sign as many autographs as I can because I always tell myself that this might be the last day someone actually wants my signature.

One of the last autographs I had from the ensuing mob that took place after the game, was a bright eyed little girl who wanted her pink glove signed, so I grabbed her glove and smiled and scribbled my signature as fast and neat as I could and put the customary “40” in there so she could look at a program and see who it was if the signature made sense. As I was signing her glove, her dad asked me a question that I initially shrugged off but also sat with me for many hours after. He said “Hey man, how old are you by chance?” and I replied with “26” and then he said “do you ever think about what if I don’t make it? What do you do when you job hunt in the real world?” to which I quickly replied “Thats why you pray you make it” and I gave a quick smile and jogged off.

This question lingered with me for quite sometime afterward, and now that I have had a lot of time to think about it here is the answer I wish I could have given him and I hope he is reading out there.

Many people have told me that we are just playing a game for a living and if I am worried that I am going to be “behind” in the job market when baseball is all said and done. Although this might be the case, I really sat and thought about this particular individual’s statement and realized how wrong he or she really was. We are actually learning and honing skills and personality traits playing baseball, ones  that we will use in real life, and although we are not focused on these “skills” things are happening all the time and I will give you, the reader, some examples. One of the biggest one is being able to deal with a diverse workforce. There are very few jobs out there that require an individual to “work” in an environment where there are so many cultures present and the blending of those cultures correctly is key to a fun and winning environment. Understanding everyone’s customs, cultures, and mannerisms and learning to deal with people not only from other countries, but people from all parts of the United States. Every part of the world and the United States has different phrases, different ways of handling success and adversity.  The diversity that lies within teams, forces the individual player to learn on how to deal with all types of personalities and still maintain your own sanity and success. In order to be well-liked you have to have a successful balance of everything.

Another skill that is apparent in baseball is being able to work in multiple positions. As a pitcher, you might close a game, be a starter, or work long relief.  There are different ways to go about your preparation for each individual role, and learning how to make sure your body is at optimal performance level is key to your success. This adaptation happens all the time in the 40-hour workforce, and some of those skills take a long time for certain businesspeople to develop and for the baseball player it could be the reason your career takes off or falters. You are expected to produce results no matter what role you are in on the diamond, and produce those results rather immediately. When you get moved in the workforce they might assign someone to you to help you with the change or you might go through some sort of tutorial but that is not the case with us.  Pressure packed situations like when the bases are loaded and you are trying to hold a one run lead in the ladder innings of a game, there are crazy thoughts going through your mind and if you are on the road then you have even more adversity to block out.  Learning to control your body, your rhythm, and more importantly your heart rate is a major key to getting yourself out of the jam with minimal damage.  In the workforce there are always deadlines that have to be made, and if you happen to be swamped with work then all those traits come back and as a former or current professional athlete you can rely on to keep cool, calm, and collected and make sure all your work is done and done in an accurate and professional matter.

Although these are only a few examples, I’m sure there are many more that I can point out but I think the point has been made, I hope!  Although we are truly playing a game right now there are so many personality traits that we are learning subconsciously and keeping sharp. Although we might not be conscious of them, there are there and present on every level on and off the field. Not only is the “work” we do stressful, but it changes on a daily basis and you never know what might be thrown at you. 

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