QnA

I wanted to start off and say that I really appreciate all the positive feedback that I received from the community.  With all the positive feedback, it has reassured me that I made the right decision to write this journal, and I hope that everyone continues to love what I have to say. I asked for questions on message boards and on twitter, here are the responses! Thanks for participating!

Q:  What is the draft process like? What is it like to find out you were drafted? Do you care who drafts you? Then, what is the process after the draft. Who contacts you? Where do you go? When and whom do you report to?

The entire draft process can be very nerve racking. The scouting process really starts to pick up during the off-season prior to your draft year.  Scouts are continually sending you questionnaires in the mail, and they all ask the same questions! So you would figure that you could just go online and fill it out one time and they could put it in a database somewhere, and all the scouts could just look at it.  During the season the scouts cannot have much contact with you, as it is penalty with all amateur athletic government agencies, but they are always seen and they make sure that they come up and say “hello” to you.  During the season I got a visit from someone with the MLB scouting bureau, they ran me through some eye tests, hearing tests, and a 450 question aptitude test online.  The MLB scouting bureau is perennially called the 31st team because all teams can check their information with the scouting bureau to make sure that everything is correct. During the season the scouts are pretty much at every game.  The more an area scout likes you, the more they call their boss which is also called a cross checker. Sometimes the GM or some other high ranking staff members will come if it involves a higher round pick or a high school player.  After the season is over, the phone calls start coming in about whether or not you are healthy, if you have an advisor, and what bonus demands are, among a plethora of other questions.  A few days leading up to the draft you start to get an idea of where you might be taken in the draft, and although the teams do give you a rough estimate, it’s not always exact because some guys fall and other guys get taken earlier.     The morning of the draft is one of the most exciting and nervous times of a young ballplayers life. You hardly get sleep the night before (as least I didn’t) and you wake up anxious and making sure your cell phone is charged. Right before the draft you might get a few more phone calls about how you are feeling and what you are expecting money wise, and then the draft process happens.  Right before your name is called, you will get a phone call from a representative from the team congratulating you on being picked. After being picked there are so many emotions that rush through you, feelings of joy and achievement, but also knowing the true work is just beginning. Tools that were once considered “very good” are now just average or slightly above, because now the playing field is even.  After you negotiate and sign, they send you a plane ticket and off you go to your short season team which is my case was Spokane. You have no idea about professional baseball or what to expect, and honestly it’s a “learn as you go” process. Spokane set up each player with a host family to make sure that we didn’t need to find anywhere to live. As you play in short season ball, it serves as a learning process on how to handle yourself as a professional; and the coaching staff is there to guide you to help make sure that things are done properly.  You are expected to learn fast and do everything right the first time; things like wearing a collared shirt wherever you go, handling yourself in a professional manner, and how to handle yourself when your off the field.   The first few months are filled with excitement because now you are truly a professional, but you also have to understand that so many more things are expected of you now. There is a fantastic table that I found on hsbaseballweb.com that breaks it down perfectly.

High School Athletes

455,300

High School Senior Athletes

130,100

NCAA Athletes

25,700

NCAA Freshman Athletes

7,300

NCAA Senior Athletes

5,700

NCAA Athletes Drafted

600

High School to NCAA

5.6%

NCAA to Professional

10.5%

High School to Professional

.5%

 

As you can see, although it’s an extreme honor to be drafted by a professional team, you truly have to go the extra mile to make it to the big leagues, because no-one gets drafted to be a minor leaguer!

Q: Talk about some of the baseball parks that you have been too so far, and what do you think about them?

Constantly playing in cold weather states, I have never had the opportunity to play baseball in front of large crowds. When I was in Spokane (Short Season), we continually played in front of 6,000+ people a night and that brought about an adrenaline rush that was unlike anything that I have ever experienced.  The parks in the northwest league weren’t bad as they were in towns that didn’t have NBA, NFL, or NHL teams, so the minor league parks offered something to do that was fun and cheap for the entire family.

In Low-A; Dayton sold out their entire season before the first pitch was even thrown, they draw over 9,000 fans a game and if they added one more tier to their stadium it could definitely be a big league stadium! Other stadiums that I really enjoyed were Lansing’s stadium and West Michigan.  Ballparks such as Clinton, Beloit, and Quad Cities give you that down home, intimate feel. Anyone who has played in the California league knows that it is a grind; I played in Bakersfield which didn’t draw the biggest crowds but the people who came where die-hard. The Texas League in AA was great, there were a few bad ballparks but for the most part its where the parks got nicer and the crowds starting getting bigger.  The best ballpark I’ve ever been too was Frisco, the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers, it’s widely regarded as the best ballpark in minor league baseball. I really like Harrisburg (AA Nats) and Syracuse (AAA nats) as well. Harrisburg does an amazing job to bring fans in and they are very intense and into every pitch. Syracuse mixes a large ballpark with a very “homey” which is great. I would say all the parks in the International League are great; the traveling can get a little long when you fly but the cities and parks are awesome. It’s weird to go to cities and see which ones draw crowds and which ones don’t. It’s usually bigger cities draw the smaller crowds because there is so many things to do, and the smaller ones where there is nothing to do draw the bigger crowds.

 

Q:  What’s a day in the life like for a minor league baseball player?

                A typical day in usually goes like this: we have weight lifting at about 9am (if you pitched the night before) at the local gym and that lasted about an hour to an hour and a half.  After we finished lifting, we usually try to find food (since are usually just a few food places that are close). After that, the players went back to their apartment or house to hang out for a little bit, and we normally show up at the ballpark at about 1pm, and then the “work starts.” We go out onto the field early and either run some bunt defenses, pickoffs and rundowns, the hitters would get a little extra hitting in, and pitchers get a little mechanics work in.  Those things last about an hour or two before we move on to batting practice (BP). Batting practice usually lasts forty-five minutes to an hour, and then we would go back into the clubhouse so the other team could take BP. After BP we would all change out of our batting practice tops and into our game uniforms. With a start time of about 7:00pm or 7:15pm we would go out to the field at about 6:30 and the pitcher would go out at about 6:50 to go through their individual pitching routine to get ready for the game.  After the game we had a post game meal, and after showering and talking about the game, we got home at about midnight, just to start it all over again the next day!

Q:  What is spring training like for minor leaguers?

                The coaches, managers, and coordinators try and make sure that the work gets done and it gets done in the most efficient way possible. Nobody wants to be out in the hot Arizona heat all day, so everyone gets the work done as quickly as possible.  The complex has 12 diamonds, a running field, and a ½ field that just has an infield for people to take ground balls. The first field that you come to is the big league field, the rest of the fields in the back of the complex are used for the minor leaguers (hence the name Back Field Diaries!). A usual day consists of getting picked up or driving to the complex and getting there around 6:45am where you have breakfast in clubhouse. After breakfast, you head out to the back diamonds and stretch; those pitchers who are going to throw pens that day will throw them and get their running in. Then you go back to the clubhouse and get in your weight lifting routine, after that you’re usually done for the day. The pitchers who do not throw bullpens will be separated into groups and each of the back diamonds will have a group of coaches and coordinators and a specific drill will be emphasized for 15 to 25 minutes. The usual drills are: covering first base on a ball that takes the first baseman off the bag, turning the 1-6-3 and 3-6-1 double play, fielding bunts, and fielding comebackers. After the frill period is done, the pitchers report to the running field and you get your conditioning in before heading into the clubhouse to get your lifting in and getting your lunch. The hitters are usually later than the pitchers, and although I cannot speak directly as to what they do, I know it consists of fielding grounders and fly balls and a lot of batting practice. When games actually start, they break up the players into the various teams (WHICH IS NO INDICATION OF WHERE YOU ARE HEADED) and you go and play other teams from around the Grapefruit League. When you play a game you treat it exactly like a game that you would be playing in season, and when it’s not your turn to play then you stay back and go through your normal everyday routine. At the beginning of spring training you finish up about 2 PM, and when the games are going on, if you are not playing, you are encouraged to stay after your workout to support your other teammates that are playing. A great majority, if not all players stay and watch the games. Coordinators and coaches emphasize that spring training is not a time for you to get into shape, as you should already be in shape. This time is used to refine what you have already done and get you ready for the season.

Q:  Do you and/or other minor leaguers follow college baseball much?   How much are you able to keep up with guys you played with in HS or college?  How much do you and other minor leaguers follow the Newberg Report and other outlets that are similar?

A few of the guys will follow what their college or high school team is doing, but for the most part, the guys really don’t follow college baseball intensely because we are too involved with what we are doing and making sure that we are giving our all to our team.  A few of the guys might go to an Arizona State game to watch them play if it happens to be a good match up, or if Arizona State  is ranked high.  Personally, I am able to keep up with my college teammates that have gone on and played.  Social mediums such as Facebook and Myspace have made it so much easier to keep in contact with former teammates that are still playing and those that are not as well.  I can’t speak for all the guys on whether or not they follow the Newberg report and other media outlets, but personally I will check it out and see what the other teams did that day, which players had a good day, and what the outcome was of the other games.  As your former teammates get dispersed throughout the system, it’s nice to keep up with them to see how they are doing. Even though they are at another level, they are still your friends and everyone tries to root for everyone else. Media outlets can be very tricky; reporters can make you sound amazing or terrible depending on the adjective that is used.  Sometimes you can’t but read about yourself, but you always have to remember that no matter how hot you are or how big of a slump you’re in, it can change in a heartbeat. I do believe that the media outlets give the other players an opportunity to follow fellow teammates and to stay on top with what’s going on outside of your team and in your organization.

Q: I’d be interested to hear your take on the instruction given by the coaching staff.  What they focus on, how they communicate guidance for younger guys on off-field issues, etc

The instruction that is given is very technical and is very specific to the individual person. When you are in college and in high school, everyone does the same drills and they try and focus on the big things in your mechanics. When you get to the professional level, there is more emphasis on the little things as those are the things that are going to get a person to the big leagues. I wouldn’t say that overly technical advice that is given to us, but advice about the little things that might have been overlooked in amateur levels.  There is breakdown with film in previous games, although I have done this when I was getting instruction when I was younger, I have never really broken down game footage; and I have found this to be an invaluable tool! They don’t just focus on the younger guys when they are talking about off-field issues because they affect us all. In spring training they bring in various professionals and we have symposiums with them on how to handle yourself when you are off the field and what to do if you find yourself in a situation that might possibly get you in trouble, no matter what it might be. We have certain lines of communication open to us that help us out when we need help with something; they are able to help us down the correct path.

Q: What do you do on an off day?

Off days are few and far between, but when we do get them people do a plethora of things. My roommate last year loved to go and play golf, and the other usual activities include going to the movies, fishing, and playing XBOX/Playstation. Off-days are kind of weird because sometimes you are looking forward to them all week and when they finally get there you don’t know what to do during the day because you are so used to playing! Personally last year, I just became a bum for that day and did nothing! I figured that since I was going 9am-x everyday then your body just needs a day of doing nothing!

Q:  Where do you learn/ experience the most, on the field playing or watching?

Personally I found that watching is where I learn the most. Watching people and the successes and failures they may have, can help you learn from their mistakes and let you see how they handled a specific situation. I think another great tool for success is communication. Talking with other players and pitchers about the success or failure they are having with certain batters and pitchers can be an invaluable tool to help you with your hot streak or break you out of your slump.  You are always learning about the game and about yourself, and when you think you have the game figured it, baseball will find a way to humble you and make it known that you still have a lot to learn. I firmly believe that whether you are the greatest or Ryan Tatusko, you can always learn something from being around the game.

Q:  What do you think about when a hitter gets in the box?

                Honestly, when a hitter steps in the box you don’t think anything, you just execute! Usually on game day the pitching coach will go through and talk about each hitter and what their weaknesses are and who is hot and who is not in their lineup. I firmly believe that it is possible to over study a pitcher or hitter. We have a large number of scouting reports at our disposal, but I believe that you have to play to your strength first and to their weakness second. Your strength (as a pitcher) will usually out-trump their strength as a hitter. A .300 hitter is going to fail 70% of the time; I will take those odds any day! However, there are times that your strengths are the same as the hitter’s weakness or the hitter’s strength is the same as your weakness. Before the game your pitching coach will usually sit down and go over a game plan, you stick to it unless something starts to unravel, at that point you have to adapt on the fly, so to speak, during the game.

Q:  Have you read any of Dirk Hayhursts’ books?

                Yes, I have read his first one. I thought it was really well written and I enjoyed it. It’s very refreshing to read about people achieving their dream(s).  I really look forward to reading his second one, one of the greatest things about baseball and sports in general is that 99.9% of the people who play them don’t have the same story of how they got to their goal so it is fun to read about how they went to achieve their dreams.

Q:  Favorite Place to eat on the road

We really don’t get a lot of meal money when we are on the road, and usually when we pull over there aren’t a lot of choices available so you got to eat whatever is in walking distance. But I would say if I had a choice as to where I would go everyday it would be Texas Roadhouse! Their rolls are amazing and so are their ribs!

 

Thank you for all the great questions, I know question and answer sessions are fairly common but I hope I gave you a perspective that is always seen but hardly talked about. I am willing to do more of these if everyone liked this one. As always please feel free to email me any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have to mailto:Ryan.Tatusko@gmail.com

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for talking on Twitter!
    Please read my interview with you @ htishler.mlblogs.com

    Reply

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