Life in the Minors: Chapter 4- Adjusting to the Minors
For the fourteenth consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the New York Single-A Penn League about the trials and tribulations of being minor league ballplayers. The long bus rides, the low pay, 76 games in 80 days. This is a look into Life in the Minors: How the Other Half Lives.
This week, Brendan Bowers and Christian Goewey talk about how these young ballplayers have adjusted to playing in the minor leagues.
The Staten Island Yankees with Brendan Bowers:
For most of the players in the New York Penn League, this is the highest level of baseball they have played in so far. Most of these players are coming out of the Gulf Coast League or College. Compared to the 76 game schedule in 80 days for the Staten Island Yankees, the players coming from the GCL only played 60 games in 69 days and college draft picks played around 55 games in about 90 days. In both cases, players coming from both leagues will have to adjust to the grind of everyday baseball. If they pass this test, they can continue their climb to the Bronx.
For outfielder Collin Slaybaugh, a 26th round pick out of Washington State in this years draft, he says that the biggest change is in the lifestyle. That in college he had to juggle both school and baseball, where now he has to just focus on baseball. Slaybaugh has been struggling as of late, batting .174 in the seven games he has played in this year.
Justin Kamplain, another draft pick (18th round) found that the independence experienced in professional baseball is very different than that he experienced while at the University of Alabama. In college, he had coaches hovering over him making sure he got his job done, while here in Staten Island he is on his own and expected to handle his own things. So far, Kamplain seems to be handling his own things very well, boasting a 1.00 era in nine innings of work.
Mario Garza, the manager for the Staten Island Yankees,has experienced the adjustments of professional baseball first hand. He was drafted out of the University of Fl
orida in the 25th round of the 2003 draft and even played in the NY-Penn league for the Tri-City Valley Cats in 2004 where he led the league in home runs with 15.
Mario Garza says that with out a doubt the toughest transition is playing baseball every day. He also states that one of the over hyped adjustments is transferring from metal bats in amateur baseball to the wooden bat of professional baseball. In his opinion, to be drafted means that you have the physical ability to be able to handle a wooden baseball bat, and for most of the players it is no problem.
Overall, this is just one of the first tests these players will have to face in their quest for the big leagues. For the players who pass the test and are able to succeed in this league with this schedule they will move up and hopefully play in the majors where it is a 162 game schedule in 181 days.
The Brooklyn Cyclones with Christian Goewey:
Already a month into the season and Brooklyn sits in second place of the McNamara Division. At a record of 15 and 13 this team is going through the normal ups and downs of a season as the rookies adjust to the style of the pro game. Whether it’s the talent, schedule or style of the New York Penn League, young men coming from high school and college are gradually transitioning into professionals.
Seventy-six games in 80 days seems to have hit these players like a brick wall. Specifically Tyler Moore, who plays catcher and DH, feels that’s been the biggest adjustment since coming from LSU. Last year, the Tigers played 63 games from February all the way to the beginning of June, so it’s easy to see why Moore feels this way. Although playing every day in the summer heat can be grueling, Moore embraces it along with the elevated competition. Tucker Tharp played center field for Kansas, a Big 12 Conference team. After going 34 and 25 last year with the Jayhawks, Tharp became familiar with hard throwing pitchers in the Big 12 from the likes of TCU and Oklahoma State. While the Big 12 may have their fair share of powers arms, the minors has more and that is still taking Tharp some time to get used to. Not only playing every day but playing against equal or even greater talent is a tough challenge for these new guys.
We also tend to forget that these players even have to use a different bat! Some feel the switch from aluminum to wood is a challenge while others don’t think much of it. While he actually likes using wood, Moore acknowledges that it has been a challenge to make sure he is comfortable with the correct size and model of the bat. Tharp on the other hand, doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He is confident that the transition won’t be too difficult and the only solution is practice.
From seeing these players practice, it is easy to surmise that it can be frustrating and exhausting to learn these changes brought by professional baseball. They are still so young and working at their craft diligently with the dream of being in the “Show” someday. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before it all comes together and these adjustments are mere bumps in the road.