I quite often think about the duality of minor league baseball players. Ok, maybe duality isn’t the best word for it. Oh well, I’m in the middle of a grueling 6 month season right now and my brain doesn’t need to strain too much.
This thought first hit me day 2 of spring training as I was laying out by the pool enjoying the warm weather associated with spring training. I sent a buddy from my offseason job a picture of us laying out trying to inflict some harmless jealousy knowing he was cooped up inside of a cubicle. He of course responded with a little jealousy along with the question that sparked my thoughts. “Man, you’re living the life of a rock star aren’t you?” In my mind, the answer was of course yes, a very affirmative, exclamatory yes. After giving the question more thought, however, I realized that maybe I wasn’t quite so sure about that answer.
Being a senior signed ball player with the consequent signing bonus, money for me and the majority of minor league ball players, is something we still have to think about. I’m not struggling, but I certainly didn’t receive the multi-million dollar signing bonuses that seem so common when you watch ESPN or read Sports Illustrated.
In fact, I bet if I told a complete stranger the basics of my current situation but left out the part about professional baseball, they may consider me to be homeless. All kidding aside, let me divulge a few of the facts of my life. I live out of a suitcase. In-season living arrangements consists of cheap air mattresses, crammed apartments with minimal furniture, and hotel rooms that are so crappy they don’t even register on the 5 star scale (that’s a bit of an exaggeration). People receiving welfare checks probably make as much as I do during the season. Seriously though, during spring training and extended spring training, everyone in minor league camp got 16$ a day; that includes first rounder, 51st rounders, and everything in between. This may seem reasonable until you consider the hours put in. Most people get to the park about 7:00 A.M. and probably won’t return to the hotel until 5:00; thus, we have a 10 hour work day and a consequent hourly wage of a whopping $1.60/ hour. I must note that this money doesn’t include the hotel they put us up in, but let’s be real here, $1.60/hour? Although it varies among the ranks of the minor leagues, during the season minor leagues earn roughly $1100 – $1600 a month which doesn’t leave you with very much when you take out taxes and clubhouse dues. Let’s move on. A lot of people like to say, “At least we have a good, secure job right?” FALSE! My job is about as stable and secure as the price of gas. At any given point in time I could be fired or forced to move locations within 24 hours; I also have no clue where or what I’ll be doing in the next 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months, etc. It’s hard to keep up relationships with friends and even harder to keep a girlfriend happy. Not quite the glamorous lifestyle you hear about is it?
But here is the crazy part: I’m living the dream. I’m living the dream that millions would love to live. I have to sign an autograph at least once a day, often times more. People line the fences watching us practice. Thousands of people a night pay to watch us play. Why they want me to sign my name to a piece of paper I’m not sure, but its sure does feel good when a complete stranger asks for it. You can just look into a kid’s eyes and know that they think it is the coolest thing in the world. When we go out, we certainly act like stars; all it takes is someone to mention we play professional baseball and its goodbye waiting in line and hello VIP. My daily routine merely consists of working out, running, throwing, and playing this great game, and I get to hang out with the guys all day long. So maybe it is glamorous?
Anyways, let me get back to my original topic: the duality of baseball players. It is crazy how I (using myself as a microcosm for minor league ball players) can be on such far ends of a spectrum: hot and cold, black and white, winter and summer. I can be a bum and a rock star all in the same day. I am a professional athlete, but make little money and sleep on air mattresses or in sub-par hotels. I can be a health-nut at times but still consume regular meals at the oh-so-nutritious McDonalds and Wendy’s. I crush weights all off-season long only to have minimal sleep on an overnight bus trip and then be forced to perform at an optimal level on the field several hours later. Locker room and bullpen conversations range from left and right wing political viewpoints, foreign policy, and other complex subjects to things as simple as who can pee the furthest distance. There’s also a definite language barrier on most teams so one would think people on both sides would try and bridge this gap. Nope, not even close. The first and oftentimes only words most care to learn are those with some sort of vulgar meaning. We have experienced athletic trainers waiting to help out with any type of pain or soreness, but when it comes down to it, most simply resort to ibuprofen and a Red Bull. So here I am – a bum, a rock star, and everything in between. And the best part is there’s no shot I’d want it any other way.