Called-Up

Over the past three days, I have taken four flights, spanning three states and two time zones, a journey not uncommon for a Minor League baseball player.  On Monday, I was called up to our Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City to provide support to a team riddled with injuries.  Ironically, this was a year and one day after I was called up to Rancho last season.

After returning home from our Sunday night game in Lake Elsinore, I packed up some things to make a 7:40am flight on Monday.  This flight to Salt Lake City was via San Jose and Reno, making a two-hour trip an all-morning adventure.  After arriving in Salt Lake around 1:00pm, I took a taxi to the stadium.  From here, I went about a typical day at the field, with the usual early work, bullpens, batting practice, and game against the Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners affiliate).  The next two days were business as usual, with the series finale against Tacoma Tuesday night, and the series opener against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Colorado Rockies affiliate) Wednesday.

 While I did not play in any of the games, it was a good experience to see the level of competition at the Triple-A level.  Players are always being told that on a given play, we could play at any level, including the Major Leagues.  However, the separating factor between the upper and lower levels is consistency.  This improved consistency was the biggest difference I noticed between Rancho and Salt Lake from a baseball perspective; games were cleaner and more strikes were thrown.  Then again, this is not to say that the teams were perfect.  I still saw a pitcher cut a ball off from the outfield on a throw home and redirect it to third (when he should have been backing up the catcher), as well as an outfield misplay a fly ball that led to a triple and a subsequent throwing error that allowed the runner to score.  Management is more hands-off at this level, with instruction being done subtly as the situation calls for it.

From a non-baseball perspective, I noticed that things ran a lot more smoothly in Salt Lake, from pre-game activities to in-between inning entertainment to clubhouse administration.  However, this is to be expected from a Triple-A organization that has a lot more support staff and additional resources compared to its Single-A counterparts.  There are some additional perks to being in Salt Lake, aside from the increased efficiencies:  salary is increased (which is still nothing to live off of), spikes are cleaned each night, and a wider variety of food is available (including a catered post-game spread).  The trade-off is higher clubhouse dues ($12 per day versus the $4 per day in Rancho).

Overall, this call-up, while short, was beneficial and has given me another perspective on the journey through the minor leagues.  It was finally nice to be one of the younger guys on the team instead of one of the oldest.  In fact, I warmed up Rudy Seanez last night, a relief pitcher who was drafted when I was two-years-old and has played for nine Major League teams spanning 17 seasons (a call-up to the Angels would make this his tenth team in 18 seasons).  If he pitches next season, his professional career will have spanned four decades (there’s a feat in itself).  Talking with Rudy offered me a unique glimpse into what playing is like for someone has been doing it for that long.  It turns out that he has many of the same concerns as the younger players do: staying healthy and concerns about job security.

I wrap this up prior to landing in Ontario (bordering city of Rancho; fortunately this was a direct flight) with some final thoughts.  This brief reprieve provided me with valuable insight into what makes players successful at the upper levels and has given me the chance to work alongside players a step away from the Big Leagues.  The randomness of this opportunity is further support that you never know where this game will take you and what opportunities will present themselves.  All you can do is complete the preparation so that when the opportunity strikes, you are ready to seize the moment and succeed.

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4 Responses to “Called-Up”

  1. scott Says:

    Wow! Rudy Seanez is still around! That is amazing. I remember taking my son to get his autograph 12 years ago.

  2. Ashlee Bonafede Says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog. You really should expand it into a book. :o) Oh, and I’ve developed a complete kindergarten crush on you from reading it. Hehe. Hope you’re having a good weekend.


    Ashlee

  3. Jimmy Scott Says:

    Great story. Great perspective. Great information.

  4. Rhi Says:

    Hey Chris,

    I’m loving reading your blogs! That’s so exciting you got to be so close to the majors! You didnt tell me you go to do that 😛

    I’ve always got my fingers crossed for you…I know you’re gonna totally kick ass and yes, Ashlee above is right…your blogs could soo easily become books 😉 haha

    Keep going hard & remember “Aussie Aussie Aussie…Oi Oi Oi” 😛 haha

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