It’s getting close to that time of the year. The time when baseball organizations have decisions to make with free agents, arbitration, next year’s payroll, and the Winter Meetings. The season after the season, where all the behind the scenes work starts in preparation for next year. For us Minor Leaguers, however, we’re narrowing in on the offseason. A time of decision making as well, but on a much more personal level.
Ashley and I have made our offseason home in Atlanta for the last 2 years. We don’t own a house or an apartment. We don’t have a dog, cat, or any children. We have 2 cars and an apartment’s worth of furniture in a storage unit (yes, it’s air conditioned…don’t worry). Our lives are light in comparison to most people. We aren’t weighed down by much, mostly because baseball won’t allow us to. It would be great to have a place in Atlanta to call home. A place where our furniture lived and our pictures hung on walls. It would be great to have a place to come “home” to after the season, or a place of refuge for Ashley when my life sends me 1500 miles across the USA in a couple weeks. It would cut down on the post season headache of having to look for 6 month leases (or 3 months this year). Our lives are light, but our burden can be heavy at times.
Some ballplayers have the resources to buy or build. Their signing bonuses stretching a bit further than ours, into the home-owner category. Other ballplayers live light, similar to us, but without a significant other. They move all over the place with their closet in their backseat. The beach one week, the city the next. Moving where the weather is warm enough to play catch. Some work in the offseason and some don’t. Some need the money…some don’t. Personally, I enjoy working during the Winter months. It keeps my mind and hands occupied while keeping us out of the poor house. Not to mention, when you’re doing work you really enjoy it becomes satisfying on a different level. I’ve worked for a company called Booster Enterprises for the last 2 years, and it truly is fulfilling work. Booster is a fund-raising company that partners with elementary and middle schools throughout the country, helping them raise funds through a character based leadership development program. They get the privilege of interacting with students everyday and helping to build the next generation of leaders. It’s rare that a company would take such a vested interest in a personal situation like mine and Ashley’s. We are gone for 6 months out of every year playing baseball all over the country, but when we are back in Atlanta the Booster family has welcomed us back with open arms. Not all baseball players who want to work get an opportunity like this. It’s a real blessing.
More than finding a home, finding work, and working out, minor league ballplayers use the time ahead to take inventory of their careers. For 6-7 months of the year they grind, day in and day out, trying to play at the highest level they can in hopes of making it to the Show. Once the season ends and the pace of life slows (even just a bit) ballplayers sit back and look at their body of work. How did they play statistically? Where did they end up? What do their chances of making it look like next season? I’ve said before that most baseball players contemplate quitting about 4 or 5 times every year. I think it’s our coping mechanism. The idea that we could hang ’em up at any point keeps the illusion of control close at hand. But when the games stop and there’s no competition, the idea of being done playing ball actually begins to take shape. You get a closer look at what it would look like to live in a “normal” life. To have the brick house with the picket fence, 9-5 job, and 2.5 kids. So far in my experience, that nostalgic comfortable feeling begins to wear off around the new year. The itch to play comes back and there is nothing you want more than to get back out on the field. One day that desire will fade, though. It’s our job to keep asking ourselves the tough questions and make sure the passion is still there.
So far, so good!
None of us (minor leaguers and major leaguers alike) know exactly where we will be when camp breaks April 1, 2012. There are too many variables between now and then to triangulate which city/team/organization we will play for. If we want to continue to play, we have to face that reality. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor the “heavy” lifestyle. For now, we will continue to travel light and hope that we can drop anchor in Queens, NY…sooner rather than later.
– Collin McHugh, RHP, New York Mets