|Minor League Baseball
Until the past few years, professional baseball was the only sport with a Minor League system. Ice hockey now has
a Minor League system of its own.
So why does baseball have Minor Leagues? Why make the players spend time…sometimes years…in the lower levels earning
very little money on a gamble that they'll make it to the show? Why would you do it? Gee, when pro football players
are drafted they go directly from college to the pros.
member, Hall of Fame: "Baseball's more than a career. It's a lifestyle."
"When the kids get drafted they all think they're ready for Major League action. But after a few days in Minor
League baseball they begin to see the light. Professional baseball spends a lot of money providing a Minor League
system for them and pays them as they develop their skills and learn the game.
"For instance, take the hitters. Most of them are suddenly using a wood bat for the first time. Believe me,
that takes a lot of adjustment. These bats are heavier, so the kids find their bat speed is slowed. They try to
compensate by changing the stance and swing that got 'em drafted in the first place. So we have to work with them
"And for the pitchers, well, most of them have a repertoire of one pitch: the fastball. Sure, they've been
successful with that back home, but here the level of competition is much greater and the caliber of hitters is
better. Every hitter is a former All-Star from someplace. So they're suddenly experiencing a lack of success for
the first time. They gradually learn to "pitch" in the Minor Leagues, which takes time."
former player, Reds, Yankees: "To tell you the truth, I think the Minor
Leagues starts better than it ends. I mean, we're so happy to be drafted and as soon as we're drafted we see ourselves
as Major League players. Well, it doesn't go that way. For me, I was drafted right out of high school and went
directly to Billings, Montana. Over the next couple of years as I improved and matured, it finally hit me that
I had a long way to go before and if I made it to the Major Leagues.
"One of the hardest things in the lower minors is that there's a lot of time to kill but not enough time to
really do anything…and I remember my first experience on Astroturf at the AAA level was a real thrill…and…"
Sorry, but you'll have to read the rest in the book.
former Major League player, Phillies, Indians: "On those long overnight
bus rides you find yourself thinking, 'What in the world am I doing here? Why am I doing this? Is it worth it?'
and stuff like that…Everybody's a junk food eater on the road because it's cheap. Oh yeah, we got a couple of nuts
on the team who to bring health food and like that. But most of us don't have time to mess with that. We tear the
hamburgers up, man. Like hamburgers and cokes are the main course. Most of us take lots of vitamins, so it's alright."
President, CEO, formerly Expos, Marlins; now Tigers: "Baseball people
refer to the Minor Leagues as the player development phase of their careers. Our primary concern there is to develop
players for the Major League level, and secondly, to do that with a winning attitude…Every organization has it's
own philosophy about how to do that. We never sacrifice a prospect's development for the sake of winning, but we
want our Minor League players to enjoy success…We like to see them challenged and move up the ladder…That's what
the players want, too."
There's more to playing Minor League baseball than the actual season. Do you know that Instruction League or Winter
Ball could be in your future as extensions of your seasons? What's the difference between them?
former Major League player, Cubs, Yankees: "I think playing Winter Ball
really helped me jump from AA to the big leagues because I got to play every day down there. My team won the Caribbean
Series that year and we played around 85 games. Oddly enough, after playing a full AA season, then winter ball
till February 10th and spring training starting on February 20th, I expected to be pretty tired. But it didn't
happen that way."
former Major League player: "Instruction League is basically for inexperienced
players who have participate4d in maybe one, two, or even three of professional baseball and the organization feels
they have Major League potential. They come to get individual instruction. It gives them maybe thirty more ballgames
to help develop their skills a little more quickly."
former Major League player, Blue Jays: "I was drafted by the Cleveland
Indians in the first round, tenth pick nationwide in 1980.
"Lots of things happen in the Minor Leagues. It's a time to mature as player and as a person, too. It's a
place to make friends that last a lifetime. And it's a place to learn.
"One of the first awakenings there was learning to use the wood bats. Boy, that's more of an adjustment than
most guys realize until they have to do it. It takes awhile. In my case, when I first started playing the game
I was a slap hitter. I didn't drive the ball or hit for power. But when the coaches started working with me about
using the wood bats, things changed drastically. All of a sudden I began driving the ball and hitting home runs.
Nobody knows what happened, but I'm sure glad it did. Now I'm pretty much a free swinger with some pop and I'm
a fairly good contact hitter.
"Changing positions is another thing that can happen. I was drafted as a shortstop, and fully expected to
play that position my entire career. I remember my last year with Cleveland, when I was playing AAA at Buffalo,
they told me they were gonna make me into a third baseman. I guess they thought I'd make it to the big leagues
faster that way. The move was uncomfortable, but, nevertheless, when they tell you to do something, you do it.
It would have been easy to just quit when that happened, but I wanted to make it to the big leagues and I trusted
their judgment. Looking back, I think that when the big leagues had to trim their rosters from 25 to 24 players
in 1986, being able to play more positions really helped me.
"Most of the guys worried about changing organizations in the Minor Leagues. What would be their status with
a new team? Would it slow down their progress? Well, it happened to me and it wasn't so bad. After my AAA year,
Cleveland didn't protect me and I was drafted by Toronto. According to the rules then, the Blue Jays had to put
me on a roster higher than the level where I was. So I came home from Winterball in Columbia and prepared for spring
training. I went to spring training and broke camp with the big league team. That was 1984. But then the Jays made
a deal with Cleveland for catcher Gino Petralli, so they sent me down to make room for him. I played most of that
season with their AAA team at Syracuse, and returned to the team with the September call-ups. I went to the big
leagues in 1985 and have been there ever since.
"In the Minor Leagues, it's really easy to look at everything as pressure. I guess it's unavoidable, actually.
But a coach told me when I was very young, that anything that makes you nervous is usually an opportunity. I approached
the Minor Leagues that way."