Life in the Minors- Chapter 4: A Game of Ritual

by Julian Atienza
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Routines Outside the White Lines are Keys to Success Between them

For the thirteenth consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the Short Season 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, Mike Pawell and Anthony Pucik examine the rituals, superstitions and quirks that help the ballplayers.

Hear Life in the Minors every week on WFUV's One on One, Saturday's at 2:50pm.

The Staten Island Yankees with Mike Pawell:

The Staten Island Yankees are one team, but that team is formed by 31 young men who have come from all walks of life. Some were drafted this year, others in previous years, and some were not drafted at all; but rather signed as non-drafted free agents. No matter where they’re from or how they got to Staten Island they all have had a history with playing baseball, and as any baseball player or avid fan will know; with baseball comes routines and superstitions.

Whether it’s having a specific routine for batting gloves like 2013 first round selection, 3rd baseman Eric Jagielo, playing cards like outfielder Michael O’Neill, or listening to rock music like 1st basemen Bubba Jones; all players have routines they follow throughout the season.

The routines themselves do not explicitly foster the success these Baby Bombers hope to achieve; however, as they work their way up from children hitting off tees to athletes taking batting practice in stadiums; it seems almost necessary that they would have their habits to fall back on to help steady themselves as they travel the rough bumpy bus rides on the road to the majors.

The Brooklyn Cyclones with Anthony Pucik:

Before the young members of the Cyclones could even blink, they were sent off to Brooklyn from their respective homes and started playing baseball with one another. They have had to adjust to New York City, to one another, and now waking up to play baseball is becoming an everyday habit. It has become a ritual and that is something these Mini Mets can certainly relate to.

Every person who works has their own specific routine they go through, even young ballplayers. These players are used to getting up, getting to the field, stretching, taking batting practice and getting ready for a game from playing ball in college and high school, but now this is what they do every single day. Despite the shift to all baseball all the time, many of the Cyclones have come to get used to their routines and are acclimating to life as a minor league baseball player very well. For example, outfielder Patrick Biondi is now used to the daily warm ups that the team does and knows exactly what to expect when he steps onto the field each day. There are also players like shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who comes to the field early so he can get some work in on aspects of his game he feels the need to focus on before the team goes through its daily routine. And for second baseman LJ Mazzilli, it’s just a call home before the game to the folks to let them know how everything is that has become somewhat of a routine thing.

Another important aspect of a player’s routine in music. Music can be useful in many ways for many players. Music helps ballplayers focus, get them pumped up and ready for a game, and the same goes for members of the Cyclones. Some players might have specific playlists that they listen to before a game, but that is not the case for Cecchini or Biondi. For both of these players, it depends on the type of mood they are in that day that dictates what it is that they listen to before the game.

Whether it is music, a specific meal, or a certain amount of hits off the tee, rituals are an important part of these young players’ lives. It gives them a type of stability in this chaotic world that they now find themselves immersed in. In between traveling, playing and adjusting to living on your own in New York City, it’s comforting to know that the one thing you do not have to worry about is how you are going to prepare for a game. These rituals have been set for these young men, and as the season trudges on, ithey will certainly come in handy. 

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Life in the Minors- Chapter 4