Life in the Minors- Chapter 5: Hitting the Road
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, Matt Moro and Kelly Kultys go inside the first extended road trips of the season for both ball clubs.
The Brooklyn Cyclones with Matt Moro:
In Short-Season Class A Baseball, the daily grind of playing ball is accentuated by playing 76 games in 80 days. So when the teams go on a lengthy road trip, it provides another hurdle that these players must cross. The Brooklyn Cyclones recently came back from a week on the road, going 3-3 in the 6 games away from their home at MCU Park. For a team with a losing record so far this season, going .500 on a road trip means beating those hurdles that come with playing not just every day, but away from home, a challenge for any team.
Brooklyn infielder LJ Mazzilli definitely feels that there is a difference between playing at home and on the road. He feels that playing on the road takes more of a business approach than playing at home. Instead of being able to be on your own after a game while at home, Mazzilli says that on the road you play a game, go back to the hotel, eat, and that’s about it. For Mazzilli, a road trip is about extra focus on the game and getting the job done.
You would think that being on the road would change how you would approach the game. But according to Cyclones catcher Eddie Rohan, baseball is a game of routine, home or away. Rohan believes that staying in a routine is the key to having success on the road. Getting knocked out of your groove is what can give a team problems, but Rohan says that most places are they travel too still allow them to keep the routines they’ve developed, enabling the team to stay in the game when away from home.
Even if you can find ways to develop routines that you can keep on the road, being away from home still takes its toll. That’s why Brooklyn first baseman Matt Oberste feels much more comfortable being back home after over a week away from home. Oberste, from the University of Oklahoma, acknowledges that Brooklyn is still new as his home, but also says that it’s still home enough to have a higher comfort level when coming back from the road.
The Brooklyn Cyclones will go on many more road trips this summer, and in order to fight their way to the top of the New York-Penn league they will need to do well on those road trips. Although they will always have a higher comfort level at home as Matt Oberste says, if the Cyclones can take an all-business approach and maintain a routine when on the road, hitting the road may not be a problem for this team after all.
The Staten Island Yankees with Kelly Kultys:
With just one month into the Single-A Short Season Penn League schedule, the Staten Island Yankees hit the road for their first extended road trip of the year. The team traveled throughout the northeast making stops in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and “upstate” New York.
Many teams have a tendency to struggle on the road, especially when players have to sit through long, tiring bus rides just to get to their destination. The Staten Island Yankees, on the other hand were able to have a successful trip, going 4-2 during the six game stretch.
Much of their road success has to do with Manager Justin Pope. Pope said that he wasn’t preparing his guys any different for their time on the road, compared to a home game. In fact, he believed the best way for these guys to learn was to just “throw them into the fire” and believe in their abilities.
Ironically, despite the traveling everyday and being away from home, Pope believed that his team could actually relax a little bit on this trip, citing that they were on the field for less time. At home, before a night game starting at 7pm, the team usually hits the field around 1pm to prepare. On the road, Pope said on the road their schedule is altered a little, allowing for more time to rest.
The team certainly enjoyed the slight reprieve after playing just about every day since June 17th. With an off day on Tuesday July 16th, after the road trip, many guys like first baseman Bubba Jones, said they think they’ll benefit from this slight break, in the upcoming weeks.