Changes Big and Small
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 Rosenfeld and Tara Sledjeski examine how players on both ball clubs are getting acclimated to pro ball.
For many aspiring major league baseball players, Short-Season Class A ball is one of the first stops of their professional journey after they are drafted. That means that many players in the New York Penn League and on the Brooklyn Cyclones are just getting used to playing professional ball. Professional ball comes with a lot of big adjustments for players starting off the field and continuing on the field.
The Staten Island Yankees with Matt Rosenfeld:
Most people will tell you that baseball is baseball no matter what level you play it on. At the end of the day, the game is still the same. While that may be true to a certain extent, the players of the Staten Island Yankees must deal with the many changes that come with the jump to professional baseball.
One unique switch second baseman Derek Toadvine had to make was with the playing surface. During college at Kent State in snowy Ohio , Toadvine played on an all turf field. The switch was made much easier by the tremendous grounds crew at Richmond County Ballpark. Toadvine is also picking up switch-hitting, something he had never done before, but the organization told him would be beneficial to his game.
For a pitcher, the switch to the pros provides other differences. Starter David Palladino loves playing with other professional ballplayers. Having a defense behind him that he can trust makes his job a whole lot easier. Another change that helps Palladino and pitchers in general is the switch to wood bats. After playing in college or high school with metal bats, Palladino welcomes the change to wood.
For the hitters, the switch to wood takes a little adjusting. First round pick out of Notre Dame Eric Jagielo is still dealing with the challenge of picking out the right bat for the right occasion.
Whether they come from high school or college or any other level, moving to professional baseball requires players to make adjustments to the changes in the game, and the environment around it.
The Brooklyn Cyclones with Tara Sledjeski:
Depending on where a player comes from, playing on a turf or dirt field may be a new experience. Following Hurricane Sandy last October, the Cyclones’ put in a new artificial turf field at their ballpark which will take some getting used to from players that do not have a history of playing on turf. Luckily for shortstop and 2012 first round pick Gavin Cecchini however, that will not be one of the many adjustments he has to face since he does have experience playing on turf in high school.
The artificial turf is far from the only thing players will have to adjust to. Another more obvious adjustment that has to be made is getting used to playing in a stadium. Cyclones second baseman LJ Mazzilli played in some intense college games at the University of Connecticut before being drafted in the fourth round by the Mets this year, but he still is not used to playing in a stadium.
Surroundings are not the only things players have to adjust to at the professional levels, they also have to get used to new equipment. In most high schools and colleges, aluminum bats are used compared to the wood bats that are used in the pros. Some players come to the minors with limited experience with wood bats while others come with no wood bat experience. For hitters, it can be a tough adjustment since the ball does not travel as far off of a wood bat. Pitchers have to adjust also, but for some pitchers it actually helps them out. Cyclones’ pitcher Tim Peterson likes that the ball does not travel as far off of wood bats.
One other adjustment that people may not even think of that has to be made at the professional levels is adjusting to the changing pace of the game. Cyclones’ catcher Thomas Nido has observed that the game moves at a much faster pace in the minors than it did when he played in high school.
If these Cyclones want to get the chance to play on a major league field one day, they will just keep on handling the adjustments in stride and keep getting better at their games. If they are able to adjust this summer in Brooklyn, it will only make them better ballplayers down the line.