Eyes On The Prize
Two worlds exist in the universe of professional baseball. In one, known as the “Dream World,” within your first year of professional baseball, you get called up to the Major Leagues. In this world, Nuke LaLoosh’s absurd jump would be the norm. If you recall in the movie Bull Durham, Nook LaLoosh starts his career in single-A and by the end of the movie, after about 5 or 6 good outings, he is called up to “The Show.” Not even the quickest journeys through the minors go that fast. Maybe a handful in history. But if you walk 15 in one game, you sure as heck aren’t going to be in the Majors that same year. Anyway, the other world is known as the “Real World.” In this world, hard work, determination, talent, and luck are the ingredients for a path to success.
It’s hard to truly put into words the long road from the draft to the Majors, but I’ll try. Think of it like this. The company of your dreams just hired you. You’ve worked your butt off in college to eventually become a CEO of a major company. The day they hire you is the best day of your life. Or at least one of them. As you start work, you realize you’ve got to start over now. You still have those aspirations of becoming the CEO, but sitting in your cubicle you realize everybody else around you is thinking the same way. Well, a baseball career can be very similar to sitting in a cubicle. With a window view every day, of course. The idea, though, is to not peek over the makeshift office walls to see what everybody else is doing. Once you do that, and start trying to figure out what your teammates are doing, you get into trouble. The focus needs to stay on what you can do to improve every day and what you need to do to reach your ultimate goal.
The magic number is….well, actually….there isn’t one…There is no set timetable of how long it takes to make the Majors. There ARE 6 different minor league levels, though. Rookie-A. Short-Season A. Low-A. High-A. AA. AAA. You don’t have to play on every team, but that’s the general path. Many players skip levels. But, many have to succeed one level at a time. So far, in my first full season, I am at the Low-A level. The problem here isn’t where I am. I’m very happy about that. The problem is not to allow the when to creep into my mind. The only thing I can control is the how. How well do I pitch? How well do I meet my own and the organization’s expectations? How well do I go about my business? How well do I attack the strike zone and locate my fastball? How well do I field my position? These are all examples of things I can control. What I can’t control is the when. You can’t sit there every day wondering when they will move you up or down through the system. It’s out of your control. But by executing the how correctly, you can undoubtedly make a difference in the when. That’s what I am trying to do everyday. Get better every day. I have had my fair share of struggles on and off the field early this season. But it is a long season. By fixing those mistakes, by September it should all pan out into an overall successful year.
I may be playing 15 minutes west of Cleveland, but I am more like years away from Jacobs Field. I drive by it every day on my way to the field and it reminds me where I am trying to go and that I need to stay focused or all I’ll ever remember is driving by it rather than playing in it. While keeping my eyes on that prize, I still need to stay focused every day. Today is the most important day of my career and it needs to be approached that way. By doing what I need to do to be successful today, tomorrow should take care of itself. A little something I learned in college.