April 2009

1 Minute Monday, April 27th

today was the fake-out kinda day where it looks like you’re gonna get rained out and then all of a sudden the skies open up and you get to play the game.  so we spend the afternoon in the clubhouse while it’s raining outside playing cards and studying other teams’ hitters and watching tv and then all of a sudden the game starts.  its a weird experience when you are mid thought on whether or not dwight howard has to use a thicker pillow than the average guy if he sleeps on his side, they come in and say the game is on

How to become a Minor League Reliever: Step 1 Get Signed

Part of the 10 step guide to becoming a Double-A Reliever

  • Step 1 — Get Signed

When
you extend your right arm up and behind your head and then fling it
forward in front of your face, does it go faster than 94mph?  If you
answered yes to this, please contact your nearest organization; you
will be signed shortly.  Tune in in a few days for the next step of my
program.  If you answered no, please keep reading.

Now, extend
your left arm up and behind your head and fling it forward.  Did it go
faster than 90mph?  Again, if you answered yes, call a scout and report
back here in a few days for the next lesson.

Were you worried
there wasn’t going to be more blog here?  After all, I got signed, I
must have qualified as a “yes” for either of the first two answers. 
But, on the contrary, I didn’t.  And that’s why my route to getting
signed is quite a bit different.  I assume those of you reading this
can’t throw 90- or 94-plus, so here’s some help for “the rest of us”. 
(In case you’re not a Disco Die-hard, I throw less than 80mph and
somehow tricked the royals into inking me to a contract.)

So, if you want to be a relief pitcher that gets signed “under the radar” you’re going to have to follow my lead. 

First,
become a walk-on at a college baseball team near where you live.  Call
the coach, have him tell you he;s never heard of you so there’s no need
to come try out, but be persistent and at least pry the time and
location of tryouts away from him.  Show up at the tryouts and pray no
one else does so you will by default make the team.  Then for three
years, while sitting on the bench, keep track of things like how
opposing coaches call pitches from their dugout and learn a complex
system to relay the info to your teams’ batters.  This way you don’t
have to be good enough to play, but you still contribute to the team so
you won’t get cut.

Then, after you have been in good with the
team for a few years, branch out and learn some wacky, barely-legal
form of pitching and begin dominating hitters.  You’ll be so weird and
different, you’ll carry a sub 1.50 era through your conference season
and start to attract some interest from scouts.  Granted, don’t get
ahead of yourself, you are going to be late to the party because it’s
only a few weeks before the draft and all organizations have
hand-picked the guys they want to draft already, but that won’t stop
you from hoping.  In fact, that hope will perfectly set up the last
game of your college career where you will play your team’s rival in
front of 50 scouts and you will not only give up a run for the first
time in a month, but you’ll also blow a save for the first time of the
year.  In fact, you will give up 4 runs on a walk off and not record a
single out in front of all those scouts.  You will finish the season
with an ERA just above 3 and will spend draft day watching 1500 guys –
you heard that right 30 teams times 50 draft selections – about 900 of
whom all are pitchers who aren’t reading this part (if you know what I
mean) get signed.

You’d think with 1500 selections, getting
drafted is a pretty easy way to get signed.  And it should be.  In
fact, on the second day of the draft while you listen to name after
name get called, a number of teams will stop drafting players after
round 45.  At this point, you realize you are not getting passed over
for another player, but rather getting passed over for no one.   Your
absence is worth more than your presence to 30 organizations.  You will
assume your baseball career is over and will send your resume to a few
companies in the area.  But you will be wrong.  At this point it will
be difficult to not jump ship and think my advice is getting you
nowhere.  But the process has proven effective.  Continue to follow
it.  This process will make you appreciate the day you do get signed
that much more.

There are typically about 7 minor league
affiliates per organization, so that makes 210 minor league teams (plus
30 major league teams).  At 25 players per team that makes about 6,000
professional baseball players within organizations.  There are more
than 6,000 guys who want to play which is good news for you, which is
why independent minor league teams exist.  You may, at best, be the
6,001st best baseball player in the US, but at least you’ll have a team
to be a part of.  So, tryout for and make an independent team and sign
with them for the first year out of school and get paid $500 per
month.  You will learn what it takes to be a professional player that
summer through classy promotions like “Water Park at the field day”
where you will spend the first 4 innings in the bullpen dodging water
balloons launched by fans, then innings 5-8 throwing water balloons
back at the fans, and then come in for a save in the 9th with swollen,
pruny fingers.  Your arm-slot will continue to get lower and you will
put up good enough numbers to be invited to play winter ball in
Colombia, South America.

Though you will wonder if it’s smart to
go to a country who’s Consulate located in the US told you to “go at
your own risk” and “be informed the United States does not, in any way
negotiate in hostage situations in Colombia,” you will decide to go for
the experience.  In the long run, it will pay off huge for you because
you will be able to work on your mechanics and not have to put up
amazing numbers for fear of losing your job.  It will be the only time
in your career this will be the case, and you will take full advantage
of it.  You will be lucky your manager will recommend you to switch to
the arm-side of the rubber which will be a very difficult transition
because it changes the angles on your pitches, but it will prepare you
for your career in affiliated ball.  So, you won’t throw well at all in
Colombia, but hey, it’s Colombia, hardly anyone will ever find out.

After
playing in Colombia, you will be invited to 2 open tryouts just before
spring training with the Padres and White Sox on consecutive Saturdays
at their Arizonan spring training complexes.  One of your Independent
ball teammates will live in the area, so you will be able to stay with
him for free and you will just make it a mini vacation in Arizona for
the last week of February.  After pitching the top of the 21st in a
marathon 24-inning game featuring 48 pitchers trying out, your number
will not be called by the Padres.  On the way to your car, the guy who
was your catcher will ask you if you are going to the Royals tryout on
Tuesday.  Though you haven’t heard of it, you will inquire and find out
no invitation is needed and you will get the address.

Upon
arriving in Surprise on Tuesday you will find the minor leaguers taking
the field for the first day of spring training.  On the last practice
field tucked away in the back of the complex, you will throw a bullpen
and then live batting practice to other hopefuls in front of Royals
brass.  You will throw well, but they will have a radar gun out, so
your odds aren’t good (after all, your reading this, aren’t you?)  You
will then go back to your buddy’s house and sleep well that night.  It
will be your last night without a professional contract.

The
next morning, while on the way to a Chinese buffet, the Royals director
of player development will call you and ask you if you’d like to be a
Royal!  Crab Rangoon and Pork Fried Rice never tasted so good.

If
you’ve followed thus far, the rest is a piece of cake.  Get on the 101
and take it to Bell Rd. and go west to Bullard.  Take Bullard south and
you will see the complex.  Enter the front doors to the office, and the
contract will be waiting for you.  Though years ago when you downloaded
it, you never listened to it, you are now thrilled you have the song
“Goin’ to Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison on your iPod.  On the ride
home from signing your professional contract, blast the song on
repeat.  A job well done.

Easy as pie, eh?  It’s fool proof.  I
swear.  I’m living proof it works.  Trust me, you have to be a freak of
nature to throw hard enough to hang with my teammates.  It’s probably
not in the cards for everybody.  So follow these steps and you, too,
can start your professional career.

Soon to come:

Step 2.  Survive Spring Training

1 Minute Monday, April 20th

so i threw four innings the other day and for a reliever, i should be too sore to even write today.  but thankfully i throw more like a girls softball pitcher than a boys baseball pitcher, so here i am on monday, not to disappoint

while i was in the bullpen the other day i had a kid come up to me and ask, “how do you get in there?” and i couldnt’ decide if he meant it literally or in the career baseball sense,  assuming he meant the latter, i think i’m going to do a 10 part series to answer his questi

1 Minute Monday, April 13th

Hope everyone had a great easter.  I had a very very nice one, my wife surprised me in Corpus Christi so we could spend it together.  she wasn’t planning on coming down cause it’s so far, but it was really a nice surprise to find her here!  Sad news in baseball today with kalas and fidrych passing away.  growing up in detroit and being around baseball i’ve heard wuite a bit about fidrych and you have to lov e aguy who makes it that much fun to be a fan.  one more day her ein corups and then the long

Wednesdays Are For My Wife

Personally I think Chris’s last post about Texas was hilarious because you have to admit, it’s pretty true, don’t ya think?  Chris and I have many great friends from Texas, including the ones I’m about to write about… oh, I should probably mention who the “I” is in this blog.  It’s the wife writing.  I was supposed to post this last Wednesday under a new series, “Wednesdays Are For My Wife” (or something different if we can come up with something more clever…. any ideas, you can comment here or email jokes@discohayes.com).

Anyway, hi, I’m Tracy, Mrs. Disco to some, but you can call me anything you’d like as long as you don’t call me a cleat chaser.  Oh, heck, you can even call me that if you want because that label doesn’t really count until they are making millions, right?  I’m a lot more of a rambler than Chris is, so excuse this nonsense I’m going on about.

First, I will share with you the stipulation Chris gave me before writing this blog:  If his “rating” dropped any lower than where it currently stands, I would be banned from future blogging.  If, on the other hand, it boosted his popularity level, then I would be able to continue with occasional guest appearances, as they are deemed necessary.  So, help me out by reading this post about twenty extra times and leaving comments raving about how Chris’s wife’s blogs are way more interesting than his. Or not.

I’d like to give you an insider’s look into the secret life of a minor leaguer’s wife.   There are so many aspects of this lifestyle that truly just downright stink for a player’s wife, but luckily for me (and for you I guess), I enjoy turning frustrating experiences into funny stories I can laugh about later.

One aspect that never changes is the fact that we live with only the belongings that fit into our car and are on the road living in non-ideal conditions for seven months of every year, more than half of the time without our husbands.  We pack and unpack a minimum of five times every season and that doesn’t account for last minute promotions.  We need different things for different places, so it’s not like we can take one suitcase and be done with it.  Oh that would be too easy and nothing in the minor league lifestyle is easy (except the groupies. OH! Did I just say that out loud?!).  : ) Whew, back to my story.  We need everything from obvious stuff like his baseball gear (luckily he’s not a position player otherwise we wouldn’t have room for his bats) to kitchen stuff like pots and pans and dishes to our vacuum and cleaning supplies since I’m a neat freak and too poor to buy new ones in every city.  We also need clothes for two seasons (summer clothes for Spring Training in sunny Arizona, winter clothes for the start of the season so we don’t freeze to death in the stands, and then cute little dress up clothes and heels so our husbands can proudly wave at us after a game).  

Side rant about clothes:  When I first started going to Chris’s games in Low-A Burlington, I wore a baseball cap, t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops because isn’t that what you’re supposed to wear to a baseball game anyway???  I noticed some of the more seasoned wives were more stylishly dressed in designer jeans, with fancy handbags, make up, and heels.  Frankly, I thought they looked a little silly for wearing pumps and looking so dolled up at a simple baseball game… but then I mentioned this to Chris and to my surprise he joked that apparently we’re supposed to rise through the minor leagues together to prepare us for the big leagues.  We deduced that the lower level girls have to learn how to dress and behave like a big leaguer’s wife, so they work their way up the levels just like the players do.  Hrmph.  So, now here we are in Double-A and yes, I sheepishly admit I now come to games slightly dolled up.  I still think you can probably tell the difference between the big league wives and me simply because I have a knock-off purse and my hair is usually in a pony tail, whereas the big league wives must get their hair and nails done before every game because they look a little more fabulous than I do.  I did just get a pair of fancy designer jeans, so I think I’m almost ready for a promotion to a Triple-A wife soon; I hope Chris is ready for the move, too!

Okay, back to the original reason I am blogging. (Ya can’t say I didn’t warn you about the rambling.)

We had a slight delay in getting to Arkansas from Arizona due to a little mishap our friends (from Texas) had along the way.  It coincidentally had to do with suitcases full of clothes that didn’t fit into their car, so they were strapped to the roof.  I’ll bet you can see where this is going, but don’t get too excited, it doesn’t end as badly as you might hope.  Chris and I left Arizona right after he finished pitching in his last Spring Training game and our friends left about an hour before us.  After a long day of driving, we stopped in different cities for the night and oddly enough ended up driving alongside one another about three hours into the trip on the second day.  After driving together for about an hour, our friends called our cell to ask if we could take a look at the top of their car because it was making some funny noises.  As they were pulling up along side us, we noticed the front part of the luggage on the top of the car was getting a little wind under it, but it looked fairly secure.  Whilst still on the phone with them, they continued to drive past so we could get a good look at the entire top of their car when we realized they were starting to lose luggage off the back of their car!!!  

Chris was driving, so he couldn’t really see whether anything was really falling off or not, but I started yelling into the phone for our friends to pull over! “Pull over! You’re about to lose luggage off the back of your car!!!” all the while I’m laughing hysterically and almost unable to clearly tell them how critical it was for them to get off the road now!!

Chris thought I was kidding as did our friends, so for a good half mile both cars continued to drive 70 mph on a busy highway with a big blue suitcase dangling off the roof into their back window hanging on by two very thin cords.  The problem is they couldn’t see the suitcase in their window because just like every other minor leaguer, there was so much stuff in their car they couldn’t see out their back windows.  I’m now gasping for air I’m laughing so hard while very urgently pleading for Chris to pull over so our friends would follow.  Everyone eventually realizes I was NOT kidding and we head to a safe place on the shoulder to find most of the luggage probably seconds from becoming road kill.

Our friends had about five big suitcases on top of their car secured down by a tarp and one of those bungee cord nets.  It had worked well for the first four hundred miles, but the second day of driving must have taken its toll on the net and it was starting to give way little by little.  Our friends re-secured the netting and we set out on our jolly way for about ten minutes when suddenly the suitcases made a drastic shift to the back of the car, almost looking like they were about to shoot off like missiles.  We feverishly began honking our horn and flashing our lights hoping to avoid another near-death experience for the luggage and we again both pulled over.  This time they took the entire net off the car, re-positioned the luggage, and more diligently secured everything. We even offered some extra twine we had in our car and added that new support to the apparent fragile rear end area and set off on our jolly way for a second time.

Texas Sized Torpedo
Chris and I watched their luggage like hawks now impressed by how well the luggage in the back of the car was staying in place.  What we didn’t notice was now the front luggage was no longer secured well and the hooks on the bungee net were starting to fly off and cause the tarp to look like a parachute on top of their car.  We decided to take a drive by to check out the front of their parachute and HOLY COW (!) the front suit case has so much air under it now, it’s standing up on the back corner of itself about to flip up and go flying over their car!  Again, I start waving my arms wildly, pointing at the top of their car with big panic stricken eyes trying to get them to pull over AGAIN! This time there was an exit to an old country road we pulled off to and then used the rest of the twine to tie their stuff down for good!

I guess that’s why they say third times a charm because sure enough, this time everything held well enough to get our friends safely to Arkansas with all of the much needed designer clothing a Double-A wife will need for a season.  

Honestly, angels were watching over our friends on their trip from Spring Training to Double-A because based purely on physics they should have lost all of their luggage multiple times and it really would have caused a horrible accident because it’s not like a normal car would have driven over their Texas-sized suitcases like it was a pebble from Rhode Island.  Could you imagine the sight it would have been to witness a blue torpedo shooting off someone’s car at 70 mph??  

Opening Day 2009…Texas Style

Opening day in the Texas League this year was, fittingly, in Texas.  It was my first opening day in Texas in my career.  Those of you die-hards will remember last year I was in Wilmington, DE for the first few weeks (though I didn’t play) and then moved to Double-A, so I missed the opener here last year.

This opener was one to forget.  At least I assume it was, because I have forgotten.  I think the paper said we lost 7-2 and I didn’t pitch.

I woke up this morning and was deciding what I could blog about.  After all, it is the first game of the year; I have to write something.  Nothing was coming to mind.  I walked down to the front desk to try out the breakfast.  I was at a loss for ideas until I wobbled over to the waffle machine in a semi-conscious daze.  I opened up the iron device to find a pattern in the skillet shaped perfectly into the state of Texas.  Disgustedly and desperately, I sidled over to the other waffle-maker only to find the same fate.  I could have my waffle shaped like any state I wanted, as long as that state was Texas.  Now, I have made pancakes that have resembled other states.  I mean it’s an average morning to eat the Hawaiian chain.  Maybe you grew up with a square griddle and had debates about whether your pancake tasted like Wyoming or Colorado.  And who hasn’t had a South Carolina pancake when the batter runs into another Georgia pancake and you have to separate the two?  Frankly, in my early days of flipping, I undoubtedly had a few West Virginia pancakes when the batter was still too runny to flip.

But Texas?

On a waffle?

When a person refers to his- or herself in the third person, we call it arrogant.  When a state does it, we call it:

TEXAS*

Occasionally you will read billboards that say “Wisconsin’s Largest Car Dealership” or “Alabama’s choice for morning coffee” depending on which of the “other 49” you are in.  I have yet to see a billboard in Texas that does not include the word “Texas.”  Whether you are looking for apparel, seafood, bail bonds, or dentures, you are going to have to choose Texas’ own, or Texas’ favorite, or Texas-style, or Texas’ #1.  If you can spell T-e-x-a-s and know what a superlative is, you have just got your Marketing degree from UT.

If you fell from a helicopter and landed in an unknown state and were too stubborn to come right out and ask, 49 times out of 50, it would take you a while to pick out where you were.  In Texas, you’d know in 5 seconds.  It would tell you so essentially immediately.  Whether it’s the lone stars on the pillars on the highway or the billboards or the state flag every 15 feet, Texas self promotes more than TO.

As I ate the gulf coast of my delectable waffle, I decided not to fight Texas and just go with it.  Get in the spirit.  Pride is a good thing, right?  Maybe I was just jealous.  What has Illinois ever done for me?  How many t-shirts and $3.50 hats have I seen at a truck stop with Illinois on it?  By the panhandle, the blood was starting to flow and I was ready to hold two undeniable and overused truths to be self-evident:

  1. Everything is bigger in Texas
  2. Don’t mess with Texas

If you aren’t aware of these truths, you have never been to Texas nor met anyone from Texas (or perhaps you have met someone from Texas, you just couldn’t understand their twang).  If you fall in any of these categories, I will let you, at the end of this blog, be the judge as to whether or not you are missing out.  In the meantime, I will expunge on these words to live by.

Everything is bigger in Texas

My Texas waffle was inscribed inside the circular machine and was noticeably smaller.  In fact, prior to discovering the fate of my waffle shape, I noted how small the Dixie cups were that you pour the batter in.  After staying in approximately 70 Quality Inns (or other establishments of that…um…quality) per year, I’m pretty accustomed to how much batter is supposed to go into one of these waffle machines.  My breakfast portion was noticeably smaller.  In Texas.  Liars.

Don’t mess with Texas

The more I read this “truth” the less I understand it.  “Don’t mess with Chuck Norris,” I get.  “Don’t mess with that lion cub’s mother,” I get.  But a state?  If you dropped anyone, even a native Texan off in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico and had him walk across the border to Texas, I would wager he will not know precisely at which point he can no longer “mess” with the New Mexico ground he is standing on and rather pay homage to the Texas dirt.  I mean, sure, geographical borders can be dangerous, don’t get me wrong.  I’d understand “Don’t mess with North Korea” as possible words to live by.  But “Don’t mess with Texas”?  Any “messing” of the land within the dreidle-shaped borders of this state will be smote by . . . no income tax?  The horror.

So, Texas.  You took opening day and turned it into a long bus ride the night before followed by scorching 95-degree temps (in early April!) for practice, followed by a loss, followed by a shrunken breakfast portion on a morning I had a full-sized appetite.  Here’s advice to you: “Make everything bigger in Texas if you’re going to make this claim…especially my waffle” AND “Don’t mess with my breakfast.”

*See Truth #1

1 Minute Monday, April 6th

A cat peed on our bed today.  just below my pillow.  like right where my shoulder goes.  he has made it clear he specifically does not like men by his placement of urine.  i had no idea what cat urine smelled like until today, but i will not forget now.  good thing he did it because i had forgotten it was monday and would have just gone to sleep.  but now my wife and i are up doing laundry and i have something to write about.  happy april and opening day to all…we have some stories of our recent move so stay tun