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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. roundrock15

    Haha, this is fantastic stuff, Chris. (But you know, for the record, I did watch you pitch at Northwestern, and though you mock your stuff, there were some pitch sequences that wowed me. Enough that I looked around and asked a scout – anyone with a legal pad and a radar gun is a scout to me – why I’d never heard of you. “He throws seventeen miles an hour,” the scout told me.)

    I think he then proceeded to wax poetic about Scott Lewis for about twenty-five minutes.

  2. txag08

    “‘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,”

    That sounds kind of fun. It might be even more fun to throw water balloons at the players on the field. OR! If you really wanted a water park at the field, set up a slip ‘n slide from third to home. That would be awesome.


    That was wicked! I dare not say my sons won?t qualify in step 1 or for that matter even in step 2 ;). Those two looks little less lengthy and no to mention less risky. Never knew getting signed needed so much tactics and planning ahead. I should on their behalf start preparing and planning, my kids can barely walk now. That might give them a slight edge over fellow aspirers. Or may be I should wait a little longer and make sure they are not prodigies before planning such daring steps. Sam | Slim In 6

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