â€śRun out that ground ball! Oh, I canâ€™t believe he didnâ€™t run it out. What is wrong with him? Doesnâ€™t he love the game?!â€ť
Doesnâ€™t love the game? Iâ€™ve played it everyday since I was four (or since it said I was four on my birth certificate). I love the game more than youâ€™ll ever know.
â€śHow hard is it to be a ballplayer? They work three hours a day (four if theyâ€™re playing in a Yankees-Red Sox game). They get paid a ton of money, save for those poor shlubs making the league minimum which is set at around a half million dollars.â€ť
Are you kidding? Weâ€™re away from our families for half the year, weâ€™re constantly getting booed (or worse when we travel to Philadelphia). Iâ€™ve had a sore hamstring, turf toe, and my back has been creeking more than my house for months now. But if I stop playing, Iâ€™m worried that this young kid who doesnâ€™t speak any English will end up taking my job.
Itâ€™s opening day, that most joyous time of year where fans spend much of their time, eating, sleeping and belching baseball. Some fans anticipate this moment longer than a Bronx Zoo cobra has had his freedom, especially those who had their hopes dashed the previous year when their teamâ€™s star opted to shut it down with a tear to his shoulder labrum. Ha! Like a labrumâ€™s a real thing. Come on!
The truth is, a lot of what baseball is gets lost on the fans. Itâ€™s just a game. We played it when we were kids, so we remember the intricacies, like the players get ice cream after every win.
But for professional players, anyone getting paid from the lowest minor league to â€śthe Show,â€ť itâ€™s a job. Sure they need more sunblock and eyeblack than you do in your renovated closet of a windowless office, but itâ€™s a grind. And in many more ways, itâ€™s more of a grind than youâ€™ll ever have to go through.
How many days have you had to go into the office in a row without break â€“- five, at most? Try working for 16 days without a day off like some ballplayers do. Then you have to travel â€“- Oakland to Kansas City to Detroit (yes, Detroit!) and then you have a game in Cleveland to make up that time it rained and you didnâ€™t get to play even though you still had to go into work just to sit there and watch the rain fall. (Sometimes you can use the tarp as a slip nâ€™ slide if youâ€™d like.)
Havenâ€™t you shown up at the office and been ready to strangle someone the next time he said, â€śItâ€™s hump day,â€ť which you know theyâ€™re going to do because, well, itâ€™s hump day? At least you get two days off from that putz every week.
How about if someone said â€śPlay a little bing-oâ€ť or â€śno batter, no batter, no batterâ€ť every day for four months? You would be waking yourself up in the middle of the night screaming, â€śHit the cutoff!â€ť
Itâ€™s not always rallying cries that people yell. Some fans yell stuff that canâ€™t be repeated before midnight, even if it were during a Comedy Central Roast. When is the last time you had someone yell, â€śYou call that a PowerPoint presentation?! My grandmother could do a better presentation ... and sheâ€™s been dead for five years!â€ť
Have you ever turned on talk radio to hear, â€śBob needs to go. The guyâ€™s a cancer in the company. Canâ€™t we just trade him to Intel?â€ť Or have you read the daily editorials in the newspa -- Iâ€™m sorry, this is 2011 -- on the Internet about your poor account management skills?
Cal Ripken Jr. was knocked for not extending himself for balls out of reach. But yet, he was standing out there night in and night out for six months a year for a lot of years. The one time he couldâ€™ve taken a break, he went to someplace like Milwaukee for the All-Star Game. Other players flew to the Bahamas for a couple of days. He went to Milwaukee. Milwaukee!!
If he wanted one night away from the crowd to unwind and not think about baseball, heâ€™d go to a nice restaurant where you would interrupt his meal to talk about ...? Thatâ€™s right, work!
These guys play evenings, followed by mornings; they play two; they play in the heat; they play in the cold; they play holidays. Remember that holiday where you were out grilling? You got that day off and your boss let you leave the office early the previous day to â€śbeat the traffic.â€ť
Have you ever been brought in to your supervisorâ€™s office after working at a company for six years to tell you that youâ€™ll be working for a different company in a different city and you had to get there by 7:05 that night?
And if youâ€™re not traded, you may just be paid to sit all day. Of course, most of your day is spent Tweeting, or Facebooking, or Tweetbooking, save for one or two meetings when you sit glazed over dreaming of â€śangry birds.â€ť Ballplayers donâ€™t have the luxuries you do. There are 25 men on a baseball roster, but only nine play at a given time, so 16 of them spend their time staring out into space, spitting tobacco, or sometimes playing the exciting Mensa-level brainteaser â€śGuess what Iâ€™m thinking.â€ť
Have you ever looked onto Monster.com to see â€śLate-Inning Outfield Replacement Wanted?â€ť Then you get the job and talk to your boss:
â€śWeâ€™ll need you to get here at 8 a.m. for batting practice.â€ť
â€śOkay, great, and then what am I going to be doing?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll be sitting on the bench.â€ť
â€śWe may use you, but not until around 4 or so, depending on how the teamâ€™s doing.â€ť
â€śUh huh. And if you do use me, what will you need from me then?â€ť
â€śWell, youâ€™ll stand in the outfield for about five to ten minutes and then you can shower and call it a day.â€ť
â€śWill I even need to shower?â€ť
And this will be your job day in and night out, night in and day out. Baseball lasts 400 days out of the year and itâ€™s easy to forget that itâ€™s not as much fun as it was when you were in Little League. And thereâ€™s very little ice cream accessible to major league players.
But the truth is, people would kill to be ballplayers. Thatâ€™s why there are baseball fantasy camps for adults and not accountant fantasy camps for ballplayers. (Maybe Greg Maddux would have enjoyed that.)
An authentic fantasy camp would require you to sit at your desk all day not playing Farmville or â€śpokingâ€ť anyone, while kids hang buckets over your cube requesting your signature on items, which is when their fathers are not screaming things at you about your inadequacies and your mother, and that will continue for two, three, maybe four hours until someone needs you. Essentially, youâ€™ll be like a temp, albeit a highly paid one.