Finally baseball season is in full swing. Yes, it’s almost time for the All Star Break, but in Arizona, where there is baseball 48-ish weeks a year, it never feels 100% until the Arizona Summer League has begun. Unlike Spring Training and Extended Spring, all the plate-appearances and innings-pitched are now official, and the names and faces around the aptly nicknamed “Fire League” are as new to us as we are to them. A month ago, these young men and their families could only imagine what might happen on, and then after, June 8-10 (the MLB Draft).
The 10 days, or so, between the draft and AZL Opening Night is a blur to most involved. So much to process in a short period of time. But, it’s a week into the season and everyone’s learning how to maneuver through this “professional baseball life” a little each day. For the most part, they’re doing it on their own. In some ways, like being thrown into the deep end of the pool with no life vest or a raft or... anything.
After spending a dozen years at this level, I feel it’s my duty to do what I can to help; shed some light on things I’m here for you. It won’t save your life, but hopefully, It’ll help make things a little easier. Like floaties. Consider me your floaties in the deep end of the pool.
First, a little background information. For the players:
-- While I cover the Arizona based activities of the A’s, including the AZL, Fall Instructional League, Arizona Fall League, Spring Training, and Extended Spring Training for OaklandClubhouse.com, I respect confidentiality and your privacy, almost to a fault.
-- I’m a mom. That’s what my natural tendencies are with you; can’t help it. I have twin boys who are 22, so being around you all, is like when they were home and of course all their friends were in my den...and in my kitchen. But I’m not feeding you boys. Sorry.
-- In addition to being the Mama Bear (a little protective), this also means I’m going to be honest with you, and I’m not one to sugarcoat things. But if you ask my kids they’ll tell you it’s because I care.
-- You’ll hear and see me use the terms “My boys” and “Baby A’s.” I’m referring to you, in the collective sense. Generally speaking, if you were drafted by - or are an International Free Agent Signing of - the Oakland A’s and are in Double-A or below, that’s you. Don’t fight it. If you don’t like the name, work even harder to make it to Nashville… or Oakland.
-- I love baseball. I grew up playing little league baseball, with the boys, as a catcher - a good one, too. Until the boys’ I played with and against, had their growth spurts, and a couple of concussions, and games played at other new field positions later, I moved to softball. Didn’t like it. Not the same. I’m living vicariously through all of you.
Ok, now that you know the basics, let’s “swim” a little, shall we?
Before I begin, keep this in mind: I care about you, even if I don't know you. If you are in the Oakland A's farm system, that's all I need to know. I know how hard you've worked to get where you are; I know (generally speaking) that your monthly income is 1/1,000th of what the general public believes it is; I know that if there's a game or workout or ... anything that the public views as "entertainment", for you, it's WORK. However, that being said, part of your JOB is to socialize, be kind, and be a good representative of your employer. I'm also not going to just tell you things you want to hear; you will find more than enough people to do that. I prefer honesty; life's too short.
Ok, here we go:
1) ALWAYS CONDUCT YOURSELF IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER – You're on the Job 24/7
The moment you signed your contract with Oakland, you became a 24/7 employee. Each day you’re fortunate enough to wear a uniform, you represent the name on the front. Whether it's on the field or off, your name is associated with the Oakland A's. For instance:
- If you go 4-4 (or 0-4) in a game or read books to local school children – it's on behalf of the Oakland A's. Always.
- When you're in the batting cages after you THINK everyone has gone, and talk in great detail about ... ummm ... "events" from last night, there will always be someone who hears you ... someone who doesn't want to hear it. They may not know your name, but they’ll know who you work for. You represent the Oakland A's.
- When you're out for dinner and you leave a generous tip for a server, someone will know who you are and they will enjoy knowing that you are good tipper. Word will spread quickly! That’s great!!
- If you are cheap (bad tipper,) or disrespectful, word will spread even faster. Even if people don't remember your name, they'll know you as "the guy with the A's".
- If you’re in the stands and not scheduled to play in the game, regardless how few people are in attendance, keep in mind: every four-letter word out of your mouth, every action, every bodily function is amplified; you are under a microscope, make no doubt about that. Just because it seems “nobody comes to these games” you still need to behave as if Billy Beane, Bob Melvin, or even more importantly, a young, impressionable kid is right behind you. You represent the Oakland A's.
2) IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MATTER – Be Good to Your Fans – Especially the Little Ones
- PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYONE WHEN THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU.
- KNEEL DOWN, LOOK THEM IN THE EYE, ASK THEM A QUESTION AND LISTEN TO THEIR ANSWER!
- Ask their name, write it legibly, and SIGN YOUR NAME... LEGIBLY,
- Whatever else you are doing, unless you're playing in the game, is not as important as making eye contact and giving them your full attention.
- At that moment, you are the ENTIRE Oakland A's organization. (see Reminder #1).
- Think of how you would feel if you were the little one looking up at a professional baseball player. Be the person you would have wanted to meet.
3) HASHTAG PLEASE/ HASHTAG THANK YOU – Remember to Use Your Manners IRL (In Real Life) and in Social Media
- Say Please and Thank you. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always.
- IRL: Remember: while yes, you have the ability, have put in the work to be where you are, under no circumstance are you the only reason. Aside from your parents, of course, coaches, teachers, etc. have all played a role, but in this case, it’s also about the scout who signed you. The work they do, the miles they cover, the way they lobbied for you, don’t ever forget it.
A great, real life example: Former MLB All Star second baseman and World Series Champ Freddy Sanchez was drafted in the 11th round of the 2000 draft by the Boston Red Sox. The scout who lobbied for drafting and then signed him is a good friend of mine, Ernie Jacobs. According to Ernie, Freddy was always mindful of – and expressed his gratitude for - those who helped him live his life as a professional ball player, Ernie included.
When Freddy made his MLB debut in 2002, he signed his game worn jersey, "Thank You for believing in me" and presented it to the scout who believed in him. This became a ritual; including his first All-Star game in 2006 with the Pirates and one of his World Series jerseys from the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Ernie received a personally autographed jersey with a similar note: "Thanks for the opportunity, Thanks for believing in me, etc.". Be like Freddy.
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Gentlemen: If you're going to retweet a compliment that someone pays you, do what your parents have always told you to do: say “thank you.” Even if it’s only a brief couple of words, do it. They took the time to share something specifically with you; take the time to personally thank them; not just boost your ego with the RT. BE NICE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE NICE TO YOU!!
- There are many positive examples to cite from within Oakland’s farm system. But if there were one who consistently shares respectful, positive, insightful tidbits, and who also rivals Job in terms of patience with some well-meaning fans/followers, it would have to be Midland pitcher, Seth Frankoff. Clear-cut example of how to treat everyone with respect and appreciation.
WWDJT ~ WHAT WOULD Derek Jeter TWEET ---
Think before you tweet.
- Imagine if Derek Jeter had a Twitter account. What kind of words he use? Would there be slang or disrespectful expressions used? Would he call a friend or former teammate the "F" word (slanderous expression for a homosexual) or the "N" word? (I won't say / write either word.) Would he refer to women as anything other than a respectful term? Of course not. Follow his example.
- If you think that reporters, scouts, team executives, your grandparents, and/or future in-laws aren't reading your tweets or Facebook posts, you're wrong. In the non-baseball world, future employers will often first look at someone's social media sites before considering an interview.
- If your timeline consists of generally / mostly positive and respectful, then, you have nothing to worry about.
- If you feel cheated because all your friends back home get to post "whatever they want" and you don't ... that's' called First World Pains. Get over it.
- Again, the minute you signed a contract with the Oakland A's, you are no longer a "private" person. Then again, thanks to the internet, and now the super mega social media options, NOTHING is private, and NOTHING ever goes away. Think about what you send out. Before you hit Enter to send a tweet, ask yourself if you could see Derek Jeter sending this.
- PLLLLLLEEEEEEEASE know the difference between "you're" and "your". If you need to save characters, use "ur".
- Remember, the majority of your followers aren't there because you're brilliant and witty; they're following you because (all together now) you're a member of the Oakland A's.
- Be careful criticizing others: You're a professional athlete, and as we recently saw in the Super Bowl, even the greatest have their challenges.
In 2010, former Diamondbacks pitcher (and Stockton, CA native) Barry Enright, made his major league debut. I’m being kind when I say it was an "ugly" season. Unfortunately for their fans, the Arizona Cardinals had a similar season that same year. Whether or not Barry was a Cardinals fan, he was not shy about sharing, on Twitter, how hard it was to watch them lose so many games. There were many who were quick to remind Barry that – ahem – those who live in glass houses, should not even think of picking up even the tiniest stone.
THINK BEFORE YOU TWEET.
4) TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED – DON’T BE CHEAP AND DO NOT LET ANYONE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU
- Be a good tipper. Everywhere. To everyone: In restaurants, hotels, hair salons, spas and taxi's; doormen, clubbies, you name it. If they're in a gratuity-based profession, make them remember you for a good reason.
- Get involved in a cause that is close to your heart; you don't have to start your own foundation, but see the change you want to make in this world. Put your money where your heart is, but don't let the PR people know what you're doing.
- I have always subscribed to the "When you give, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing". I recommend it.
- Use your "fame" to help a cause, don't use the cause to help your fame.
- Even if you have a financial advisor, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS KNOW HOW MUCH YOU HAVE AND WHERE IT GOES. Educate yourself and have others as advisors, but never, ever just turn over your bank account to anyone and trust them.
- There are those who will try to take advantage of you. They will act as if they are “helping” you, but you are really the one doing for them. Example: Someone sends you pictures they took of you during a game. You put them on Facebook/ Instagram / Twitter, and even use one as your profile picture. The “catch” (and yes, there is always a catch) is that the photographer’s name is watermarked across the middle of YOUR picture. And because of your celebrity status, the photographer receives advertising that reaches your friends and followers, a group he would never have been able to reach otherwise, WITHOUT PAYING YOU A DIME. Then, because it’s from you, people will assume you support and use the photographer, or in other words, they will see you endorse him.
You know what endorsement deals are; a company PAYS you to say that you LIKE/ USE their product. It’s a business deal. Think: Clayton Kershaw & Mike Trout with their Subway Sandwiches.
Even if it’s with a company you really do like and use. YOU MUST KNOW YOUR VALUE as a celebrity. Yes, you are a celebrity because no one is asking a regular college kid who works 2 part time jobs to post pictures on his Facebook page.
Give credit to the photographer in a post, but YOU be the one who controls how and where. Get in the habit, NOW, of not letting anyone take advantage of you. This is especially common at the lower minor league levels, and here in Arizona, so you will have practice.
Ask yourself why you’re being offered something, then make your decision once you’re comfortable. It’s always something. And it’s always ok to say “No, thank you.”
5) HOW YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAN FOLLOW YOUR GAMES:-
- Whether you’re in Arizona for AZL or any other level upward, your friends and family can always follow your games via the scoreboard on MiLB.com. The official site of minor league baseball: http://www.milb.com/scoreboard/index.jsp?cid=&lid=&org=133&sc=&sid=milb&t=affiliate&ymd=20150626
Oakland affiliates include:
Rookie - Arizona League - Mesa / AZL A’s (Fitch Park, Mesa, Arizona) SS (Short Season) - New York Penn League - Vermont Lake Monsters (Burlington, Vermont)
Low-A - Midwest League - Beloit Snappers (Beloit, Wisconsin)
High- A - Advanced - California League - Stockton Ports (Stockton, California)
Double-A - Texas League - Midland RockHounds (Midland, Texas)
Triple-A - Pacific Coast League - Nashville Sounds (Nashville, Tennessee)
The games are usually updated every half-inning.
Most teams have all games broadcast. ** AZL DOES NOT **
Go to the team’s website (can search for it on MiLB.com) and 30 minutes or so before game time will be links to listen or (sometimes, depending on the opponent) watch
OR use the TuneIn Radio App
Download the First Pitch app to keep up with the mobile version of minor league baseball. ** AZL is not included.
If you’re really “old school”, there’s one way parents can stay updated on your progress; it’s entails you using a phone, and calling them to let them know how things are going so they can hear your voice and not just get a text. But let them know you’re going to call because they will probably panic at first when their phone rings; we always think the worst...because phone calls are so rare.