A Few Lessons I’ve Learned In Pro Ball

In May 2013, I graduated high school at age 18, then got drafted the first week of June and then maybe 7-10 days later, shipped off to the Gulf Coast League to begin my professional baseball career. Here are a few things I have learned in the four plus years that have followed.

In a sense, this is something as an 18 year old out of high school I would have liked to know.

Everything a player does in this game (on and off the field) is observed, critiqued, recorded, and sent to higher-ups. Baseball is a numbers game; promotions, demotions, and releases are all about numbers – meeting them, not meeting them, setting new goals,etc. My first year in pro ball I was naive enough to only focus on the end result (numbers) and not the process along the way. Four years later, numbers are just as important, but I have realized other things should be paid attention to as well. These have helped me in my career, and ultimately throughout my whole life.

Here are a few of the most important things I have learned.

1. Don’t be on time; be early.

2. Don’t ever shed blame, regardless of the circumstances.

3. Do everything in your power to do your job and do it right.

4. Never forget it is your career.

5. Be real.

In a sense, the five lessons listed above can all be encapsulated in one word: Accountability.

Be early: Most things in Pro Baseball are out of your control. You cannot control if a line-drive you hit will be caught, or if a broken bat single you let up scores two. You can, however, control your punctuality. The two organizations I have had the privilege to play for both stress this concept – showing early and be ready on time – and they are sure to let you know when you screw up. In a game full of uncontrollables, you must take advantage of the few things you can control.

Be a grown up: Never blame anyone else for something negative that happened during the game. The day you throw a teammate under the bus is the day you lose every shred of respect your teammates ever had for you. Respect is not easy to obtain and can be lost with one stupid answer to a question. Regardless of the situation or question the reporter asks you, blaming someone else is not the right response. Shoulder the blame. Learn from your mistakes.

Work hard and work smart: Everyone always says they are the hardest worker you’ll ever meet, but most of the time that is horse shit. Pro ball really opened my eyes to how hard guys work. It is no coincidence that the hardest and smartest workers tend to be the best players. Work smart, be open to new ideas, listen to your body and ultimately do what works. 

People will come to you with many ideas and suggestions. Remember to always be respectful, but don’t feel the need to say yes to everyone. Learning to say no is crucial to your career. Be open to new things, but remember all stats go on your baseball card and land on your shoulders. Try things, do not force them just to appease someone. Do not rush to fix something, cause sometimes it isn’t even broken.

Lastly, keep it real: People can sense if you are genuine or fake so don’t put up a front. In this profession, you are about to spend a majority of the year with teammates in close quarters and under stressful circumstances, so be respectful and do your best to get along with everyone. At the very least, don’t go around trying to be a prick. The only thing worse than a 16-hour bus ride is a 16-hour bus ride with guys you dislike or who dislike you. I’m not saying you have to have 25 best friends every year – but be respectful and endeavor to be a good teammate. Be real. It makes those brutal days easier and makes winning even more fun.

Spring Training

Growing up, my family and I would head south once a year for our annual family vacation: Yankees Spring Training. Every Feb/March since I was eight years old, we would fly down to Tampa and stay as long as my father could take off from work.

I remember as a young kid literally counting the days until we had off from school so we could head to Florida for the best 5-10 days of the year. It was the only thing on my mind; the anticipation of the annual family vacation literally got me through school.

While in Tampa, we would wake up around 9:00 A.M., grab some breakfast, and then head to the stadium to try and catch batting practice or pregame workouts. The thing that differentiated going to spring training from going to a regular season game was the accessibility to players. While my mother, sister, and aunt usually decided to stay at the game for innings 7-9, we boys had different ideas. We frequently went off around the park to explore – there were numerous side fields where players would get extra work in (usually guys like me – minor leaguers).

I’ll never forget the time when my dad, uncle, brother, and I were having a catch during a game right outside the stadium, around one of those side field areas. It was our lucky day. As we are imitating catching world series final outs, throwing strike three of game 7, etc.. Mariano Rivera strides out to get some sprint work in. Not only did my brother’s and my own eyes pop out of our heads, but so did my father’s and uncle’s. Mariano Rivera. Enter Sandman. 42. The man who actually got the final outs of world series games.

Growing up in Northern New Jersey meant I lived just a few miles from Yankee Stadium. It also meant that I was able to go to quite a few Yankees games each year. We would sit in the bleacher seats. What is cooler than that?


Anyway, when we saw Mo walk out, it was like we were witnessing a ghost float by. We froze. But after the initial shock, we watched him get his work in and noticed how meticulous he was about something as simple as some sprints and stretches. As he finished up, he was walking through the little walkway, only five feet away from my family and me. My father courageously said something to him – and he actually came over to us. He signed a ball for us and just had small talk for what felt like 15 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds. Mariano Rivera, my father, uncle, my brother, and me – just shooting the breeze.

That is still one of my top favorite memories from growing up. Spring training with the family was an unbelievable, fun-filled experience every year. Meeting Mariano Rivera? Once in a lifetime.

Spring training is the ultimate fan experience. And for the last few springs, and hopefully many more, I have gotten to see a little bit of what it’s like from the other side. Now, it is work for me, and it is far different then when I was a fan. But still, seeing kids with their families around the complex is always awesome. It’s what this is all about. And every time I see a big leaguer make a small gesture to a little kid – a wave, a nod – I think back to when Mariano Rivera gave up 30 seconds of his day to make mine – and to give me a memory I still hold dear. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to do the same for another kid with a similar dream to my younger self.

Almost That Time

It is almost that time.

Baseball, believe it or not, is right around the corner.

These past two months have been awesome and tough in the weight room, between strength training, arm care, corrective exercises, etc. But the fun is just about to begin.

Throwing begins in a few days. These past few months have been preparation for what’s in store in December, January, February. And the blood, sweat, and time we put in during  the offseason will dictate how our season goes. This training is crucial.

As I have completed two full seasons and will be starting my third shortly, I feel I know my body and how long I need to get ready. I’ll start with light catches, then head into long toss/drill work, then throw bullpens, then one or two live sessions. Some pitchers like throwing more pens than others. Me, I like to have five to six full bullpens under my belt before I head down to Spring Training.

Day one of spring training, you must be ready to throw an aggressive bullpen. It is not an easy thing to figure out. You want to be ready, but you don’t want to be peaked. I have not perfected this and I continue to learn and solicit advice from guys with more experience then me. But, at the end of the day, you must figure it out on your own. No two players’ plans are identical.

I am excited to start throwing — it’s been a long time for me. I am counting down the days until Spring Training, as I am sure many of you are.

But until then, there is much left to do.

The Offseason

Jared, Next Generation Training Center
         Next Generation Training Center

The so-called “Offseason.”

“Six months on, six months off… Great deal. How could you ever complain?”

Complain? Never. But six months off? Also never. Among other factors, the Minor League “offseason” is longer or shorter depending on whether your team makes the playoffs and also whether you’ll be participating in an early spring training camp or instructional league after the season. But for the sake of this write up, let’s go with round numbers and assume it is six months on and six months off.

The season goes from March 1st through September 1st. Many people assume that we get to play games and make piles of money for those six months, and that we then get to go home for the next six months to do as we please. But that assumption is incorrect.

We do play games and earn an income, (the amount of which depends on a player’s level and experience but is typically around $1,100 to $1,300 per month, once you pay rent and dues, you’re looking at about $500-$800), and then we do head home for the offseason. But the offseason is not so much “off” as it is “on – just “on” in a different sense.

Personally, I take two weeks fully “off.” No baseball activity; only light active recovery. The down time and rest is necessary for recovery and maybe even to clear my mind. To recharge. And at the end of the two weeks, I find myself chomping at the bit. When you’re used to doing something every single day for six months straight, it’s almost a shock to the system to suddenly stop doing it. But like I said, the recovery is vital.

And I’d venture to guess that that is what the offseason is like for most of us Minor Leaguers. We exhaust every ounce of energy and effort we have for the six months of the season in order to do the best we possibly can…. and by the time the last pitch is thrown, we are all physically and mentally depleted. We then take the two weeks off to recharge… and then it is time to get back to work.

But it important to note that having a routine and a plan for every day of the off season is just as important as having a routine and a plan for every day during the season. So what do players do during the off season?

Some players take classes, work a job or two, or give lessons in addition to being in the gym and staying in shape. As pitchers, once we start throwing – (for me, that’s the first week of December) – we are so immersed in lifting and arm care that having another job and downtime is not a guarantee. I am sure the situation is analogous for hitters who focus on cage work and hitting; i.e. time is actually not easy to come by.

The offseason is what makes your season possible. If you do not prepare during the offseason, how can you do well during the season? Personally, I think the offseason is where a bulk of the work is put in, where most changes and goals can be addressed. The work you put in during the six months “off” will dictate how your six months “on” go.

Being around some awesome teammates and coaches during the season and the off season has given me the opportunity to acquire knowledge on how to better handle the six months “off.” For example, after my first season ended, I was in the gym the next day; I gave my body zero time to recover. Now, having learned from a bit more experience and advice from others, I know I can’t do that if I want to be smart and put myself in the best situation. Working hard is important, but working smart is just as important.

The offseason is needed and for a homebody like me, it’s always great to come back home to New Jersey and be with family and friends, and revisit your old stomping grounds. Though time isn’t as ample as you might think, it is still easier to spend time with loved ones and hang out at your favorite old spots when you are actually in your hometown for more than a few days’ visit. And then by the time the New Year rolls around and snow is on the ground, I am getting the itch to head back down to spring training.

Offseason at Next Generation Training Center

The Business of a Game

Upon entering professional baseball, I was told by numerous people that it’s a business first and a game second. As a high school draftee, I did not understand what these people meant. I thought they were crazy. Baseball is a game and it is played by kids throughout the world at every age level…What can the big difference be? Why all the warnings?

Now I understand.

Baseball is not just a game. Baseball is a business – a billion dollar industry. Baseball players are employees of an organization just like any other employees of a company. Occasionally it feels like we’re pawns in a chess match.

Just a few days ago, I was on the bus after a series win versus the Brewers High A team in Florida. Around midnight, I got a phone call from a Cardinals representative regarding a trade I was involved in.

Thirty seconds into the phone call, I discovered that my time with the St. Louis Cardinals was over. Just like that, my career path was re-routed. I had literally a few hours to pack my stuff and say my goodbyes to my teammates, coaches, trainers, before I was scheduled to leave that next day. Simply put, I was no longer affiliated with my first professional team, all in the matter of a few seconds.

Does that happen at other types of jobs? Where you achieve a goal with your coworkers and immediately afterwards, you’re told you must pack all your belongings, say goodbye to your colleagues, and head elsewhere to work for a competitor?

Unique as that process may be to sports professions – i.e. being told you’re switching employers as opposed to choosing to do so – what it comes down to is that baseball is a business. Teams have needs and different plans for the future and the present. Imagine trading lawyers for lawyers? Or teachers for teachers? Sounds crazy, but this is the career path we athletes have chosen. It’s part of the job description, so we can’t say we didn’t know it could happen.

We have a few options on how to handle this situation: sulk and ask questions or simply, move on. The latter is healthier for your career.

But yes, baseball is also a game – hence the phrase, “Play ball.” But don’t assume it’s all roses and rainbows with no consequences or hardships. It’s not; it’s still a profession and a business in which winning comes before almost everything. And that responsibility is not just on us players, but the entire coaching staff and front office as well.

Just a few days ago, I was a player residing in Palm Beach, FL representing the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, I am a Cleveland Indian, playing in Lynchburg, VA. That is the result of something that is way more than just a game.

This happens every year to countless players. Players take it differently and have their own opinions on the matter. And by the way, it’s not just us players who have to deal with the change – it’s also our families and friends, who have developed allegiances to our former teams and now have to change them at the drop of a hat. That’s not easy for many people to grasp… After all, for people who aren’t immersed in this lifestyle every single day or who don’t understand the business aspect of the sport, it can feel like your former team is throwing you out to the curb and trading you in for something shinier and new.

But in my opinion, that is absolutely not the case.

At the end of the day, it’s all about how the player himself handles the situation. And I believe in handling the situation, instead of having the situation handle me.

During the draft or in the process of a trade, an opportunity to play (or to continue to play) professional baseball has been presented to you. Someone believes in you and is knocking at your door… What can you do but gratefully answer?

My family and I have received hundreds of texts, tweets, calls, messages, etc., regarding the trade – including so many from Indians fans and also Cardinals fans – and I want to express how thankful and appreciative I am of all the support. It will not be a breeze to “start over” with a new organization, but the support makes it much easier to swallow.

I even want to thank all the people who sent me negative messages regarding the trade. Your negativity will only make me want to represent the Cleveland Indian Organization even more. Look — I had a fantastic experience with the Cardinals for which I will be absolutely forever grateful. They taught me and trained me and cared about me beyond…. and I can only show them my appreciation. But now I am a member of the Cleveland Indians, and I couldn’t be any more excited.

And my family and friends in New Jersey are now officially die-hard Cleveland fans. And yes, it can happen overnight. Our flags, gear, and the stickers on my families’ cars are all already changed. It’s a part of the game and the business.

At the end of the day, the mound is 60’6 and the bases are 90’, and every fifth day, I am competing in a sport I love. That is awesome, no matter what city or state I may be in. The opportunity given to us athletes is something that can’t be explained…it is a privilege. The business side will work itself out, and in the end, it revolves around a fun past-time – a fun game.

Again, I’d like to thank the St. Louis Cardinal organization for a great couple of years. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the entire organization. Thank you for the life long relationships, the life long lessons, and the opportunity to play professional baseball. In 2013, 27 teams passed up on me to play out of high school, but you gave me a chance. For that, I am forever grateful.

And to the Cleveland Indians: Thank you for the great opportunity. I am extremely excited to be a part of the organization. Thanks to all the Cleveland fans that have been so welcoming, it’s appreciated. Also, thanks to my teammates that I’ve met these last few days for making me feel welcomed and making this transition much easier.

Can’t wait to get to work.

Bus Rides and PB&J’s.

Draft Day.

You get drafted, you sign a contract, and you get started on something not many people can comprehend. You can’t even really comprehend it.

Friend/Random Person: “Hey, I see the Cardinals are on ESPN tonight – are you playing?”

Me: “Yes, I am playing tonight… but not on ESPN, and not in front of 50,000 fans… I’ll be playing in a tiny town in the middle of Iowa, in front of maybe 150 fans if we’re lucky, with no TV coverage, and after I eat my third peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the day.”

Okay, let’s back up. I can’t deny that being drafted is one of the best days of your life and that the opportunity you’ve been given is absurdly rewarding. However, it is your welcoming to the real world, and time to get to work. Once you’re given that team uniform, you’ve officially been invited on an adventure where you actually get to play out the dream you’ve been chasing since you were a kid. You instantly get chills. What most people do not understand, though – and what many don’t even know about – is that there is such thing as the Minor Leagues – the pit-stop before the Majors.

Scratch that – it’s no pit-stop – it’s many stops (some exceptions) before the Majors. There are many different levels of the Minors, each with its own challenges and struggles. The Minor Leagues are a physically-demanding, thought-provoking, and sometimes grueling but an always unique experience all at once. The Minors are humbling; indeed, they are where you earn the right to potentially play in the Majors. You have to pay your dues and earn your stripes, just like all the current Major Leaguers had to do before you.

Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Miguel Cabrera all came up through their respective farm systems and ended up in the Majors. None of them signed their contracts, hopped on a private jet, and met the big league team wherever they were playing that day. They all had to hone their skill sets in order to be able to have a chance to compete and dominate in the Majors.

What many people assume after you sign a contract with a Major League team is that you immediately go and play for that Major League team. In reality, as a new draftee, you sign a Minor League deal with a Major League team. You begin your professional career in either the backfields of your respective organization in the lowest of the Minor Leagues, or if you’re fortunate, in a Minor League stadium somewhere across the United States. (Most, though not all, players begin in rookie ball or A ball). Players coming straight out of high school, like myself, typically begin in the lowest of the levels – which is precisely what I did.

I began my career in the Gulf Coast League in Florida. I signed in mid-June 2013 after being drafted on June 6th of that year, and my career began soon thereafter. After signing, I had to pack all my stuff over a few day span, leave my family and friends and everything I had ever known behind, and head to Jupiter, Florida to begin my dream. I had a general idea of what the Minor Leagues were like, having been friends with a few Minor Leaguers over the years. But stories can give you only so much to imagine, and until you plant your feet in your new life and experience the grind of a Minor League season, you soon realize that no one else’s story could have prepped you for this new exciting, challenging, and sometimes wearisome world.

In my opinion, the Minor Leagues teach you to become a man. As someone who did not attend college, I’m sure college does something similar. The only difference, baseball-wise, may be that when you are playing ball in college, you have weeks off at a time – you have time to go home, and most importantly, you have things to get you away from baseball. You have class, you have a social life, you have friends to take your head away from the game. I’m not saying college is in any sense easy; I’m saying it’s different. (Undoubtedly, taking 15 credits at school while playing a sport can’t be an easy thing to conquer.)

We Minor Leaguers are away for six months straight (some of us may get to go home for two days for the All-Star break). We see our families sparingly, only if we are lucky enough to have them visit.  Professional baseball is just that: professional baseball. Baseball quickly becomes all-encompassing – it becomes your job, your education, your socializing, your passion, your struggle, your journey, your triumph – your life. And your teammates… Well, spending days on end with those guys – countless hours on the field, in the dugout, in the gym, in the locker room, in the hotels and apartments, on those unending bus rides through corn fields and nothingness – those guys quickly become like family.

To date, I’ve played at three different levels of the Minor Leagues: the Gulf Coast League (rookie, after draft), the Midwest League (Low-A), and my current post in the Florida State League (High A). All three have been great learning experiences for me. From my hours on the field, I have acquired knowledge, experience, tons of practice, and a much stronger sense of discipline. But I absolutely cannot overlook what I’ve learned from my hours off the field: how to live away from home, how to cope with failure, how to learn from other players and coaches and also from my own mistakes, how to sign my own lease papers and pay my own bills… etc.

The Minor League lifestyle is not an easy one, but it’s what we signed up for when we signed that contract. We signed up for 12-hour bus rides, being away from familiarity, living out of suitcases – just like the MLB players before us did. The guys we all looked up to – the Ken Griffeys, the Cal Ripkens, the Derek Jeters – they all did what we are currently doing. So who are we to complain? The greats had to go through this same exact grind – and if you asked them, I can almost guarantee that each and every one would say he’d do it 100 times over again.

The Minor Leagues have matured me and made me become something more than what I was. I could not be more appreciative of every experience that I’ve had – every roadblock I’ve faced and been coached through, every obstacle my teammates and I have overcome, and every goal we’ve achieved together. I’ve – and we’ve all – come a long.

And at the end of the day, there really is only one thing to do in the Minor Leagues if you’re unhappy: play better.


For anyone interested, here is what a typical day looks like for me, a Minor League pitcher. ( As a kid, I was always curious what a day in the Minors was like, so figured I’d share my experiences)

Sides-                        3:00 PM

Stretch-                      3:30 PM

Long toss-                  3:45 PM

Shag batting practice-4:00-4:45 PM

Out of clubhouse-       6:05 PM

Game-                        6:35 PM

Depending on our lifting and conditioning schedule, we will usually head in to lift around 11 or 12, get something to eat, then head back to make it for stretch. One of the unwritten rules of Minor League baseball is to be there an hour before stretch. ( I learned that the hard way in Peoria, IL in my first full season in the Minor Leagues)

Usually the schedule looks something like above, but that is just the mandatory times we must be at the field. Most of us get to the stadium at around 1:30 ( if we don’t have a lift ) and get things done regarding arm care and personal routines to prepare for the night’s game.

After a peanut butter and jelly (Minor League must) or a stadium hot dog, we head out to compete in the game.

When we are on the road, the schedule will be similar, the only difference is the bus will leave our hotel around an hour to and hour and a half before stretch and we will get situated in the visiting clubhouse then complete our day.