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 World of College Recruiting

Have you ever been told you have a 72 hour window to make a decision that’ll impact the rest of your life?

Welcome to the world of collegiate athletic recruiting.

At the age of 17, I took a tour of a university I was interested in. I met with the baseball coaches, some of the players, and saw the facilities – and then we immediately got down to the business of it all. The university offered a scholarship and, needless to say, I was elated. You might assume that I was then given a few weeks to think it through – to really mull it over – to discuss the pros and cons with my family and friends, teammates and coaches – and to ultimately make a calculated, informed decision.

But that wasn’t exactly the case. After the university made the initial offer to me as I stood on that particular campus, they told me it would remain on the table for only 72 hours. Seventy two hours! That’s three days – three days to make one of – if not the most – important decisions of my life up to that moment. At 17 years old, many people would be easily pressured – and I, too,  would have been if not for the fact that my parents had made the trip with me and understood what was going on more than I did, in all my naivety.

In general, the world of recruiting is tough on an athlete. Every year, athletes ages 15-17 have to make decisions on not only where to attend school for the next four years of their lives but also where to live and breathe their sport – whom they want to represent. That is not an easy task. That is not a three-day task.

You want me to come to your school, play baseball on your team, and represent you – but you’re only willing to give me a 72-hour window to say yes? It is no wonder why this sort of rushed set-up leads to many athletes transferring after their first year. The pressure athletes face when given ridiculous “deadlines” to make these important decisions is so great – and many athletes cave and just say yes without fully thinking it through. And you can’t blame a 16-year-old kid for having clouded judgement – especially in this day and age with social media and other influences pushing kids in so many different directions.

I understand the belief that certain student athletes “just know” or “ fall in love” with a certain school. If that is the case, a student will let the coaches know, and a timetable of a few days shouldn’t be necessary. When a student  athlete knows, they know. But if he or she doesn’t know, putting a time restraint on the decision-making process is not right and pressures them to make a decision they are not ready to make.

The decision should be well thought-out by the athlete and his or her loved ones and mentors. Nobody else should have a say in the decision. After all, a lawyer doesn’t make a case alone, and a doctor doesn’t cut someone open without a whole slough of assistants. But in the end, it is the athlete’s life, and it’s the athlete who should have the final say.

In my opinion, it is better to have the student athlete at the “wrong” school if they make the choice then it is to have someone else make the “right” decision without the student truly wanting to be there. In baseball, we pitchers are taught that it is better to make the wrong pitch with conviction, then the right pitch with uncertainty. I believe that lesson can be used in this case, and many others.

The best advice I can ever offer to an athlete going through the recruitment process is this:

Opinions only matter if they belong to people who matter.

Family, CLOSE friends, and people you look up to (mentors) are the only people who should have any sort of influence on your decision.

Coaches and recruiting coordinators need to understand how big a deal it is when they offer a scholarship to an athlete. It represents an incredible opportunity and a humbling honor, but also a weighty responsibility. And no university/college coach should ever pressure an athlete regarding a decision on where to attend college. If you have to pressure a student athlete to attend your school, maybe he or she shouldn’t be there in the first place.

For any coaches reading this, take it from someone who has been through it… Pressure is a turn off, and if you do pressure a kid and he or she accepts your scholarship offer based on your pushing, then shame on you. Pressuring a teenager to attend your school solely because you  want his or her talent and ability to benefit your team is plain wrong. Realize the stress these kids are already under, and appreciate their need for some time to weigh their options with their support network and really think it through. Give students a respectable timetable.. not 72 hours. Show them the school, give them all the information they want, and, simply, let them make an informed, un-hasty decision. To put it in the most simple terms, just imagine it was your child that was going through it. Would you want them making a decision due to the pressure they felt? Or would you want them to make decision based off where they feel comfortable and will enjoy the next four crucial years of their lives. Act as if it was your own child.

And yes – being given a scholarship is a privilege, and perhaps those presented with such a privilege should not be complaining. But the thing most people do not realize is that these athletes are not given scholarships; scholarships are earned. You earn the scholarship through hard work, sacrifice, and being relentless in your craft. So when you get a scholarship, it is quite rewarding and you should be able to make appropriate decisions without added pressure.

Another thing some people do not realize, is that, just because you are going to school with a sports scholarship, that does not mean you are going to walk out of there with a professional contract. As fans, we see them on ESPN and National Television and assume they’re all first round draft picks in their respective sports, but that is not the case. One of the reasons I chose to write this blog was because I saw an interesting stat floating around social media. Here it is:


That chart just shows an example of how important a decision this is for a student athlete to make. This is bigger than who has the best sports program or most fans. College is a crucial 4 years for any student and a clouded, pressure induced decision shouldn’t be pushed on a student athlete.

I completely understand that coaches’/recruiting coordinators’ jobs are not easy and they need answers and commitments as soon as possible. They must move on and recruit another student athlete if you don’t accept their offer.. But be respectful of the student athlete and give a respectable timetable. Whether that student attends a specific school, that school will still field a team, and fill that scholarship offer. The student however, if they make the wrong decision, it can impact their entire life and future.

The easiest way for this to happen is to be open and honest with each other. Athletes, do not lead coaches on for weeks on end if you are not truly interested in attending that school. Give them a chance to move on. And coaches, be respectful of the decision making process and if a timetable is needed, make it reasonable.

After all, it is the athlete’s life we are talking about. Let him or her decide what to do with it.

Some things are bigger than sports.

Please remember, this is my point of view and opinion. This was an example of something I went through and figured if one kid can relate, then it was worth writing. The recruiting process is not always like this and not all coaches and universities pressure athletes. However, this does happen, and I am sure student athletes are going through this as you read this. So please understand, this is not the case with ALL universities and not the case with ALL student athletes. This is an opinion and also my advice for student athletes going through this or that will go through this.

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.