Chris Swauger Guest MLB Blog: My Offseason, Part 1
Wednesday December 28, 2011
Chris Swauger- Guest MLB Blog: The winter months are an interesting time for a minor league baseball player. When the season ends in September, we all exchange hugs, handshakes and well-wishes, knowing full well some of us will never see each other again. It is a very strange feeling and it carries over into the off-season. Some of us head home to relax and recover from 140 games or more. Some get ready to showcase their skills in the Arizona Fall League. Others, like me, sign up to keep playing in foreign countries. Those of you who have read my previous blogs know about my experiences playing in Panama this fall. It was a great experience and now I am back home, enjoying family, friends, and the holiday season.
While this is a time to have some fun, take a vacation, learn a new skill, and basically live the good life, it is also a time to become a better player. There is not nearly as much communication between the organization (front office, coaches, staff, etc.) and players as there is during the season. Other than an occasional health update, workout/conditioning check-in, or a friendly phone call, players are generally on their own during the winter. It is the responsibility of the player to prepare himself for the spring and upcoming season. This is absolutely the way it is supposed to be because we are all grown men and professionals who ultimately SHOULD be responsible for our own careers. There is no one there every day checking to make sure we get our work in. No one grabs us for extra early work or a quick film study. It is on our shoulders to motivate ourselves and to get better every day. And nothing motivates hungry minor leaguers more than opportunities.
A few weeks ago the MLB’s Winter Meetings took place in Dallas. It was a crazy few days filled with transactions and speculations for the approaching season. It was great for baseball. Sports and social media were filled with reports about baseball, right in the middle of the NFL and NHL seasons and an ending NBA lockout. The game of baseball and its following is as strong as ever right now and I am proud to be a part of it. However I imagine that I, along with every other minor league player, watched and read reports coming out of the meetings with a different perspective than most.
When fans hear that their favorite team signed a huge free agent, lost a big-time player, or brokered a blockbuster trade, their emotions run the gamut from extremely excited to overwhelmingly unhappy. But the players in the minor leagues think differently. We look at everything positively. We are trained that way. It’s the only way to recover from an 0 for 4 or a bad outing. Everything has to be taken with a shot of optimism. Everything has to be looked at as an opportunity. An opportunity to move up or get more playing time if your team loses a player. An opportunity to make a great first impression if you are changing teams. An opportunity to compete if your team adds a player.
My coach in college used to say that competition breeds winning. That is every organization’s ultimate goal. Win at the big league level. The minors exist to mold players who can help that cause. Every player knew this when he signed or learned it very quickly. We compete on a daily basis against the other team, the game, and ourselves. I have always felt that playing with other good players has made me better. When someone new comes into our organization I have always made it a point to get to know them. They may know something about the game that I don’t. They may hold the key that unlocks MY potential. I may be different from other players in that regard, but I think that has helped me and made me better.
I know for a fact that I am NOT different from other players when I say I want to be the someone who steps up when a player leaves our organization. Be it free agency, a trade, or any other means, when a spot opens up every single player wants to fill it. Even if it’s a bullpen spot, I am convinced I could get outs. A chance to showcase my skills is what drives me every day during the season. And the thought of getting that opportunity, or getting to compete for that opportunity, is what drives me during the off-season.
I genuinely cannot wait for baseball to start again. I love the downtime and the chance to train and recover in the winter, but I already have the itch for spring training. There I will be able to give hugs to those guys I left the previous September, and hopefully get to shake hands with someone new.
Follow me on Twitter (@cswag8) if you would like to get a daily perspective and interact with me.
Until next time,
***Chris Swauger (AKA Swags) is an outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals system. Swags played for the Springfield Cardinals (AA) in 2011. A regular contributor to MLB reports, Swags provides a behind the scenes look into the life of a professional baseball player in his Guest MLB Blog. One of the funniest guys we know, these blog entries are a MUST read for every baseball fan! ***
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