Rambling On About My Glory Days: Making the “Show” is Not Enough
After reading Seamheads leader Mike Lynch’s article about Ed “Irish” Conwell, it reminded me of a question I often receive about players who make it to the major leagues. ”Do you think he is any good?” referring to a player who has just made it to the major leagues. It sort of makes me chuckle because I know they mean, “Do you believe he will be a productive major league player?” but the way it is phrased makes me want to say, “You better believe it.” Of course, these are generally directed about players that I have never seen much, but I usually respond with “only time will tell.”
Players do not make the major league level or even the professional level without being good. We have all heard the numbers of how millions of kids begin playing little league baseball and how just a very few ever make it to the major leagues. The odds of making it are minute, but those professionals that don’t make it or those that get the proverbial “cup of coffee,” are still very good. Major league teams are not in the habit of putting players in the major leagues as a favor. All big league players have earned the promotion with proven skills; otherwise, they would not have made it that far. Being able to say that you were in the major leagues is obviously a great feeling and something no one can take away from them.
Whether they become long time major league players is determined by many factors. First and most obvious is their initial performance. Most major league managers are in a win mode and cannot give players time to develop. They believe that is what the minor leagues are for and they expect players to produce immediately. The second factor is often luck, which is no small factor in anyone’s success. Being in the right place at the right time and being in the right situation can make all the difference. Many players miss out on their one opportunity and unfortunately, never receive another chance. A few of those players may feel content that they at least got the cup of coffee, but most players who never get a second chance must be very disappointed. After all, they worked very hard for many years and not to have a legitimate shot must be tough to handle.
I was dangerously close to being in this situation in my career. I had a few cups of coffee with the Dodgers and a half a pot of coffee with the Indians, but my subpar play made me feel unfulfilled. After a full year in the big leagues with the Indians, I found myself back in the minor leagues with a very slim chance of ever returning. It helped that I won a Triple-A batting championship that year, but it probably wouldn’t be enough to earn a real shot back in the show. Here is where luck came in. The Seattle Mariners had hired my former minor league manager, Del Crandall, as their manager. He knew my game, traded for me and gave me a great chance to play. Finally, I played closer to my potential and have been able to move on with my life feeling a sense of fulfillment. I not only achieved my big league goal, but more importantly, I became a productive major league player for a short time.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport