Rambling on About My Glory Days – Rambling & Wondering
I often get the comment from people, “I bet you wished you played now with the money players make these days.” It makes me dream, of course, but I really wonder if I would have even gotten a chance to play professional baseball in today”s game.
I have attended quite a few minor league baseball games over the last few years. The games are always enjoyable because of the fun atmosphere. Along with the quality baseball that is played, the in-between inning contests, team mascots and fan give-a-ways make the games extremely fan friendly. Some of my favorite memories, back in the day, were of the times when the great San Diego Chicken or Max Patkin would perform at our games. I am sure they were the inspiration for much of what occurs at minor league stadiums today.
Besides the fun created, there are two things that strike me every time I attend these games. The first thing is the realization of a different age because of the size of the modern day ballplayers. I honestly wonder if I would have even gotten a look to play professional baseball, let alone be drafted, because of my small stature. It is very common to see middle infielders of today to be well over 6 feet and upwards of 185 pounds. Soaking wet, I played at 165 pounds and became run down physically quite easily.
Of course, this size explosion has happened in all professional sports over the years and it leads to the doubts if I would get the chance these days. Because of the size of players, it is very uncommon to see any player with my offensive game of make the pitcher work, bunt and slap, make contact and steal a base. Modern day players seem to swing from the heels no matter what the count is or how good a pitcher’s control seems to be. I recently witnessed a minor league game where the first batter of the inning walked on four pitches and the next three batters swung at the first pitch for three outs. After walking the first batter on four pitches, the pitcher got out of the inning with seven total pitches. That didn’t seem to happen when I played, but I may be wrong. What ever happened to the Moneyball explosion?
I have no statistical proof but there seems to be many more strikeouts in the game today. My philosophy of choking up on the bat based on how hard the pitcher was throwing, especially with two strikes, is totally non-existent in today’s game. This seems true for any level of baseball, for that matter. I am not one of those who always think things were better back in the day but I am lucky to have played in the times I did and I thank God for ESPN Classic and the Baseball Network to remind us of that time.
The second thing that strikes me when attending minor league baseball games is that even the worst minor league parks of today would rank up with the best parks of my day. Most of the minor league ball parks back in the late 70′s and early 80′s were often glorified high school or college fields. Some of the Triple-A fields of yesterday were somewhat equal to modern day minor league complexes, but in general, they do not compare with today’s stadiums. Â Even 2010 independent league stadiums are state of the art facilities that players of my era would have been privileged to play in.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter(http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction site 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