Tampa Bay Sports Day

The Off Season Cometh

…And some guys can’t wait.  After the last 7+ months of hanging around 25 other guys, many of whom were the same over these last 7+ months, you can get pretty sick of some faces.  Players love to talk about the camaraderie after they retire, how much they miss it and, if they could come back for one reason, that may be it.  But when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re part of the baseball stew some people label as a “team,” you can really look forward to not seeing certain guys anymore.  Or at least until mid-February.

Yet, there’s the other side.  While some guys can’t wait to get away from their well-paid group of “friends” who either weren’t paid enough or weren’t worth their paychecks, hence the going home after game 162, there are some guys who don’t want to go home.  Why?  You’ve heard phrases like Life begins at 40, right?  For ballplayers, Live begins at home once the season ends.  In other words, the responsibility of thinking basically only about yourself every day ends abruptly.  Now you need to think about the wife or live-in girlfriend and the kids.  The younger guys might end up going home to where their parents live; maybe not the same house, but likely the same town.  Since most kids aren’t buddy/buddy with their folks, and since most Thanksgiving dinners are not the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting, most MLB kids do not look forward to seeing Mom & Dad every day for the next 5 months.

For some players, there’s surgery.  Read the Notes section a day or two after the last game of the season and you’ll see this player and that player are suddenly scheduled for some sort of surgery, ranging from minor to Six Million Dollar Man rebuilding, the kind that you’ll hear about as spring training begins and ends and our Six Million Dollar Man is wearing jeans every day instead of a jock.  If you’ve ever had surgery, any kind of surgery, it’s not fun.  Some guys know already they’ll have to go under the knife the first or second week of October.  Some guys know but are in denial about it, just like they’ve been in denial about how bad their team is, and will continue to be, in order to get to this point in the season.  Some guys just think they’re sore right now and are in for quite a surprise once they take that exit physical.  And then the fun of the off season, of not having to travel all the time or live in a hotel half the time or hang out with a band of jerks most of the time or get badgered by the media the times when you screw up doesn’t really matter because you’re going to spend much of your upcoming time rehabbing.  If you lust for the upcoming 5 months, surgery is like a cold shower.

The upcoming off season isn’t really an off season for some players.  Some are going to fly to Arizona or Hawaii or Mexico or Central America and keep playing.  There’s the Arizona Fall League for the game’s more elite prospects and the Caribbean League for those who either come from that part of the world or need to get better at their game.  Some will keep playing because they simply love to play baseball.  They grew up playing ball all year round.  Why stop just because they’re adults?  Others live for the Caribbean League because they are stars down there.  Even if they’re not big shots in the States, they may be legends-in-the-making south of our borders.  There are always fans willing to pay to scream your name.  There are always ladies will to whisper your name in your ear.  There is always the pull of fame and its perks.  When the MLB season ends, the fun for some has just begun.

Finally, there are the guys who are going to spend the entire off season either being courted by teams and sponsors – your elite free agents – or guys doing the courting – your 25th man free agents.  These are the guys who will feel the stress of looking for work starting 15 days after the last game of the World Series.  Some guys will love the process.  It’ll be their Caribbean League equivalent, getting loved and cheered by front office executives, media personnel and fans in cities you could love if the money is right.

Other players will hate the process.  There’s either the stress of squeezing as much money as possible in a bad economy from the winning bidder and then living up to your new billing as The Next Big Thing or there’s the stress of your phone not ringing.  There’s that stress of knowing your agent is working to get 28 other guys jobs before he gets to you.  Which means the available jobs won’t be as lucrative as you had dreamed, or the city you’ll have to settle for isn’t on a coast, or you might be insulted by not getting any offers until Christmas and New Year’s and MLK Day and Valentine’s Day pass you by.  There’s the stress of waiting and wondering why you skipped playing in Puerto Rico this off season when you could have been showing off your skills instead of protecting yourself from possible injury.  Add in that you potentially don’t like your wife (or she doesn’t like you), your parents bug you every day, and, quite frankly, you don’t have anything to do and suddenly miss the camaraderie of hanging out with a bunch of jerks all the time and you’ll begin to long for the end of the off season.  Soon enough, you’ll find yourself telling people you can’t wait for 2010, when The New Season Cometh and you can get away from the reality of a cold winter without baseball.

Jimmy Scott is probably the greatest pitcher you’ve never heard of.  Visit Jimmy Scott’s High & Tight to read more from Jimmy and guests Desi Relaford, Eric Valent & Cassidy Dover.  You’ll also hear a new interview every Monday morning with former MLB players, agents, wives and others; giving new outlooks on this great game we call Baseball.  Go there now to hear Jimmy’s latest interviews with Rollie Fingers, Desi Relaford, Brent Mayne and MLB Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.  You can follow Jimmy on Twitter or Facebook.