The Daily Life

Before I get started, I would like to thank Phuture Phillies for giving me this opportunity to write this column. I have three reasons for creating this blog. First, I feel like very few people understand the life of a minor league ballplayer, and I wish to shed some light on the excitement and rigors this profession provides. Second, I believe the reason baseball thrives is because of its loyal fan base. I receive many emails, txts, etc from baseball fans. Unfortunately, they’re only so many hours in a day, and I believe this column will allow me to answer even more of your questions. Lastly, when people come up to me and ask me about life as a professional baseball player, in addition to answering their question, I can share with them this link to the column so they can learn even more about this life.

I am a very opinionated person and I am excited to share my views. For the inaugural entry, I will describe my average day as a minor league pitcher, and then answer some questions that I have already received. (Note: This section is 847 words so if you want to know exactly what happens every day, this is it)

My day starts by waking up somewhere in between 11am-noon. I take a shower, then eat breakfast while watching Sportscenter. I then proceed to go online where I check 5 sites: espn.com for the Phillies recap, and to see if Bill Simmons has a new article, the stock market to see how much money I have lost so far that day, virginiasports.com to see how my alma mater is doing, milb.com to see how my friends did the night before, and finally, Facebook.

I get to the field at 1:45 every day; people get there any time from 1 to 2:30, and get an arm stretch from our trainer. In addition to this being a requirement at least 3 times a week, it’s a great way to get loose. After that I get dressed in practice gear and get ready for pitchers stretch at 3pm. Every day we go through an active stretch routine that takes 15 minutes before we long toss. We long toss every single day to at least 120 feet, some days more depending upon our individual throwing schedule. Each long toss session concludes with a 10 pitch flat ground with our throwing partner being the catcher. (Note; this is my least favorite part of the day, as I have taken more than one ball off the shins during this time) After the flat ground concludes, we get our conditioning in. The type of running changes every day, as we usually do 4 days of sprint type stuff, 2 days of longer jogs, and one off day. During this time the position players, who stretch at 3:30, are now ready to take infield and outfield practice.

It is now about 4:15 and time to start batting practice aka a pitchers worst nightmare. We stand in the outfield for 45 minutes in the 95 degree humid Floridian sun shagging all the batted balls. Every day we hope it rains during this portion of the day so the hitters take batting practice in the cages and we can relax in air conditioning. At 5 o clock we go in to the club house and have our pregame meal. Our clubbie (club house assistant) prepares meals ranging from sloppy joes and watermelon to chicken, rice, and beans. We relax in the clubhouse by either listening to music, watching tv, reading, studying for the GMAT, (Daniel Brauer) or playing cards. The position players go out, stretch, and get ready for the game at 6:15, while the pitchers have to be out by 6:35. Some pitchers play pepper, but others, like myself, enjoy signing autographs and talking to fans. The game starts at 7. While we keep track of what’s going on in the game, me and my other bullpen mates also talk about baseball and other matters that will not be discussed on this site. (Note: HBO could have a field day on a television series entitled “The Bullpen”) At the end of the 4th inning I go inside and get a 10 minute leg stretch to get ready to pitch the end of the game. Relievers are generally notified that they are in the game the half inning before they are in the game. This gives us 3 outs to get ready, which can take 2-25 minutes depending on the inning. Learning how to get your body in its best position to pitch in warm ups is definitely an acquired skill, and one that I work every day on improving. As the closer I am ready to pitch in every game and genuinely love doing so. The game ends at roughly 10pm. I shower and leave by 10:30, get some dinner by 11, and watch tv till about 12-1. I try to get 10 hours of sleep before the next day’s cycle begins.

For those of you keeping track, we are at the field for 9 hours every day for six straight months. We get a grand total of 12 scheduled off days during that period. After paying taxes and club dues I make $4,350 during that period, or $2.68 per hour. (Note: in another entry I would love to discuss the necessity of a union for minor league players) I go through this because my passion is pitching. I love the feeling of being in control on the mound ready to compete against my peers. My dream is to be able to do this at the major league level so I get to turn my passion into my career and get paid more than $2.86 per hour.

Now for some questions.
1) What are the differences between the New York-Penn league and the FSL, both in terms of competition and atmosphere?
2) What was the transition like going from big-time college ball to being a pro? Is it like a job for you?
Thanks again,
Tom (Boston, MA)

In terms of talent level both leagues are very similar, but in terms of consistency, and ability to capitalize on mistakes the leagues are vastly different. If I made a mistake with a pitch in the NYPL I would pay for it about 20% of the time. In the FSL I would estimate about 40% of the time (By pay for it I mean give up a hard hit) On the contrary, when I am on my game and hitting spots with the correct pitches both leagues are identical in terms of competition. The crowds are very similar as the majority of our games are being played in front of less than 1,000 people. The weather is a big factor in coming to the FSL. Adjusting to the blistering heat and humidity is easier said than done.

ACC college baseball and minor league baseball are so incredibly different, and it goes way beyond the metal vs. wood bats. It is all about mentality. In college everyone is pulling together for the common goal of winning the game. In the minor leagues everyone is more concerned with how they are doing individually then the success of the team. It was plainly stated the first day I showed up to spring training when they told us the number one objective is developing players to be able to play in the major leagues. This idea is completely understandable as baseball is a business with the goal being to get to the big leagues so we can produce revenue for the owners. The irony of this situation is when you make it to the big leagues the mentality is supposed to switch to team oriented goals. To answer your question, “Is it like a job for you” the simple answer is yes, but it’s a job that I love with all my heart and soul. Baseball feels like a job in college, as we were at the field for 7 hours a day plus we had to manage a full class schedule, and fit in a social life. You can say a lot of things about baseball players, but those of us that make it to the next levels have learned to manage our time.

I know you and your teammates # 1 goal is to make it to the big leagues, but what do you do or maybe as a team to deal with distractions . I have been to Clearwater in the summer and I know there are a lot of distractions for a 23 year old male in Clearwater, it has to be hard to eat, breathe and sleep baseball.
-Robert

First of all, you are right. There are a lot of potential distractions in this area, but to be honest with you, we are usually so drained by 11pm that we would rather relax on our couch then go out. When we do go out, we go out together, and there is almost always an off day the next day. The majority of the team has girl friends so the need to pick up women is not as high as you might think.

60 thoughts on “The Daily Life

  1. Michael, awesome insight, now I know what to expect when my son (2 years old btw, but he throws with a high leg kick and with good form LOL) ends up being the next chase ultey or cole hamels (or for that matter maybe even a michael schwimer as I’m sure you hope fans will say in 5 years).

    Thank’s again for the start of what looks to be a great blog.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I will enjoy reading your entries as the season progresses…. Best of luck Michael.

  3. Wow! Well done, and well written too I must say Schwimer! Still sad I never got over to see you pitch, but just know I am cheering for you from Colorado now and one day I want to see you in the Show! :) Hope life is well and I will be checking back with these entries to read up on how a pitcher in my favorite organization is doing, as well as a good friend! :)

    And, hey maybe HBO should pick up, “The Bullpen!” I’m sure it would be interesting! haha

    Take care of yourself out there!

    Play Ball,
    Brandy :)

  4. Michael,
    You’ve done your UVA english professors proud since you obviously learned something while you were on the hill playing baseball. Great work and I appreciate your sense of humor in your writing. Have a strong and healthy remainder of the season.
    Murray in Philly

  5. Great addition to the site, James!

    Thanks to Michael for agreeing to it.

    Its amazing how much this site has grown just in the past 18 months I’ve been a regular follower of it.

  6. Michael, I am a Hollywood producer and would like to talk to you about this great “Bullpen” show idea…my people will call your people!

    Haha, that was a great write up and I’m looking forward to the rest of your stuff!

  7. “(Note: HBO could have a field day on a television series entitled “The Bullpen”) ”

    You should check out the MLB network, they have a reality show called “The Pen” that follows the Phillies bullpen members throughout the season.

    Thanks for coming here and sharing your experiences. Your input is greatly appreciated.

  8. Especially with more Miriam Taschner. Ahem.

    Nice entry Michael. Very enlightening, and entertaining.

  9. Nicely job, Michael, and very enlightening too. And a Bill Simmons fan – I’ve been reading his stuff since 1999.

    - Jeff

  10. Nicely done – very well written. Thanks for taking the time. The “day in the life” overview was nice. Looking forward to future columns.

  11. Michael, what a great post! Thanks so much. That’s one of the most informative posts I’ve seen on a minor-league blog. I appreciate your insight and willingness to directly share your experiences with all of us.

    Maybe you should add phuturephillies.com to your daily website check ;)

  12. Absolutely great stuff Micheal! I am already hooked! Fantastic insight! I would like to echo an earlier comment and say I didn’t know much about you before except for a name and stats on a boxscore. Now I am a fan of yours!
    Giving back to the fans is very classy.

    Chris in Houston

  13. Thanks Michael.

    I was wondering how much contact players such as yourself have with the player development people from the organization such as a monthly review or is most of the development information given to you by the affiliates manager and coaches.

  14. This is very cool. You are right on about a union. It’s obscene what they can get away with with minor league players. I am looking forward to that column. Keep up the good work.

  15. As an MLB production The Bulllpen is pretty tame but that’s what he’s driving at. I would love to see it no holds barred!

    Oh, and Lets Go Hokies!

    This was a fun read though.

  16. I have a quick question… whats it like when someone goes YaYa on you and you blow the game? I can’t imagine.

  17. As for Michael Schwimer, thank you for your entry and I look forward to reading them on a regular basis. I got to see Mike pitch last year in Williamsport, a spotless last inning (seven inning game). We look forward to seeing you back north in Reading, Lehigh Valley and hopefully Philadelphia.

  18. Michael first off this is fantastic and a great insight into a minor league players life.

    I am one of the most ANTI UNION people you would ever want to meet (due many to what my occupation is) and I agree with you 100%. You need a union for minor leaguers.

    And as far as shagging balls couldn’t they get some kid to do it for say a weeks’ time and in turn give them a tour of the clubhouse? I’m sure you’d get plenty of kids to do it as well as many adults too.

  19. As everyone else, thanks Mike for taking time out to do this. I look forward for more posts in the future. I really enjoy this.

  20. Michael, I would love to see you talk more about your diet. Especially that are you so busy for literally 9 hours during the day. What kind if fuel are you putting in your body? Would you say its a hardbody diet? Do you each a lot of Ice Cream or Orange soda? Would you say its vital to have a perfect bod or just in shape?
    Thanks,
    Dewdrop

  21. Thanks Michael for sharing your time on this blog. Hope to see you in Allentown some day.

  22. Was that $4,350 per month or for the entire six months? That can’t be right. Must be the former.

  23. Is it had for you to believe that those guys don’t make jack playing minor league baseball? Ask Thresher Nation how many of the Clearwater players worked for him in his ice cream shops to make ends meet?

    The Phillies take a dim view of off field behavioral problems. Just remember Cole Hamel’s incident and the time Mitch Graham was injured in a traffic accident. None of those guys involved other then Hamel’s are still around.

  24. Jake, that $4,000+ was for the entire season.

    Minor league guys get paid very little – 1,200/month in the first season with little pay raises thereafter.

  25. Here is how i came to that number. A second year minor league player gets paid 1200 per month, or 1000 after taxes, and that is being generous. Club house dues at home are 90 per month and on the road are 50 per month (Note: we do get 20 dollars a day for meal money on the road, and that was not included in the $2.86 figure) We get paid for 5 months, the 6th month is spring training, and we do not get paid one cent over that month because spring training is considered optional. (Note: it is considered optional but if you do not elect to go you will most likely be released) So 860×5=4300. 4300/6months=716. 716/30days=23. 23/8 hours a day is sapprox $2.86 per hour

  26. Michael ,

    What type of a pitcher are you ? What do you throw and it’s velocity ? Thanks.

  27. OK, thanks for breaking it down. I didn’t figure you guys made much money, but I had no idea it was so little.

  28. Mike is going to become the Curt Flood of the minors. YOU ARE NOT A CONSIGNMENT OF GOODS, MIKE! Take it to the arbiter.

  29. The meal money helps, and MS is not counting the value of the free lodgings (which vary considerably from team to team and player to player, of course).

    You can live on the wages during the season, but you either need support from a relative or another job in the offseason.

    Bonus babies make more, and guys do OK in AA and AAA.

    I never knew the minor league guys didn’t get paid for ST, though. I think they get road meal money and free lodging still.

  30. PC, most organizations don’t pay for lodging after the season starts. Some players get lucky an get some one to sponsor a room for free or get together an rent a place for 2 or 3 players to split the cost. I know there are several players renting across from Brighthouse down in Clearwater, for instance.

  31. Mike,

    Wow, this was the most insight on the minor league I have ever read! Thank you so much for writing the column. Wow.

    Rooting for you to make it to Philly real quick. Read earlier how Shane V was considering quiting 5 years ago, now I can understand why he felt that way! Thank you again!

  32. Michael, Thank you much for the post and all the information you provided. I look forward to reading your updates as the seaon goes on and hope that you might keep us updated during your off-season. Thanks again and the next step is Reading. Gd Luck

  33. I never knew this, to have to live on 1200 a month, means you can’t go out much, if you go to a club its a couple of hundred between drinks, tips, and something to eat, buying your meals at say 20 a day is 600 a month and that’s a lot of fast food, dating would be almost out, dinner and a movie is not cheap let alone ,taking her to a play or show, so its mostly baseball and little social life, it would seem to me.

  34. Great stuff Mike,good luck to you,hope to see you in Reading,10 miles away,and not nearly the amount of distractions,lol

  35. The one thing that struck me aside from how little they’re paid and a lot of the other things people have expressed in the comments are that the players have to pay “clubhouse dues”. What do the clubhouse dues go to? Paying the people who keep the clubhouse clean, wash your uni’s, etc? Is that something players always have to pay at all levels (A, AA, AAA, MLB) or is this something low minors guys are subjected to?

  36. I know MLB guys have to play clubhouse dues so I assume its a universal thing for them. Kinda cheap on the part of the organization since these are Org employees that get the money.

  37. Awesome post, I look forward to reading more of these as the season goes on.

    Question: What are your thoughts on the common belief that relievers in the minors are more space fillers than actual prospects? People who believe this to be true claim that if the stuff was there, the pitcher would be a starter, then move to the pen in the majors if need be.

    I don’t believe that line of thinking because if you’ve got one or two plus pitches and better makeup to throw your best stuff for one inning, it makes sense to start a player in the pen from the getgo. I was wondering your opinion. Thanks again.

  38. Michael – I think the clubhouse dues are for the items you’ve mentioned and to help pay for the clubhouse spreads. In the end, it seems to me the people who really make out like bandits are the owners of the minor league teams. They don’t have any salary expense outside of the Front Office people, since I believe the big club picks up the cost of the players and coaches.

    Hey Mike S – Not sure if you read “Odd man out: A Year On the Mound With A Minor League Misfit”, which was just released this spring. It’s basically a running diary of a first year player’s experience in the minors. If you have, I was wondering if half of what he said really happens in the minors.

  39. Very interesting about the compensation of minor leaguers. I always figured it was somewhat like (what I understand of) the military: the pay is pretty low, but the employer picks up most of the expenses including room and board. Sounds like it’s actually a good deal worse than that at the lower levels, even with ~$300 a month in meal money.

    Really interesting piece–looking forward to reading more from Michael. One thing I’m curious about is what kind of instruction the coaches give–whether it’s mostly technique in throwing pitches, situational advice for approaching certain kinds of hitters or specific hitters, general counseling on preparation and making it through the rigors of a six-month season, etc.

  40. Forgot to add that he get’s free bus rides to other cities as well!!!..

    Loved the report. It really give a good idea of just how demanding a minor league season is for everyone involved. Hopefully it makes everyone who reads it appreciate how dedicated these guys have to be to be successful.

  41. great post mike but a question that may be relevant right now. do you notice an increase in scouts due to the halliday situation. thanks.

  42. Wow, that’s a revalation, both the hours spent in prep, and the low compensation. Thanks for the insight and honesty Mike!

    Look forward to hearing more from you, and seeing your career develop.

  43. To the person who suggested they get a kid or adult to hsag fly balls in return for a clubhouse tour, the Phillies normally offer clubhouse tours of Brighthouse Networks Field at their Fan Fest.

  44. Runnings from your fans in Alaska. We look forward to watching Ryan Howard pancake you when you close out the World Series.

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