If you have been a consistent reader of this blog you will recall my first entry in which I described the struggles and the grind that is minor league baseball. Unless you have gone through it, you really can’t understand how grueling a 140 game season is on both your body and mind. The best part about the journey is seeing your hard work pay off and on September 6th it did for me, when we beat the Connecticut Defenders to clinch a spot in the AA Eastern League playoffs.
When Scott Mathieson recorded the last out, we rushed the field, congratulated everyone, and ran upstairs to our clubhouse. There were plastic sheets covering our lockers, furniture, and electronics, as well as 2 kegs of beer, about 200 cans/bottles of beer, and a few bottles of champagne. Within seconds people were cracking open the beers and either chugging them or spraying it all over people. No one, and I mean no one, was exempt from getting doused with beers. All the players, coaches, trainers, visiting clubhouse attendant, ball boys, radio announcers, bus driver, and anyone else that walked into our locker room was greeted with a beer shower. People took turns in the power stance position (think forward lounge with head back, mouth open, and eyes close) and getting a bucket full of beer poured down their throat. During this celebration, everything baseball related took a back seat. The night before I had the biggest opportunity of my professional career and made bad pitch after bad pitch, which resulted in my getting lit up like a Christmas tree (getting hit hard) meant absolutely nothing at that moment. I was just elated that I was part of this playoff team.
The funniest part of the celebration was observing Johan Flande’s actions. Flande got a bucket and continuously filled it up with water, snuck behind people, and dumped it on that person. After he got someone, he laughed really hard, then went back to the sink and did it all over again. This lasted for the entire celebration, which was over an hour. Every time he emptied a bucket, I laughed till I was teary eyed.
After the initial jumping around celebration, two of our team leaders, Mike Zagurski and Neil Sellers, stood on a table and made individual toasts to our coaches. After each toast, the recipient of the toast got in the power stance and received a bucket of beer to the face. Zagurski made the final toast of the day and he asked everyone to spill whatever drink they had on the floor, for all the players that helped out that were no longer with us.
During the celebration, the only thought running through my mind was how happy I was to be a part of this team. This team makes playing baseball fun. We have everything a championship team needs; great veteran leadership, talented young prospects that are selfless hard workers, and a dedicated coaching staff. These players know how to win games, they do not have to be told the importance of moving runners, and doing the little things it takes to win games. They have played so many games, and experienced so many situations that it just comes natural for them, and that is really fun to be a part of.
To conclude our Connecticut road trip, Roady congratulated everyone on their hard work and dedication. His last remark to the team was, “Some of you may not have finished the season the way you wanted to. The good news is the playoffs are the beginning of a brand new season.”
This is why we play the game!
On a completely separate note, we just received the itinerary for the AFL. Apparently we are in charge of finding our own housing in the Scottsdale area, so if any of you guys know of anything available in the Scottsdale area and want to help out a bunch of nice future Phillies, please let me know via email… firstname.lastname@example.org