Why We Play the Game

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… x

24 thoughts on “Why We Play the Game

  1. Congratulations on your success, both personal and team, at all levels this year Mike.

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the life of a minor league prospect. You’ve gained more than fans by blogging here, you’ve gained friends who want you to succeed rather than just graduate and help the big club.

    Good luck in the playoffs this year. Take it to them Aeros!!!

  2. I’m sure Galvis didn’t partake… right? He’s still a baby. I especially love the Zags toast for absent team members. The Eastern League Rookie of the Year wasn’t there. There are a number of other guys who are playing at a a different level and at least 1 (Slayden) who is now out of baseball.

    Congrats to you and the entire team. I understand it’s been a while since Reading’s been in the playoffs. I know in the minors it’s not all about winning but everybody wants to win.

  3. A lot of future MLB talent on that Reading playoff roster. Everyone should try to be in Reading Friday night to see “why they play the game”. Should be interesting. The R-Phils can advance to the finals only if its starting pitching holds up. On the other hand Lakewood’s roster has MLB talent in waiting too but its starting pitching will be more dominate with Way, May and Sanchez than Reading with Stutes, Flande and Cisco. They are more likely to advance to the SAL finals than Reading in the EL because of it.

  4. Happy for you, and grateful you take the time to share so well the trials and triumphs of being a professional athlete. Good luck in the playoffs and beyond!

  5. Where were the fans last night? Reading, #1 in the league in attendance, averages 6,678 a game. Akron, the home team, averages 4,659 a game. Last night’s game had 2,646.

    In Kannapolis, there were 1,318 fans to see Lakewood beat the home team. Lakewood, #1 in the SAL in attendance, averages 6,312 and Kannapolis averages 2,005.

    You’d think a playoff games would draw more fans not less. When Reading comes home on Friday, I’m sure the fans will come out in droves.

  6. Bellman – Plenty of seats left on Friday according to the “pick a seat” ticket selection on Readingphillies.com

    The fact of the matter is I bet 70% of the people who go to Reading Phillies games don’t even know that they are in the playoffs. The vast majority of the people there aren’t hard-core baseball fans, but are there for a night out with the family. Nothing wrong with that, but it really isn’t a surprise if they don’t draw well on Friday (or Sat if they can make it that far)

  7. The simple fact is that minor league playoff games everywhere draw less than in the regular season. Up in Scranton, ninth row behind home plate is still available. Lack of advance and group sales really hurt. I think it’s also an unhappy byproduct of minor league teams existing largely to stock the major league franchise. We push for promotions whenever players get hot, but that gets awfully frustrating for local fans who don’t get to connect with good players for long.

  8. It appears as though there’s approximately 2,000 seats in the reserved seating section (from 3rd to 1st) for Friday’s game at Reading. I’m betting that they really haven’t sold many GA tickets either. If I had to guess, I’d say that they will probably end up drawing between 5,500 – 6,000 on Friday.

  9. 5,000 – 6,000 if they are lucky. Playoffs are never a big seller because school is back in session. On the other hand, if they would build a ballpark down by the river, it might be better.

  10. MattFoley – Reading really draws very well though, and it’s a Friday night, which of course means no school the next day. And of course, they have the vaunted fireworks.

    It’s really strange why they couldn’t draw at least a respectable sized crowd. On May 15th this year (a friday night, school is in session), they drew 6,000 fans. Maybe the advanced sales have a lot to do with it. The folks in Reading have been promoting these games for weeks now.

  11. Michael, hope to see you in the game Friday night. I’ve much enjoyed reading your comments. All the best to you in your career!

    Bellman, Matt, et al.—As for Friday night’s attendance, I wouldn’t count on much if high school football is on. Add the forecast for bad weather and you’ve got even fewer fans. From what I’ve seen, minor league play-offs don’t draw anywhere.

  12. I’ll be at the game tomorrow, but I’m sure it will be Reading’s last of the year. They are really over-matched vs. Akron in this series. Akron has a really nice team. I think Reading would have a better shot if they just started one of their bullpen guys and just switched out every other inning. Their starting pitching is gassed right now.

    Good year though.

  13. Forgot to add, regular season attendance is buoyed by season tickets sales, which are counted regardless of whether that ticket holder actually attended the game. The minor league playoffs don’t have that base of sales to rely on.

  14. Got a charge watching Michael pitch in the last game of the season for Reading. Caught him sneaking a peek at the stadium speed gun in center field after a pitch . He hit 94 once and hit 93 with his fastball couple other times. Fooled them with his in the dirt slider. Only Bastardo threw harder hitting 95 once but setting at 93 for the most part and Antonio was commanding his slider for strikes better than I had seen him previously.

  15. Not to move away from the purpose of this thread but, if Antonio can stay healthy and command his off-speed pitches, he’s got a chance to be a very good major league player.

    Back to Mike – nice way to end the season. Keep up the good work this winter. I can’t wait to read more of your super entries. I hope you have “Schwimtastic” off-season, Michael.

  16. Hi Mike,

    Congratulations on your success. All your family is proud of you.

    Uncle Joe Marsden in Ocean Pines, Maryland

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