It has been a long week here at spring training. It has only gone on for a couple of weeks now and most guys can tell you it already feels like the grind of the season.
Guys’ bodies are starting to feel the effects of playing nine inning games again.
Wait did I say nine? More like 10-12 inning games. We play these long games because there are so many pitchers that have to get their arms ready for the season. So each week, pitchers build up their stamina by throwing more pitches.
As a position player/hitter, this can be both positive and negative. The good thing about it is that we get more at bats, which helps us to be better prepared for the start of the season. The not so good thing is that we have to stand out there playing defense for more innings than desired. I look at some of the coaches and I know they would not prefer to watch that many innings. Some of them just look bored out of their minds and miserable. Shoot, I can't blame them.
A nice thing about spring training right now is that most coaches just let you play without over-managing or getting upset if something goes wrong in the field. With that being said, it almost causes you as a player to focus more. Maybe I should just speak for myself because there are plenty of players that don't take spring training seriously. I just know that it is easy to lose that competitive edge when you know that the coaches are being more laid back.
Therefore I just try to always picture myself as if I was trying to make the big league team out of spring training. I know if and when the opportunity arises that I wouldn't go after it half heartedly or lackadaisically, so why would I do that now? It can be tough though because often you want to ease yourself into spring training and build up to be ready for the season, all while trying to make a certain roster. I've pretty much learned from past experiences that I can't afford to ease into anything.
Earlier in the week, I was given the opportunity to play in another big league spring training game. We faced the Atlanta Braves. This game went much better then the last. I batted twice, and both at bats resulted in walks. Most notably I faced last years' NL Rookie of the Year, Craig Kimbrel, in my first at bat. I was excited to get the opportunity to face one of the most dominant closers in the game.
During that same game I also played first base. I fielded a ground ball in the top on the ninth inning and threw out what would be the go-ahead runner at the plate. It was a nice feeling hearing the fans’ excitement after getting that out. In no setting have I ever had a few thousand fans clap for a play that I have been a part of.
I just keep looking at these opportunities as a blessing, as well as a chance for me to gain experience. Speaking of experience, on that same day I met two very important people in that dugout - Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. They are two Cardinals greats that I had been looking forward to meeting ever since I became a part of this organization. They took the time to talk to me before I went in the game. Even if I never see them again, I will never forget meeting them. It truly was an honor.
The rest of the week has gone pretty smoothly. In minor league camp, we have played both the Marlins and the Mets now. Those will be the only two teams we will be meeting during spring training. It's nice because the Marlins share the same facility as us so we only have to bus to St. Lucie when we are the visiting team against the Mets.
Players will start to be on their toes because cuts will be coming soon. It's always sad when a teammate or friend has to be released and sent home. It is just a reminder that this so-called game is truly a business. All of us "players" are really just employees. I know one thing; I'm going to keep working hard so I can increase my chances of getting a raise!
Follow me on Twitter @Xavier_Scruggs.
Link to my earlier reports from spring training and winter ball in Colombia.
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