A Day as a Minor Leaguer by Brian Hunter
“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” the alarm rings, I roll over to turn it off. 9:00 AM and day number 105 of 158 in Daytona Beach is off to a familiar start. 9:00 AM was, by no means, an early wake-up call but a lot of my teammates would beg to differ. I enjoyed getting my morning routine started a bit earlier than most guys I played with because it gave me enough time to do everything I wanted to do before arriving at the field at 2:00 PM.
My routine (while we were playing at home) began with breakfast which consisted of 6 whole eggs, Kodiak Pancakes, a banana, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 or 3 cups of black coffee, and Fairlife Chocolate Milk (It’s unreal, you have to try it). After cleaning up, I would walk 2 blocks over to the beach and either study (plans to go back to school after baseball) or read a normal book for about an hour and a half. This would bring me to about 11:30-12:00 where I would either sit on the beach and head in the water for a little or turn back home depending on what my chances were of pitching that day. On days where I knew I had a minimal chance of pitching I would even golf in the mornings with some of my teammates. Despite not being the best golfer, these days were a treat because it broke the monotony of day-to-day life. Once I got back from the beach or the golf course (some unnamed roommates would be just getting up), I would shower, make sure I had my bag ready, and round up my roommates to head over to the field.
Luckily, most of my roommates were on the same page and liked getting to the field a bit early. We would typically arrive at about 1:30 pm just to get situated and get lunch in before we had to stretch. Personally, it allowed me time to get my normal movement prep in which took about 40 minutes and consisted of light aerobic work, light lifting, and mobility work. This was a staple of my daily routine whether we were home or on the road as it helped me plan out the rest of my day depending on how my body felt. When you’re playing 142+ games in 158+ days, you’re going to have days where your body doesn’t feel as good as others. It was important for me to manage my workload on those days that weren’t as good as others. Following my warmup, I would almost always grab a snack before we had to meet and stretch at 3:00 PM.
Our pitching coach would usually debrief the previous game, how everybody performed, and what people did right/wrong. The strength coach would read out everybody’s daily running and then we would begin team stretch (Every day, without fail, you would hear 2 or 3 of the pitchers would moan and groan when the strength coach would assign their running). This included a normal team stretch, everybody’s throwing routines, and our daily running. Again, depending on if you threw the night before, how many pitches you threw, how many days of rest you were on determined what most guy’s throwing routines were and how much they ran. All-in-all, that whole routine would usually take 30-45 minutes which would then take us into, undoubtedly, the worst part of the day which was shagging batting practice.
BP, from the pitchers’ perspectives, is the WORST. You stand around for an hour in 95-degree heat, getting nothing productive done, BSing with one another for almost an hour as you watch the hitters get torn up by our coaches throwing 60 mph (Not actually, but 140 days of shagging BP will make anybody salty). The conclusion of BP was celebrated by the pitchers daily. This would bring us to roughly 5:00 PM which meant we still had 2 hours until game time.
There were countless ways guys chose to spend this time and cards were probably the most popular choice. Guys would play Spades, Rummy, Big Deuce, Trump, you name it, they play it. Unfortunately, most guys would mindlessly scroll thru their social media, some would play Fortnite on the clubhouse TV, some would get their weekly lifts in, take extra reps in the cage, or even nap! Personally, I dabbled with a bit of everything but would primarily try and use my time effectively by studying/ reading again or watching some video of myself or the other hitters. Reading was a little more difficult in the locker room than it was at the beach with 30 guys and loud music blaring in the clubhouse. I would also get my pregame meal in right after we got in from BP so I could let the food settle before game time.
As game time crept closer, guys began their superstitious pregame rituals. You would see anything from getting dressed in an oddly specific sequence to guys speaking with their bats to taking the same EXACT number of steps from the clubhouse to the field. I don’t consider myself a superstitious person (who does?) but I did have my own checklist. Before heading out onto the field by 6:45 PM, I made sure I had a scoop and a half of pre-workout in a Dixie cup, a big water bottle, and some Red Hot handy if needed (Google Roger Clemens’s Red Hot routine; it’s insane). As far as getting dressed in a specific order or eating the exact food, that stuff was not really for me.
As a reliever, my job was to be ready whenever my number was called. As soon as game time starts at 7:00 PM, I had to be locked in because I never really had a designated role (set up, long relief, closer etc.). This does not mean I didn’t joke around and converse with the other guys in the pen but I did have to simultaneously keep notes on what each hitter’s tendencies were and what kind of situation we were in. The bullpen is, without a doubt, the most entertaining spot on the field. Although mostly inappropriate, the banter and random conversation is truly something else. I mean, seriously, you’re sitting with the same group of guys for 142+ games for 3 hours a day. Things are bound to get a little weird at times. Anyways, once the game finishes, everybody usually heads into the clubhouse, showers up, grabs a plate of food to leave, and heads back home just to do it all over again the next day.
The season is a long one and no matter how long you play, you never really get used to it. Just like anything though, it can be perceived a number of different ways by a number of different people. Guys will whine their way thru the season from day 1 until day 158, some will have their ebbs and flows, some won’t gripe once. I gave my best effort to be the guy who didn’t gripe but I would be lying to you if I told you I never did. One thing is for certain and that is that the season is challenging both mentally and physically. It is your responsibility as a competitor and a teammate to make sure you’re as ready as you can possibly be to take on those challenges day in and day out.
Having gone through several full seasons myself, I have experienced the ups and downs. From those experiences I have learned an unimaginable amount about life and about myself. It's an experience I will be forever grateful for having and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Author: Brian Hunter. Brian played collegiately at the University of Hartford and is currently a professional baseball player in the Cincinnati Reds organization. During the off-season, Brian gives pitching instruction in Connecticut. He can be reached on Instagram @pitchandperform.
Feel free to reach out with any questions and give him a follow.