Change is a Constant for Players

Written by Dave Norman
Harrisonburg Turks

In these final days of MLB Spring Training, lives are changed every year.  For devout seamheads like many of us, the transaction page is where this domino effect begins and often ends for players.

Most Valley League teams follow their former players to some extent wishing them well and updating the fan base on their favorites from years gone by.

There are many ways “the BIG ballclub” aka the MLB team parts with a player.  A player can be release outright, designated for assignment by the organization or simply sent over to the AAA or AA minor league camp.

Often a young player that has MLB experience is sent to AA camp because there may be an opening in the role the team would like to develop that player in.  For instance, a player that has been a starting pitcher may be groomed as a short stint or closing pitcher at the AA level before ascending the ranks.

Geography does play a role as well.  My beloved Baltimore Orioles have stashed the younger “hot prospect” players closer to Baltimore at the AA Affiliates (Hagerstown and now Bowie, Maryland) over the years.  It used to be more difficult to put eyes on players than the hyper-electronic age we live in today.  

AAA is often filled with veterans who have played in the Major Leagues who could be an immediate replacement for the MLB starter.  Professionals are receiving their assignments to the many levels of affiliated ball from Rookie to AAA, with teams hoping to develop them into an asset that will benefit the parent club.

The words talent, perseverance and luck often play a part in this multi-leveled numbers game.  Talent and the honing of your strengths against the continued step up in competition is just the beginning of what it takes to rise through the ranks.  Developing the weaknesses of your game is equally important.

If you are doing well at any collegiate or professional level, be sure that someone is watching.  In the internet age, the need to be lucky and seen by the right person, at the right time is less stark.  You can’t hide talent.

Valley League players have a unique opportunity to either follow up a solid season with more development against high-level competition or a bounce back summer after a sub-par season.   Often a young collegiate getting the innings or at-bats kick starts their high-level development for the next college season.

The Valley League motto, “Gateway to the Majors” is aspirational and inspirational, as it should be.   Each summer, players gain exposure to an entirely new group of teammates and coaches who positively influence their grind toward becoming a successful collegiate player and firmly onto the professional scouting radar.

Whether you have a rooting interest in your Valley League team or particular player, realize that there is a continual culling process underway regardless the outcome of the games, pennant races or championships.

One of my favorite things is getting a look at a returning player.  Often a players physical and mental maturity sharpens their talent rapidly.  Most VBL teams have a list of “boy to man” success stories.  These gains are fun to watch, and necessary, if playing this boy’s game professionally is ever going to happen. 

It’s been said that playing professional sports, especially this great game of baseball, is equivalent to fitting through the eye of a needle 7-8 times.  That is where perseverance comes in.  Failure to be standing when the music stops, at any rung on the ladder, due to injury or poor play, could be all that it takes to end the dream of stepping through the “Gateway to the Majors.”

We all love the way a summer day gives way to a cool night at the ball park and a respite from our busy lives.  The Valley League is our glimpse into effort of these players and teams.   Root for your team with all your heart but the bigger picture is interesting too.  See you at the ball park Valley League fans!