The Minors

Frisco
I’ve only been to handful of minor league games. I usually get all my information from various minor league threads and from the one they call Tepid Participation. I learned about the ones that seemed promising and knew who to expect to see in Arlington (or at least in the Majors). Recently, I decided to broaden my baseball horizons by checking out games in Frisco, which is the closest minor league team to me and still an hour or so away. Watching a minor league game is very different for someone who isn’t a normal fan. It’s different, but there’s a lot to take in.
The most recent game I attended at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco was a rehab start for Matt Harrison. I decided to make that trek to check out firsthand how Harrison was progressing. He pitched 3.2 innings on 44 pitches, using only nine in the first. He located his pitches pretty well. With one walk, three strikeouts, and one earned run, Harrison left the game once he hit his pitch limit. He looked like Matt Harrison, but a Matt Harrison who needed a little bit more work to be comfortable again.

This is good news. Matt Harrison is on the right track to helping out the big league club again. I can’t tell you how many runs the RoughRiders scored for him, and I barely remember who won the game in the end. The only reason I know is I just looked it up, and then remembered Frisco always loses when I go. However, the score doesn’t matter. Minor League baseball isn’t all about teams progressing and working toward championships. Minor League baseball is about the individuals developing to make it to the show.

On Sunday, I sat directly behind home plate, close to the one they call Tepid Participation and several scouts, writers and baseball talkers. Luke Jackson made his AA debut that night behind John Edwards and Matt Harrison. Admittedly, I was more interested in this than Matt Harrison because of the excitement surrounding his callup. He pitched two innings, striking out 4 and using all of his pitches to get them. His fastball topped out at 97, and a good curve could hit 81. He allowed two baserunners, but 0 runs. I was later asked “How’d Luke Jackson look?” He looked good. He looks like a guy whose callup was due. He looks like a guy scouts are looking at. I was later asked, “Who won the game?” I can’t tell you. That’s not what I was looking for.

I witnessed Rougned Odor’s spectacular defense. He has great range in the infield, and I was even able to talk to someone who said he’s been compared to Kinsler. I watched him settle into his quiet and still batting stance (very unlike Kinsler there), and saw how he performed as an individual. He was always the first person on the field after every inning ended. I witnessed Guilder Rodriguez at third, who knows he’ll probably never play in the bigs, but is very instrumental in teaching the young guys. I watched outfielders make bad mistakes, and get back up to learn what they did wrong. I watched how players responded to bad plays, bad at-bats, and good performances. This is where they’re judged the harshest. Are you good enough to advance? Is your make-up right? How do you respond? How’s your instant reflex to a pitch coming at you? Do you know where it’s going? Can you learn?

Major League baseball is team-oriented until a player hits free agency. Yes, individual stats matter, because teams don’t want bad players, but they work as a team to get to the playoffs and get championships. They’re judged as a team. If a pitcher can’t execute, the whole team loses, not just that one player. In the minors, if a pitcher can’t execute, they keep throwing him out there to see if he can learn to execute. If he can’t, it’s his loss, not the team’s. The other players on the team have their own abilities and their careers to worry about. Of course, the teams want to win in the minors, but for those who analyze baseball, it’s about the individual. And of course, players want to put up good individual numbers in the majors, but ultimately they have to help their team out however they can. Minor League baseball is beautiful. If you can, please head out to your nearest MiLB team, because it’s truly special to watch young players grow. As someone who keeps herself mostly in the Major Leagues, the minors are a whole new (and beautiful) ballgame.

Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach her at Emily.Cates@ShutDownInning.com or  on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.
Emily Cates

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