Minor league baseball players work hard to earn their place in the pros. Within each player’s unique journey lies the truth of the hustle — the heart and soul of the system. The minor leagues embody the work ethic and determination of the baseball player who — in most cases — is willing to put it all on the line to pursue the dream. In this post, we introduce our series ALL IN where we’ll look at what it takes to succeed in the minor leagues.
Sixteen seasons working with professional baseball players will teach you a thing or two about preparation. That was quite apparent in our conversation with Bryan King, Durham Bulls’ strength and conditioning coach who instructed the likes of Roy Halladay and Jose Bautista before the two made their jump to the big leagues. King gives us in depth look at the structure of the MiLB offseason — from self-guided training to winter ball to spring camps.
A strength coach stretches a player prior to the game. Photo Credit: Tom Hagerty.
Training begins shortly after the regular season ends
After a season comes to a close, baseball players return to their homes and take some time off. “A light training regimen begins two to three weeks after they get home,” says King, “starting with maybe an hour a day of lifting. In late October, they might start to get a bit more aggressive with their training — maybe two hours a day, and come November, the full training regimen begins… heavier weights, explosive power exercises.”Position players might start skills training in December or January. After the holidays, all players are incorporating their baseball skill work, and camps begin at the end of February.
Year-round play to stay fresh
While most ballplayers are taking time off to recover and build their strength gradually, others opt to play the game all year long through the MiLB Winter Leagues. The Arizona Fall League begins in October and continues through mid-November. Then comes the Australian Baseball League with games commencing in mid-November and running through February. The Caribbean Series spans a week in early February before players report to Spring Training with their organizations.
Spring training runs seven days a week
Once spring training camps begin, the minor league player has traveled from his home to join his teammates for a full scale effort. Players report to the complex at around 7 am. They are provided with a healthy breakfast, and their day begins. Maybe a morning lifting session, a team stretch around 9:30 am, fundamental and skills training until 11:45.
After lunch, they play games every day at around 1 pm. If that ends by 4 pm, they often lift and train afterwards. “It’s early mornings and it’s all day,” says King. “It’s a full day. A long day. And that’s every day. Seven days a week.”
Minor leaguer Franklin Torres takes batting practice under the watchful eye of one of his hitting instructors. Photo Credit: Tom Hagerty.
Players break for travel — briefly — before the season begins
The break between camp and the season lasts about three days. Typically, this includes one day of travel, another day unpacking and then a day to explore the area. On the fourth day, players are back on the field. The players that make a team late in camp may not know where they’re going until the final days, and so this transition is often hectic and rushed.
“That’s the life of baseball,” says King. “You train and travel a lot. You work hard. You might be fortunate to spend a good portion of your career with one organization, in one location. But the majority of us — staff and players alike — there’s going to be movement. You have to be willing to put in the time, pick up and leave quickly and do what it takes to keep chasing the dream, wherever it takes you.”
As the baseball season progresses, stay tuned for more ALL IN series access and other stories from ISM Connect through ball park central, our new social community for baseball fans.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.