The tryout… and waiting …
Grant Dawson came and shot some video of this morning’s tryout–so I’ll post that whenever he sends it over… but here’s a brief summary of my morning:
7:35am – Check weather.com and saintsbaseball.com, to see if things will be rained out. Then check google directions to Midway Stadium-only 15 minutes away from my house. Convenient.
7:45am – Leave for Midway Stadium
8:02am – Arrive at Midway Stadium, my first visual is seeing 25-30 baseball players filing into the field. Apparently registration opened a bit early.
8:05am – Register at registration table. They asked for very basic information, name, address, phone numbers, my position (pitcher), birthday (2/10/78), and college attended (Wheaton College (IL), last year played (2002) and baseball accomplishments. In the baseball accomplishments area, I just wrote that I led my college team in wins and strikeouts. My wife tells me I should have included high school accolades. She’s probably right–since this is the form the pitching coach was looking at during each pitchers’ session. Oh well.
8:15am – Start stretching and throwing–as well as having brief and awkward conversations with other baseball players. It is clearly a diverse group, both in terms of age and experience–I talked to a couple of 20-year olds who play for community colleges; a 28-year old from Chicago who drove up last night for the tryout; quite a few 23-28 year olds from the metro area who play town ball and are giving it one last hurrah. There was one 20-something guy with a U of MN pullover on who I overheard saying he “was clocked at 91 mph”–that’s pretty fast. I didn’t meet anyone who was older than 29–but someone told me they had talked to a guy who was “over 30″.
9:05am – The tryout begins with the Saints coach telling pitchers and catchers to head to the bullpen, and position players to stay with him. I go with the pitchers and catchers–about 30 pitchers and 10 catchers total.
9:10am – The Saints pitching coach walks us through how things are going to go. It will be just him doing the evaluating–no speed gun, no huddled group of coaches. They’re looking for a diamond in the rough–he says. He will watch and take notes while pitchers throw side bullpen sessions in pairs (two pitchers throwing to two catchers). Pitchers should be ready when it’s their turn. After pitchers throw, they can go home. If the team is interested in seeing them throw more, they will call.
9:15am – He announces the first six names. I’m not one of them. I run to the bathroom.
9:20am – I get back, seeing the second group of two finishing their session. The coach announces names 7 and 8–one of them is “Dan Olson”. Gotta hurry and get warm. A catcher eyes me out–and we go start warming up. Arm feels fine.
9:25am – I’m up. My first few pitches are pretty erratic, including one that cleared the fence that ran alongside the bullpen. “That’s gotta look pretty bad,” I think. I calm down and am mostly around the zone for the rest of the bullpen session. My curve and forkball are pretty sharp, but my fastball leaked outside–something that happens when I rush. Oh well.
9:30am – The coach asks me to throw from the stretch. I do for a bit. Then, he asks me what I do to hold runners on. I tell him I hold with the leg lift and looks, and throw in the occasional slide step. He asks me to show him. (Note, this is to a pitching tryout what parallel parking is to the drivers test–it separates the men from the boys. You see, left-handed pitchers have an advantage when a runner is on first base, since they are actually facing the runner and can see if he’s going to steal or not. But this also requires a lefty to be especially crafty with knowing when and how to hold the runner close, and to have a variety of “looks” and pick-off moves to give the runner to throw him off. When I lift my leg, I can either throw over to first base, or throw home. A “slide step” is when you just don’t lift your leg, and instead gently lift your foot and move quickly toward the plate, which decreases the amount of time for the ball to reach the plate. This gives the catcher a greater chance of throwing out a runner attempting a steal.) With all these factors and options to think about, it is especially important that the lefthanded pitcher be able to continue to throw strikes. So the coach was testing my mettle. I think I at least passed the test, though not every pitch home was a strike.
9:38am – My bullpen session ends. The pitching coach tells the rest of the guys to wait, and runs over to talk to a coach on the other side of the field. Best case scenario here is that he’s talking about me (maybe he said something like, “George, you know how we were talking about how we need one more solid lefty? I think I just saw him throw–and he’s 32!”.)
More likely, he was running over to ask where he wanted to eat lunch–but you never know.
9:45am – After saying goodbye to a few of the other guys I met, and debriefing a bit with Grant, I hopped in my car and headed home. It was all over so quickly.
I’m guessing they only intend to call between one and three pitchers to come back. Of the first 10 pitchers, I do know I was the only lefthander.
Anyway, I’ve spent the rest of the day watching my kids, debriefing things with my wife, friends, and family, and–judging from how drained I felt–realizing I’ve invested more hope in this tryout than I thought. Now I’m wondering if there’s an outside chance that I might receive a call tomorrow (or Monday, I guess)–and, if not, reflecting on whether I should keep working for the June tryouts or not.
If they do call–you’ll all be the first to know.