I promised a follow up to “A Field Guide to Surviving Winter Ball…” and we will start with this….be open minded. I talked about becoming enveloped in the culture of Puerto Rico, but I want to be adamant about listening and learning…especially from the natives. Martin “Machete” Maldonado, our captain, leader, and anchor of not only the pitching staff, but our team is one of the most influential players I have ever been around. Apart from being an overall jokester, he was the guy in the clubhouse that everyone turned to and commanded everyone’s attention. When things were going bad, he made sure we knew why and told us how to fix it. Baseball in Puerto Rico was a different way of life. As an import, realize that you are a guest of their country and must respect the way that the game is played as well as your hosts.
I want to talk about camaraderie. In Puerto Rico, there is but one goal: win the league. Men are not competing for jobs, not competing against other players to win a starting role or “get moved up.” The team bands together to form a cohesive bond, and compete against another opponent. Players root and cheer for one another because of the absolute desire to win. Of course you are going to fail in this game, but watching my teammates come out time after time again to pick each other up was a refreshing sight in this game. I know our dream, goal, and desire is to get to the big leagues gentleman, but playing in Puerto Rico helped me take a step back and appreciate the true meaning of what we do. HAVE FUN. This game is fun, and whether or not you are a player who doesn’t get a starting job, or you don’t get the majority of the playing time, you must have fun in this game. I saw numerous players on my team who sat on the pine because they weren’t the star, or were young, but the point is, they watched the big leaguers, the veterans of league. When their number was called though, the young guys produced. You never know when your number is going to be called. Never forget that you can always learn from your fellow teammates and enjoy the atmosphere you are in.
There is always room for growth in baseball, it is your choice whether or not to accept it, and LEARN FROM IT. I saw baseball from a different perspective in Puerto Rico, and I know that I will take what I have learned and apply it to my outlook during the regular season here in the states. Have fun gentleman, this GAME is fun.