ZEBULON, N.C.–The final day of a minor league season feels a whole lot like the last day of the year at a college.
Bags are packed, some parents are milling around to help load up cars. Goodbyes are given along with promises to keep in touch.
And the reality is that some of the players heading home may never be back. For six months, a baseball team is a large family. They travel together, eat together and spend hours wiling away the dead time before games or during rain delays. Then at the end of the season, everyone heads to their respective homes. Some will be back together again next year. But others will be traded, or sign elsewhere as minor league free agents, or get released.
It makes for one of the stranger days of the season. Players who have been grinding their way through a 140-game season and more than six months away from friends and family understandably are excited about the idea of heading home.
By an hour after the game, the bags are packed and the clubhouse is beginning to look like a ghost town. Players are used to traveling light, so with a couple of duffel bags and bat bags loaded up, most of them are ready to hit the road.
But at the same time, professional baseball players like playing baseball. Managers like to make out lineups and decide to bring in the lefty. Coaches like to work on batting stances or pitching deliveries. As of Monday night, all of that is over for the year.
"When it ends you're so happy for what the players have been able to accomplish," Double-A Carolina manager David Bell said. "I've had a chance to sit down with each player individually and go over everything. You never know if you'll see them again."
The final day of the season for the Mudcats added an additional layer of feeling to the farewells. After three seasons as the Reds' Double-A affiliate, the Mudcats are executing a franchise swap next season. The Reds' Double-A affiliate heads to Pensacola, Fla., next year while the Kinston Indians' Carolina League franchise moves to Zebulon.
For the fans, not that much will change. They'll still see a team called the Mudcats head out onto the field next April, with the same front office staff and the same stadium. But for the players and coaches, it will be a significant difference.
For one, the swap will make a lot of sense from a geographic standpoint. The Southern League has moved west, leaving the Mudcats as an outcast. When the Mudcats joined the league, they had nearby opponents in Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. Charlotte now has a Triple-A team and Greenville plays in the low Class A South Atlantic League. That means that Carolina's closest opponent was 360 miles away. Seven of the nine opponents were more than 500 miles away, including a 800-plus mile trek to Pearl, Miss.
In the Carolina League, the Mudcats' farthest trip will be 360 miles, and four of the team's seven opponents are less than 200 miles away.
"It's obvious they'll fit nicely into the Carolina League," Bell said. "From that standpoint it makes sense."
It all makes sense, but on the final day of the season that's not as strong a feeling as the realization that a team's time in a town is over.
"All of the people here, that's what we're going to miss," Bell said.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog