I'm going to give you three scenarios that all have something in common. Can you figure out what?
Scenario 1: Locker rooms are loud, obnoxious places full of multiple conversations in multiple languages, each trying to be heard at the other's expense. Flourishing card games, trash talking, squealing players. Televisions are routinely cranked up for ESPN highlights, the big club's game, or that Vin Diesel action flick you've already seen 20 times. The Latin portion of the team has hooked up an iPod speaker dock and is blaring that god-awful Reggeatone while, on the other side of the room, the Republican portion of the team listens to country, trying to figure out ways to get their musical competition deported. You're trying to read a book about some dork's life story in the minors, but you can't because you can barely hear yourself think'¦
Scenario 2: It's late at night, you're tired, you're sore, and you hate your teammates. Why? Because they've decided that instead of getting some sleep during the 14 hours you'll be busing through the night to get home, now would be a good time to fire up an American Pie movie marathon. Never mind that you hate those movies, that they're our generation's Porky's, that the internet provides more boobs with better acting—you're vote means nothing in the face of bus bound testosterone. Tara Reid's boobs demand worship! Shaking your fists at the heavens you cry out, "If only you could get out off this bus!"
Scenario 3: It's your start day and part of you getting in "The Zone" is rocking out to Kelly Clarkson. Yes, this does make you a pansy in the eyes of your team. No, you can't crank her up on those cheap-o ear buds with out everyone hearing the reverberations of your secret obsession. Technology has hamstrung you. You need volume to drown out the noise around you, but too much volume lets everyone know that the secret to your ERA is Kelly, sweet, sweet Kelly, that angelic muse you sing along with in the shower at home every night. Revealing this secret could cost you a fortune in the Kangaroo box, and yet, not feeling her music shower over you could be the difference maker for your next outing.
You'd like to be able to read without gunshots, rap beats, and words you don't understand. You'd like to get some sleep instead of listening to the sexually confused struggle of men loosing their virginity in baked goods. You'd like to listen to Kelly's Break Away before you take the mound. But you can't because the cacophony of minor league baseball never stops unless it's drunk, or dead. Looks like you could use some noise-canceling headphones, my friend.
Noise-canceling headphones, in case you haven't worn them, are like two little monasteries for your ears. Whether it's Gregorian Chant, or Kelly Clarkson, or anything but the voices of your teammates, those headphones are your Zen in the eye of the minor league hurricane.
Sometimes the only way you can be a good teammate is by not killing your fellow teammates. You'd think guys would be more considerate when they choose to use the volume button and not put you in a situation where murder is your only option, but they will. They will over and over and over and over again'¦ This makes finding a place of solace—even if it's inside your own head— essential to minor living. Finding a way to handle all the stimulus is part of surviving in this sport and simply putting on a pair of industrial strength noise-cancelling headphones says to your teammates "I've stepped out of the office." Or, "I'm doing my own thing right now, leave me be or I'll kill you."
Sure, the good phones are a little more expensive than those stock buds that came with your pink iPod Nano, but can you really put a price on serenity? Actually, in the minors, you can. It's usually somewhere between $150 to $300, and worth every penny.
Dirk Hayhrust is the author of The New York Times Best Seller, THE BULLPEN GOSPELS, and OUT OF MY LEAGUE. He has played professionally for the Padres, Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays, including Big League time with the Padres and Jays. Read more from Dirk at www.dirkhayhurst.com or follow him on Twitter at, @TheGarfoose