When ALIVE East Bay readers think about professional baseball it is likely those thoughts drift to the Giants and A’s and the big-money, glamorous world of the major leagues. Beneath that glamour is a multi-layered labyrinth called Minor League Baseball that is filled with small-money players harboring million dollar dreams.
The daily battle of the minor league experience is vividly captured in the film Time in the Minors, which follows two players over several seasons as they fight their way up the ladder hoping to make an appearance in The Show.
The players are Stanford grad Tony Schrager, the sixth round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1998, and high school star John Drennan, the first round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2005. Schrager received a bonus of $87,500, plus $20,000 to finish school after his baseball career. Drennan received a $1 million bonus from the Indians. The level of investment was one factor in how each player was evaluated, promoted and moved during their careers.
The underlying theme of the film is that the minors are a grind. Only 10 per cent of the 1,500 players drafted every year eventually play a day in the major leagues. The winnowing is as much about attrition as talent. The adjustment from playing two or three games a week in school to six or seven games a week in the minors is emphasized, as is the intense offseason and off-hours conditioning that is mandatory for survival.
The film does a great job capturing the almost desperate striving of the players and makes it clear that opportunity and good fortune are at least as important as ability. It also captures the angst of both players’ parents and Schrager’s wife through the ups and downs of life in the minors. The comments of a sports psychologist are particularly poignant as he emphasizes the impossibility of every day being a good day when competing in professional baseball. Most pro ballplayers were big stars in school, and this new reality is a big part of the adjustment to pro ball.
Off the Bench watched the film with Monte Vista High School baseball players Brett Binning and Mark Hirsch and Brett’s father Tim. Both young players commented that pro baseball was a much more cold and difficult business than they realized; and Hirsch expressed surprise that only one out of every ten players selected in the draft makes it to the majors.
For Tim Binning, the key learning was how small the window of opportunity is for the players, and how a bad few weeks at the wrong time could keep a young man from achieving his lifetime dream.
“The film showed how important it is to go to college, not just for the academics but to have the maturity to handle the ups and downs,” Tim Binning added. “At the higher levels the skill sets are extremely similar and the importance of the mental side hit home for me.”
Brett Binning also commented that baseball helped Schrager get into good colleges (he was at Yale before Stanford) and believed the challenges Schrager faced in baseball would help him succeed in his life after the game.
Time in the Minors will help viewers appreciate how difficult it is to make the major leagues. The film creates sympathetic portraits of its subjects and reminds the fan and non-fan alike of the power of a dream and the value of the sacrifice necessary to achieve that dream or be able to live with falling short. Those interested in purchasing this worthwhile film (about $20) can visit www.landmarkmedia.com or call 1-800-342-4336.