I step out of my car and walk across the parking lot. Feeling like today is just another day of Spring Training, I walk towards the Mariners complex and head into the building. I move into the hallway and search for the bulletin board, which holds today’s schedule. I’m intercepted by my friend and Mariner-mate Nolan, who greets me with, “Did ya hear…?” Immediately, I know that today is different.
Baseball careers are ending today.
Every year, more players come into Spring Training than exist spots on rosters. As a result, the coaching staff has difficulty findings innings for pitchers and at-bats for hitters. Soon, players in Major League camp are sent down to Minor League camp, and roster space begins shrinking even further. Inevitably, the unfortunate yet unavoidable, somber days of releases will begin.
Donald Trump asserts, “You’re fired.” The Mariners send Mickey. Mickey is a kind man and a well-respected coach. But you want him nowhere near your locker on release days. He navigates the clubhouse with a clipboard, searching for his next victim. Once he finds his man, Mickey walks over and whispers in his ear, “You need to go see Lupe.”
For all things Minor League, Lupe is the boss. As a player, you tip toe around him, never cross him, and, absolutely, never want to go to his office on release day. If you are forced into his office on this day, he’s going to tell you why the Mariners no longer need you.
It’s safe to surmise that only those who have experienced that torturous walk to Lupe’s office on a release day can fully understand its profundity, its loneliness, and its despair. As baseball players, we grow up with the game at our side. Starting with Little League, the magical sport grabs us and pulls us in. A feeling, a dream develops inside us, and that feeling grows stronger every time we field a ground ball or tape the handle of a bat or hear John Fogerty sing about giving this game a ride. One of the world’s most amazing places is that hallowed combination of dirt, grass and chalk lines.
But, it could happen to any of us. On one day seemingly like any other, someone steps into our dream, grabs our cleats, and hangs them up.