Baseball is unlike any other sport in that once a player gets drafted, he does not immediately begin playing for the team that selected him. He must first go through the grind of the Minor Leagues to prove that he is one of the 750 players that is worthy of playing at the highest level in the sport.
Most casual baseball fans do not really follow their favorite team’s Minor League system, so they are not aware how difficult the lives of these players are. Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jacob Scavuzzo outlined to DodgerBlue.com what a day in the life of a Minor Leaguer is like.
“There’s nothing like the Minor League life grind,” Scavuzzo said. “You’re going from apartment to apartment, so guys are on air mattresses, some guys live in living rooms, you’re showing up into cities at four or five in the morning and playing that night.
“When I was in OKC for a little bit we would fly at about five or six in the morning, so you get three hours of sleep the night before, get into the town at about 10 a.m. and take a nap, then you get ready for the game at six or seven at night. It’s definitely a little stressful just based off the travel.”
For Scavuzzo, though, the daily grind is worth it to him to hopefully reach his ultimate goal. “I feel like I’m still relatively young and I’m still up for any challenge and I think that’s just another challenge that you have to go through in the Minors to eventually make it up to the big leagues,” he explained.
The Dodgers drafted Scavuzzo in the 21st round in 2012 out of Villa Park High School in Orange County. While for most high school players that would be the ultimate dream come true, it wasn’t that simple for Scavuzzo.
He also excelled in football in high school and was faced with the challenge of choosing between signing with the Dodgers or going to a junior college where he could continue to play both sports.
Despite being able to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, Scavuzzo knew that playing the outfield, swinging the bat and running the bases was his ultimate calling card. “I was super excited because I knew that deep down in my heart that I wanted to make baseball my profession,” he said.
“I loved football and always had that passion for football, but I never wanted to give up on baseball because I knew I wanted to make that a career in the end.”
Scavuzzo signed his contract with the Dodgers the day after he graduated from high school, and then one day later he was on a flight to Arizona to begin his professional career. Being on his own for the first time at just 18 years of age is not something that was easy for Scavuzzo or any other Minor Leaguer.
“It was definitely a wake-up call as soon as I left home and hopped on that flight. I had no idea where I was going in Arizona. I had no idea who I was gonna be playing with, who the coaches were,” he recalled.
“Just being a young kid, living on my own for the first time, I had to figure some stuff out the first couple of weeks, all the simple stuff, how to cook and all that stuff.”
Most 18-year-olds are picking out college classes and figuring out what fraternity or sorority is right for them, but for Minor League players, they have to figure out how to stand out among hundreds of talented players.
“My first full season when I had to go through Spring Training and extended Spring Training was where I really felt like I was like, ‘Alright, it’s time to get to business,'” Scavuzzo said of when he first felt that baseball was a job to him.
“That year I began to figure out how to compete with these guys and how much work to need to put in to get up to their level and beyond.”
As if trying to stand out on the field isn’t enough, Minor League players have to worry about being able to pay their bills. According to Forbes, most Minor League players make less than $7,500 per year, which is far below minimum wage for the number of hours they spend working on their game and traveling.
Because of that, most players are forced to work other jobs in the offseason, which can take away from their training.
Unlike most, Scavuzzo luckily hasn’t had to get a job other than doing work with his dad during offseasons thanks to the support of his parents. “I’ve been pretty thankful for my parents, they always take care of me, giving me whatever I need and I’m extremely blessed to have them as parents so I haven’t really had to work,” Scavuzzo said.
Now 24 years old, Scavuzzo has had a taste of the highest Minor League levels, spending time at Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City each of the last two seasons.
Being so close to reaching the Majors and achieving his ultimate dream has helped him put up with the difficulties of life in the Minors. “I feel like now is the most I have ever wanted that,” he admitted.
“Getting a taste of Triple-A and being there, seeing the difference between there and even Double-A, I can only imagine how much better the experience will be in the Majors.
“It kind of gives you that more fight in you, it tells you that you’re not that far away, you’re literally one or two steps away. You realize that even if you’re struggling, you’re at the top of the pinnacle in the Minors and you’re literally one call away so it kind of gives you that true ‘never give up’ feeling.”
Some players spend more than a decade in the Minor Leagues before getting the call to the big leagues though, so the journey and grind never stops, even for a player as talented as Scavuzzo.
You can follow Scavuzzo on Twitter as he continues down the path of joining the Dodgers.
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