Baseball 101: How To Make It To The Bigs
In a large room a few doors down from the Giants clubhouse, Randy Winn, F.P. Santangelo and J.T. Snow sit behind a table on a riser, facing two dozen or so fresh-faced, athletic young men, some just out of high school. These are the Giants’ top draft picks, gathered this week at AT&T Park for a week of conditioning and seminars. They are spending their mornings learning the critical importance of physical fitness, and spending their afternoons learning that physical fitness means nothing without brains and heart.
Winn, Santangelo and Snow – who collectively have 35 years in the big leagues – are here to clue these young guys in to the secret of reaching the major leagues.
Every other factor, they say – being a selfless teammate, staying calm and controlled through highs and lows, doing all the little things that help a team win, believing in yourself even when you’re hitting .190 – is an outgrowth of hard work.
“You go out there every single day and do what you need to do to win,” Santangelo says. “The way you make it is to play your butt off every day.”
“It’s not only about talent,” he says. “At spring training, you’re going to look around and say, ‘Wow, there’s some really talented guys.’ The Giants have five or six levels of really good players. Everybody’s talented. So you have to hone your talent. I’d get to the park for early batting, early outfield practice. I spent a lot of time on the back fields of the minors.”
Snow recalls his early days in Single A, when, after being a star in college, he began his season 2-for-29, 6-for-60, 19-for-100. He was hitting .200 at the All-Star break.
“I was trying so hard and nothing was happening,” he says. “But you’ve got to stay after it. Keep working and working. The second half of the season, I hit .400.”
Part of his success, Snow says, is taking care of himself well enough to be ready to play every day. “The only day you’re 100 percent healthy is the first day of spring training,” he says. “So you have to eat right and work out so you can keep playing through all the bumps and bruises. Because if you start breaking down in the minor leagues and need days off, people take notice. That gets around.”
The men are asked what it’s like playing in the major leagues.
They all smile.
“Unbelievable,” says Winn, who is heading into his 13th ML year. “Everything I thought the big leagues would be – it’s better. It’s awesome. Great field, perfect conditions, 40,000 people, lighting is unbelievable, the facilities are great, the travel is great.
“You put in all your time in the minors with the bus trips, the bad hotels, the truck-stop meals at 3 a.m. – so when you get to the bigs, it makes it that much better.”
One of the rookies raises his hand.
“Who were the toughest pitchers you ever faced?” he asks.
Snow says Clemons and Maddux. Santangelo say Maddux and Trevor Hoffman. Winn has an even more precise answer.
“Pedro Martinez in 1999,” he says. “He threw 95 mph from the first pitch to the last. He had an 85-mph change-up with the same arm speed as his fastball. It was just silly. He made me look silly. He made me feel silly. It was totally inappropriate.”