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MiLB: The First Season
When Matt and I made the 15 hour trip to Tennessee over the holidays, we were just talking about his first season as a professional baseball player. I asked him some questions, and below are some of the answers, topics we discussed and a couple stories told by Matt. (And a bonus of one of my favorite stories.)
Q: What was the toughest on-the-field transition to professional baseball?
A: Whenever you get with a new group of teammates and team, you want to prove your worth and show what your abilities are. The speed of the game and every part of the game really moves up another level. Each level the game moves a little faster. So the toughest transition for me was to just learn to slow the game down, and keep it the same. Just relax and trust abilities you have and go play. Now, that’s a lot easier said than done when things aren’t going the way you want them to. When things are going well you don’t think twice about the level you are at. Just playing in the moment.
Q: How did you learn to handle your mindset when things weren’t going well?
A: There’s a lot of things that go through your mind when things aren’t going right. Especially at this level things like, “aw man I’m about to get benched or moved down a level or even cut” ran through my mind. You have to try to block those thoughts out. There is nothing you can control in that side of the game…all up to the front office. I feel like you have to learn to control the mental side a lot more in baseball than any other sport.
In college, you don’t play every single day. Four max five games a week in college. Whereas in pro ball, you play 30 days in a row without an off day, so pro ball if you don’t learn to control your emotions it can be a domino effect and be really hard to focus on the game and task. I tried to learn to say whatever just happened is over, and have a short term memory. I tried to not dwell on prior at bats, errors, or whatever because when think about those things, the negative thoughts just pull you down.
Q: Talk about how the Dodgers organization helps train the mental game.
A: We have a mental coach that used to work with the Marines. We take classes with him. He takes us through exercises that plays mental games with us and teaches us how to keep a positive mindset. For me, I learned how to always be conscience about what I’m thinking. I really saw and learned how thoughts control my emotions and emotions control body language and body language controls what everyone sees and how you play to a certain extent. I try to stop the negative thoughts before they get to that point. Through the mental coaching, we learned the power of positive thinking compared to negative thinking about a situation and how the two create completely different outcomes. What I liked the most about the classes was learning about and being able to recognize and be conscience about controlling my thoughts and emotions. As a baseball player, I’m always working to improve the mental side. Just like any other skill, we practice it. That might be a weird skill to practice, but it’s very important.
Q: What are some things you weren’t expecting?
A: I guess I didn’t expect to be taken care of as well as we (in the Dodgers organization) are. When you see movies like Bull Durham or about minor league baseball, it’s like an old run down clubhouse, bus rides with no AC and stuff like that, eating fast food/ramen noodles, but it’s not like that for us. Dodgers take big time care of us. They give us all organic meals…two meals a day in season. All organic food was definitely something I had to get used to, but I could totally see a difference in how I felt. The Dogers put so much money into their player development which made things a lot easier for the players. I always try to pay attention to detail that all the coaches give because they truly want each player to be the best they can be. Also, it was cool to talk with Jay Gibbons who was the hitting coach in Michigan (low A). He played in the big leagues for 10 seasons. We would just talk about all his experiences. Being able to hear straight from him about playing at Fenway or what his favorite place to play was or who were the hardest pitchers to face was really neat. For me, being able to have access to coaches who were former players who either played in the bigs or played years in the minors is an advantage. I try to soak up all of their knowledge and advice.
Q: Talk about your routine.
A: I know a lot of people ask me this, and I wish I had a better answer. My routine is seriously baseball. On a normal day, I’ll wake up around 9-10, eat a little breakfast, watch a little TV then go to the field around lunch time. During the week, we have days we have to lift before the games. So, when I get to the field, I’ll either lift or begin my stretches or yoga. We’ll have lunch then have a couple of meetings prepping for the game and recapping the night’s before game. Then we’ll go out to the field for field work and batting practice. I’ll come back in for a little down time usually grab a snack. Get dressed, and start pregame routine of stretching, throwing and getting warmed up. Play the game, eat post game meal and get home around 11-12. Go to sleep, and do it all over again the next day. When I say that, it doesn’t really sound glamorous, but it’s what I live for. I’ve always wanted baseball to be my job, so I’m lucky to call it my job now.
Off day woes
Story told by Matt: So, we don’t get off days very often. When we do, we try to always just take them to either do something tourist in the place we’re in or just go and do something normal. Close to the end of the season, we had an off day, and we were trying to decide what to do with it. We decided to go to the movies and see Straight out of Compton. My host famiy didn’t have a vehicle so I called my teammate Cameron Palmer to pick me up. He got to use his host brother’s car. After the movie, it’s night time, and we cannot figure out where Cameron parked. We found a car that looked exactly like the car we came over in, but it was turned on, door open, lights on everything…well, come to find out he had left the car running the whole entire movie. Guess you could say we were either really excited to see a movie on the off day or just tired to be normal people on the off day.
Story told by Matt: After the season, I went to instructional league in Arizona which is where most first year players go after the season. It’s kind of like spring training, so another opportunity for us to learn things before next season. It was in October, and the Dodgers were in the playoffs, but Puig got a hamstring injury so he was at instructs with us rehabbing and everything. He was really cool. He signed baseballs for Kyle, gave me some batting gloves and everything. Well, one day, I just had to ask him why he was number 66, and his answer made me crack up.
I said, “Puig, why the heck are you number 66?”
Puig *in Cuban accent* (that Matt does pretty well, btw): “What do you mean? When I got here, this jersey said Puig 66. When I got called up to LA, they asked me what number I wanted to be, and I was like what do you mean? I’m number 66. So, that’s why I’m number 66.”
Everyone thinks it’s a showboat thing, and here I am always trying to make a smart decision with what number I choose, and Puig chose his number because that’s what he was given and didn’t think twice about it.
Don’t take mashed potatoes for granted
One of my favorite stories Matt has told me from his journey so far is about mashed potatoes…well, at least what he thought were mashed potatoes.
Like Matt mentioned earlier, he’s on an organic diet with the Dodgers. (two slow claps for all those guys.) He doesn’t complain by any means by the food but just an adjustment.
Well, one post game, Matt said he went into the clubhouse and saw the line of food. He said he got really excited when he saw “mashed potatoes.” He asked for two helpings because “mashed potatoes” are awesome.
He sat down with a couple of teammates and went for the “mashed potatoes” first. Only to find out they were…mashed cauliflower… *face palm*
Matt was a good sport of course, and he said they just laughed and only ate one serving of the “mashed potatoes.”
I bust out laughing every time he tells or I tell someone the story!
Hope you guys enjoyed reading this! If you have any questions you’re curious about, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below or on Facebook post. Just gives us another reason to blog!
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Matt & Jesica Beaty
Welcome in to dreams and seams! A tell-all blog about our career dreams and path to reaching those dreams with some commentary about sports and life plus some videos too.
"Strive for the impossible because it makes the possible seem effortless." -Matt Beaty