Ryan Shopshire was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft. Six feet five inches tall, and weighing 200 pounds, it’s Shopshire’s dream to one day pitch in the big leagues. For the coming season, Shopshire’s teamed up exclusively with brand-spanking new baseball blog Through The Fence Baseball, and will be blogging about his experiences in the minor leagues in a series entitled Talking Shop.
First I want to tell everybody a little about my baseball background. I am a so-cal boy born and raised in the most beautiful place in the states, Orange County California. I played my high school years at Orange Lutheran High School, a premier power house. After high school I accepted a scholarship at Long Beach State to play for the Dirtbags. My freshmen year there I experienced my first injury playing baseball (a stress fracture in my throwing elbow) and made me miss my entire season. At the end of the season exit meetings the coaches decided that Long Beach would not be my home the following season. This was a big blow to me because this was my first choice school out of high school.
My path was altered but I believe it made me stronger and more knowledgeable. My next two years I played at Orange Coast Community College in beautiful Newport Beach, California. At Coast I played at one of the most prestige community college baseball leagues in California and the nation. We made the playoffs both years there and it is always fun playing for a winning program. After my time at Coast I accepted a scholarship to play at San Jose State University. I did not know much about the program before I was contacted by the University but, I was informed that it was a winning program. I played there for two years and my team had a combined record of 72-45.
Shopshire’s spent the last two seasons in the Blue Jays system, adjusting to the grind of life in the minors. As you’ve surely heard and/or read, it’s far from glamorous.
The long road trips in the Midwest league and the extremely hot and humid days in the Gulf Coast League (aka Gulf Roast League). It really is what many call “The Grind”. The time commitment and loneliness from being away from love ones is not made for everyone. There are many mental adjustments that need to be made along this voyage through the minor leagues and if not someone else will be placed in that can make the changes. The pay in the minor leagues is not something to brag about but hey you are getting paid to play a child’s game. There are temptations that come up throughout a season and the ways you go about these situations help shape you as a man and your career. This blog will talk about these many different occurrences and give you readers a little inside of how the minor leagues work.
Last year, I read Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst’s The Bullpen Gospels, in which Hayhurst painted quite the picture of life in minor league baseball. He documented his day-to-day struggles of not only being a pitcher, and being a baseball player, but of being a person. So often we, as passionate watchers and fans of the game, forget that at the end of the day, those that play baseball for a living, whether it’s in the bigs in front of 40,000 screaming fans, or down on the farm in front of 2,000, are people first, and baseball players second.
I’m looking forward to Shopshire’s entries throughout the season, and hope he documents the human experience of being a baseball player, and all that comes with it, including the ups and downs, the moments of elation, as well as the moments of crippling self-doubt.
Thanks to Jamie Shoemaker, founder of Through The Fence Baseball, for reaching out, and I’ll be keeping close tabs on Talking Shop throughout the season. Coming soon: Shopshire’s thoughts from Blue Jays Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida, where Toronto’s off to an 0-3 start, have scored only three runs, and where Jose Bautista is homer-less. The sky is falling!
And, finally, well, because it just makes so much sense, Canadian legend Tom Cochrane:
Image courtesy Colin Blakely.