Getting Up After Getting Sent Down

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Every year at the very end of Spring Training is what is arguably the worst day of the baseball calendar: cut day. A Major League roster carries 26 players. This year, we brought in 66 guys to camp. You don’t have to be a math major to realize that there are far more players than there are spots. The same rule holds true on the Minor League side.

As camp begins to wind down and the Major League roster is set, there is a trickle down all the way through our Minor League system that often causes players to put on their imaginary GM hats. They, too, know that there are more players than spots and try to figure out for themselves where they will fit come April 1st when we leave Fort Myers and head to our affiliates up and down the east coast.

Players spend their entire off-season working towards the next year. They report to camp in better shape, with better swings, better pitches, looking to become better players. Whether they are coming off of a great season or one that didn’t necessarily go as planned, most players come to Spring Training with high aspirations to make the club at a higher level from the prior year. While sometimes that works out, often times, it doesn’t. That reality tends to set in on cut day.

On cut day, there are a lot of sad faces with bad body language across minor league fields all over baseball. But most aren’t upset because their buddies just got sent home. Rather their hurt stems from a demotion that they hoped wouldn’t happen. Whether it’s from the Major Leagues down to AAA, or back to the rookie leagues from A-ball, getting sent down sucks, and is an added challenge to overcome in a game full of incredibly hard challenges.

But getting sent down is better than the alternative of getting sent home. And that is the message we seemingly always relay to our players still in the organization on cut day every year.

The players that had to walk out of the complex with bags in hand may have played their last game. In that moment, they would kill to have been sent down to a lower level, because that means they would still have a job. As long as a player has a uniform, they have an opportunity to become a Major Leaguer. Throwing a pity-party for will only take them away from that goal.

Our game is filled with adversity on so many levels. Whether it be a professional getting demoted to a lower level, a college guy being benched, or a high schooler getting cut, they all have the same exact choice, which should be a simple one. They can wallow in self-pity, or they can use their hardship as motivation to overcome and grow from it. Hopefully the send down has left the player better prepared to get back up.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.