Former Shepherd player Minnich is released
When many children are given their first taste of backyard baseball they begin to want more than just a pitch-and-catch with dad. They savor the fun that the casual leisure time can give them. Appetites are whetted.
And then they hear about Major League baseball. About getting paid to play the game that is so much fun in the shade of their backyard. About the fame and applause.
Dad says he will get tickets to a big league game. The child counts the days until it’s finally time to be on the way. His fielder’s glove secure on his hand, his sunglasses safely in place, and his wonderment in full view of everyone, the child is off to his first major league game.
Upon arrival at the stadium, he is bought a baseball hat with the home team’s logo on the front. The sights and sounds of the game leave him in smiling in awe. “Hey, hot dog here. Get your red-hots.” “Programs and scorecards.” “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” “Cotton candy, Cracker Jack, ice-cold sodas, ice cream sandwich, lemonade, and fresh-roasted peanuts here.” All the pleasures of a young life come parading by in a steady stream of delectable food choices.
The first-time youngster hears about the bunt, a double play, the seventh-inning stretch and even a grand slam home run.
He is enthralled. What’s more, he’s hooked.
The next time grandpa asks “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the ready answer is “A baseball player.”
As he gets a little older, he outgrows the limited boundaries of the backyard ball yard and gets to the Little League games. The years flow by in uncompromising fashion and he is on his high school’s team.
Summers become full of American Legion games and preparing for a possible college baseball career.
The child’s dream of being a play-for-pay baseball player come closer. It really could happen.
It did happen for Nathan Minnich, a wide-shouldered first baseman whose longball power brought him notoriety while attending Waynesboro (Pa.) High School and being coached by energy-driven Greg Chandler, a Shepherd College graduate.
Minnich was recruited by Wayne Riser, then Shepherd’s longtime baseball coach.
Minnich was an immediate success with the Rams. He batted nearly .400 as a freshman and then scattered school hitting records to the four winds in his last three seasons at Shepherd.
After his fourth and final year with the Rams, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Minnich had hit so many home runs that somebody of baseball importance had to see some of them.
A Boston Red Sox scout recommended Minnich to his director and in June of 2012 the one-time child of those backyard games was selected in the eighth round of the Major League draft.
Because Minnich had played his four years, he no longer had any college eligibility remaining.
The “politics” of professional baseball showed its face. Again.
Minnich had no leverage. When offered a bonus below the money usually allowed for his “slot” in the draft, he signed his professional contract for $10,000. Other first basemen that had remaining collegiate eligibility were signed by the Red Sox for nearly $500,000. Those players had leverage. They could reject the Red Sox and go play in the college ranks.
Minnich received some money, so he was an “investment” of sorts. Boston wanted to see the home runs fly off his wooden bat the same as they had flown off his composition bat.
Sent to Lowell (Mass.) of the rookie New York-Penn League, Minnich struggled. He did not hit home runs. In July of 2012, he was sent to Florida to play for the Gulf Coast Red Sox in another rookie league. He completed his first season of play-for-pay baseball without hitting a home run.
Last year, he started his second professional season with the Gulf Coast Red Sox. He was 22 years old and Boston’s front office had just paid the final installment of his bonus package.
Minnich progressed back to Lowell after his 2013 start in Florida. By the close of the season, he had hit just one home run. The Boston brass was not impressed.
In February of this year, Minnich returned to Boston’s minor league spring training camp without the promise of being placed on any team’s roster. He was listed as a possible reserve on the roster of the Greenville (SC) Drive, a Class A Carolina League franchise.
When the spring training session had run its course, Boston made its assignments to each of its minor league teams and camp was broken with everybody except Gulf Coast heading north for the 2013 season.
Minnich received no assignment. He was being released by the Red Sox.
The team had heavier “investments” in players unlikely to ever spend a single day in the major leagues. The age-old politics of baseball was still evident.
Nobody tells the child in his backyard of the inner workings of the business of Major League baseball.
And the youngster wouldn’t care anyway. It’s baseball. It’s fun and it’s going to be fun for many more years.
That’s how baseball sells itself. It won’t reveal the business side of what it wants the fans to see as a sport where the players are paid to play a child’s game.
“Get your hot dogs here.” “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.”