Minor leagues, major challenges
The turnaround from Brooklyn to Auburn, New York is about five hours. For Caleb Ramsey, an 11th round draft pick of the Washington Nationals, the long bus ride comes after yet another back-to-back away from home, and a second loss to the Brooklyn Cyclones in as many days.
“It gives you a new appreciation for Major League players,” Ramsey said. “The travel is definitely the toughest part of the life.”
Ramsey, in his first year with the Class A Auburn Doubledays, has begun to acclimate himself to the lifestyle of a professional baseball player after spending four years with the Cougars.
“You learn pretty quickly a lot of the little things you can’t get away with that you might have been able to playing college ball,” Ramsey said. “There’s adjustments you can’t avoid making.”
Apart from the constant travel, the jump from college baseball to the Minor Leagues requires a change in fundamentals. The switch from aluminum to wood bats demanded increased focus on a skill previously unchanged since tee-ball: hitting.
Ramsey started slowly, but has hit .308 in his last nine games to raise his average to .256 for the season. Even when he wasn’t hitting as well, Ramsey found success getting on base and scoring runs. He currently sports a .356 on-base percentage with seven steals and 19 scored runs through 33 games.
“There’s definitely a different feel and a different swing,” Ramsey said of the jump from aluminum bats. “My average is around .240 right now, and I’m making those adjustments to my swing. I’ve been striking out less than I had been in the early part of the year, but it’s still a process.”
The adjustments are necessary, though, as they all add up to his ultimate goal of moving up in the Nationals organization and playing in the Majors.
“The Nationals are big on making sure their players improve at every level before they move them up,” Ramsey said. “But once you get to AA or AAA, you’re more or less one injury away from getting called up.
“My long term to goal is to make it with the Nationals ballclub, but for the time being I’m working on my game here and improving where I need to.”
In spite of all the added pressure of Minor League baseball and the heavy expectations of advancing in the system, the lifestyle of a professional ball player has its perks compared to the collegiate level.
“It’s nice to not have to worry about exams or tutorials,” Ramsey said.
With his focus now exclusively limited to baseball, the habits of collegiate life seem like a lifetime ago.
“I couldn’t imagine it any other way now,” Ramsey said. “Before you’d show up to a game and that would kind of be it. Now that time is spent on preparation and getting yourself ready to play.”
Focused on his career as a professional athlete and with fond memories of UH in tow, Ramsey’s first year with the Doubledays is in full swing with over two months of games ahead before the offseason.
“We’re off to play four at Williamsport, Pennsylvania,” Ramsy said. “The games are great. The rest is a grind. But it’s absolutely worth it.”