The Transition: minor leaguers

Derek McCallum and Seth Rosin are adjusting to a life of buses, unfamiliar abodes and the ever-present possibility of being cut.

Samuel Gordon

With spring training wrapping up and opening day around the corner, most Major League Baseball teams are finalizing their 25-man rosters. Those who make a team will be living out a dream that many have and that few achieve.

For those who donâÄôt, itâÄôs the slow grind of the minor leagues. ThatâÄôs where former Gophers Derek McCallum and Seth Rosin find themselves.

McCallum, a Shoreview, Minn., native, joined the Gophers baseball team in 2007 after an illustrious career at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, Minn., and quickly established himself as a standout for the Gophers.

During his junior season in 2009, the second baseman hit .409 with 18 home runs and established a new team record with 86 RBIs en route to becoming the schoolâÄôs first-ever first team All-American.

He was subsequently drafted by his hometown team, the Minnesota Twins, in the fourth round of the 2009 draft and signed a minor league contract with the club.

âÄúThat was obviously a dream come true,âÄù McCallum said of being drafted by the Twins. âÄúIt would have been a dream come true with any team, but to have it be the Twins was all the more exciting.âÄù

He soon found out that professional baseball was a far cry from college ball.

âÄúOnce youâÄôre here, thereâÄôs no more school, thereâÄôs no more anything like that. ItâÄôs just a game every single day, all summer long,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs a different mental mindset that you take on to survive the summer and the grind that comes with it.âÄù

Part of that grind is the travel, which McCallum said can include bus rides up to 10 hours, depending on the league.

Aside from the travel, thereâÄôs also the fact that everybody is competing for a chance to make the big leagues, and cheering for your teammates isnâÄôt always easy.

âÄúYou cheer for everyone in college because itâÄôs not your job and itâÄôs not your spot yet,âÄù McCallum said. âÄúOnce you get here you have friends and you have people you cheer for, but at the end of the day, itâÄôs your job and itâÄôs your spot. ItâÄôs a fine line, but you still definitely have friends.âÄù

He added that the competition is motivating; everyone must bring his best, and if somebody fails to do that, thereâÄôs a chance he gets cut, which isnâÄôt a pretty a sight.

âÄúItâÄôs really a tough deal to watch âĦ You hear that some of your friends donâÄôt get to play ball âÄî at least for this organization anymore,âÄù McCallum said. âÄúThis has been our lives for how long now? And just to have somebody tell you that this is the end of the road âÄî itâÄôs a tough deal.âÄù

ThereâÄôs a chance thatâÄôll be McCallum one day, but for now, heâÄôs living the bittersweet life of a minor league ballplayer.

âÄúItâÄôs just baseball, all the time. That can be a blessing or a curse at times,âÄù McCallum said. âÄúWhen things arenâÄôt going well, itâÄôs the only thing you think about. But when things are going well, itâÄôs great. YouâÄôre playing baseball for a living.âÄù

Rosin has a similar story.

After a successful career as a pitcher at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minn., Rosin was drafted in the 28th round of the First-Year Player Draft by the Twins. He chose not to sign, instead joining the Gophers for the 2008 season.

As a junior expecting to sign after the season, Rosin posted a 9-4 record with a 4.72 ERA and a team-best 95 strikeouts. The big righty was drafted in the fourth round by the San Francisco Giants and opted to sign with the organization.

However, he also experienced difficulties in the transition from amateur to professional baseball.

âÄú[The most difficult transition] is knowing that any day you are competing against professionals that are all there for a reason,âÄù he said. âÄúEveryone is a very good baseball player.âÄù

The steeper competition is just one of the transitions he had to make. Rosin said life off the field is very different as well. Players have no real home and may have to live with a host family or share an apartment.

âÄúThe traveling is grueling and taxing on the body,âÄù Rosin said. âÄúIt is crucial to keep your body rested and healthy because the baseball season is so long.âÄù

Rosin had the unique circumstance of entering an organization in the midst of a championship season, something he feels is affecting the way players prepare for the upcoming season.

âÄúThe buzz around the organization was electric after the World Series. But with it came higher expectations for this season because the bar had been raised,âÄù he said. âÄúSo far everyone in spring training has been giving it their best, so I expect good seasons for everyone.âÄù

Despite no longer being a part of the Minnesota baseball program, McCallum still returns to campus to work out, and Rosin still checks the box scores on a regular basis and gets updates from his freshman class.

But in the matter of a few days, theyâÄôll likely be checking their own box scores as the season kicks off.

That means more bus rides, less free time and a lot more baseball.

âÄúEverything so far has been a blessing and a learning experience,âÄù Rosin said. âÄúI have enjoyed it tremendously.âÄù