Opinion | Missed Connections in the Minor Leagues

Opinion | Missed Connections in the Minor Leagues

Some day they’re going to miss mornings like this. Especially the guys who never make it to the big leagues—the ones for whom days of traveling the Midwest to play baseball with their buddies will be life’s finest memory. The stories they tell their grandchildren.

But that can wait for when they’ve grown old. On this morning most of them are in their 20s. Their next game is against the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A team, the St. Paul Saints, and bad weather has fouled up airline schedules.

At John Glenn Columbus International Airport we are waiting for a Southwest flight to Chicago and then, for them, a connecting flight to the Twin Cities after getting rerouted from different cities because of the storm. The ballplayers—one of them tells me they are the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians—are doing what ballplayers have done since teams traveled by train: reading about themselves and their most recent game.

Players on the road used to leaf through newspaper sports sections, but these young men scroll their phone screens, checking baseball websites and social-media feeds. “That catcher killed them,” I hear one of them say, referring to events to which he had been an on-field witness. “He came up with runners on base twice. And did nothing.”

In the major leagues, famous and wealthy ballplayers are in the middle of pennant drives. That is where each of these young men aspires to be. The Clippers are not only friends but competitors for precious job openings. No one stays in the minors by choice. You’re either called up, or you’re on your way out of baseball.

The area around the boarding gate is crowded, but the players spread out as much as they can. They spend enough time shoulder-to-shoulder in dugouts.

Snatches of conversation, all baseball-related: “I hear they’re looking for a backup reliever . . .” “Middle of the lineup . . .” “Winter ball in Mexico . . .” One Clipper is nowhere to be found: “He’s down at the Chili’s by the metal detectors,” a teammate says.

The club’s manager,

Andy Tracy,

looks at his phone and says to players within earshot: “Our connecting flight to Minnesota is going to be delayed leaving Chicago. It was at 3:57. Now it’s at 4:22.” In the big leagues, there are no such worries—teams have their own nonstop charters.

The minor leagues are like connecting flights: The players are all passing through, either heading to someplace better or someplace worse—the worst being a life without baseball.

One of the ballplayers, looking at his own phone, asks: “Is it china for a second anniversary? Does that sound right?” A gift for his wife. Two years married.

He is on his way to work, on his way to play. A gate agent announces a short delay. There are sighs all around. Some day, though the ballplayers may not yet know it, baseball mornings like this are going to feel like a dream.

Mr. Greene’s books include “Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights.”

Journal Editorial Report: The week’s best and worst from Kim Strassel, Mary O’Grady, Jillian Melchior and Dan Henninger. Image: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

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