LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A year ago this week, the McNeese baseball team was celebrating its first Southland Conference tournament title in 16 years. A few members from last year’s squad were able to continue their careers as pros and are currently trying to balance minor league life with the pandemic.
“I flew home and that was really strange," said Carson Maxwell, an infielder for the Missoula PaddleHeads of the Diamondbacks organization. "There were like three people on my flight and that’s when I was like, 'Alright, this is getting pretty serious.”
“To think that my whole life I’ve been playing baseball and had a season every single year, this is the longest break I’ve ever been apart from baseball so it’s just weird,” Shane Selman, an outfielder for the Vermont Lake Monsters of the Oakland A’s organization said.
That's the reality for a handful of former Pokes who are coming off their first season in the Minor Leagues. The ample downtime due to the pandemic has allowed them to reflect and see where they need to improve.
Bryan King: “It’s tough when you’re prepared to launch your season and get going and hopefully make some steps up the ladder but it is what it is and it’s a great time to improve,” said Bryan King, a pitcher for the Eugene Emeralds of the Chicago Cubs organization.
The brotherhood these guys shared at McNeese is still strong today. With all of them having the same end goal of making the big leagues, pitcher Aidan Anderson says having that bond has made things easier during this time.
“Knowing that it’s not just you going through it is a big help," said Anderson a pitcher for the Phillies Gulf Coast League affiliate. "I have Grant (Anderson) here with me and other guys that are close in the area that we can get together and catch up. That kind of stuff goes a long way.”
The main task for many players was figuring out how to support themselves financially. Though the MLB and the minors partnered to form a payment plan, Shane Selman decided to dabble into another field to make ends meet.
“I was doing the substitute teaching" admitted Selman. "That’s what I was doing, I was a teacher. A lot of my buddies would laugh at me if they heard that. I was doing that and now since the schools have shut down I’ve just been hanging out.”
That payment plan, however, will end at the end of May. With so much uncertainty, the guys say they're fortunate that their organizations have been transparent during the process.
“The Cubs have been very open,” King added. "Obviously there’s not a lot of answers right now but they’ve given us all the answers we need whether it’s nutrition, weight lifting, coaching, development, whatever it is.”
“If they’re not contacting you then that can make it feel even worse like they don’t really appreciate you," Selman said. "For an organization to keep in touch with me as much as the A’s have I really appreciate it.”