It’s 4:13pm in Pheonix, Arizona. Thursday March 1st, 2018. My name is Tim Dillard. I’m a Minor League baseball player in spring training hoping to win a job for my 16th professional season. Currently though, I’m seated in a hotel hallway waiting patiently for the maintenance man to fix whatever’s wrong with Room 124. About this time last year MLB Trade Rumors asked if I’d be interested in writing for them. I told them I was VERY interested… but couldn’t promise the same enthusiasm from the reader. So I’m taking this hotel hallway hiatus to explain how I got here today.
4:18pm: After the Triple-A season was over last year, the Milwaukee Brewers signed me back, and extended me a BIG invitation… to Minor League spring training camp. They offered free coffee at all of their Minor League affiliates, so it was a no brainer.
4:20pm: Two weeks ago I loaded my spikes, gloves, cup, and other equipment into my 2005 Mercury Mariner (Mercury was a car company that used to exist) and drove 1,600 miles from Nashville to Phoenix. Leaving behind my wife, my three kids, my friends, my dog, my house, my bed… actually it wasn’t that hard leaving the dog behind. That’s not mean to say. She’s like 84 in dog years, and probably doesn’t even know I left. And just like everybody else… there’s a good chance she’ll never read this anyway.
4:23pm: During last year’s drive to spring training, I visited the vast and awe inspiring Grand Canyon for the first time! Truly amazing! So to try and top that marvelous experience, I stopped this year and visited the one and only Meteor Crater just outside of Winslow, Arizona!! It was ok I guess… seemed a bit small.
4:27pm: The maintenance man is still working hard. And I really need to get in the room to charge my computer, but honestly if my computer dies and I can’t finish this… it’s probably best for everyone.
4:28pm: Anyway, when the 27-hour cross-country meteor adventure ended, I once again found myself in the spring training atmosphere. You know, spring training is hard for a baseball player. It’s long hours, very difficult, very tiring, and very demanding… but good thing for me I’m a pitcher! And today, pitchers were done before lunch, so after a few awkward minutes on the treadmill, I skedaddled over to Taco Bell! (If the $1 Beefy Fritos Burrito doesn’t sum up the Minor League lifestyle…. nothing does.)
4:33pm: Pitchers however, do have in-depth conversations about the pitching craft — like the other day during stretch when we were talking about pick-off moves to first base. I, without being asked, decided to just start dropping all sorts of knowledge on the subject. But after several minutes of talking, one of the young guys asked me just how many pick-offs I had in my career. I pretended to think for a moment (like I don’t know ALL my stats off hand), then answered: “Well, in my career I’ve thrown over 1,200 innings… and um… yeah I’ve never actually picked anyone off before.” They all looked a bit surprised. Then shaking his head, the young buck said: “Are you for real? You’ve thrown over 1,200 innings? Wow, how old are you?”
4:39pm: So yeah, so far it’s been a typical spring training for me.
4:39pm: Earlier today, a group of pitchers were in the clubhouse talking about the upcoming season. They were picking brains, listing philosophies, and asking each other all sorts of questions. I kind of walked into the discussion right after I completed a heavy total body lift. (And by heavy total body lift I mean… filming a dumb video for my social media. In my defense, I did film it in the weight room!) But not really knowing the topic, and not really hearing the question, I was asked something by one of the guys. I could’ve said nothing or asked them to repeat the question. But instead I just made up an answer. With four sets of eyes on me, and ears waiting to listen, I dug deep. Looked straight at them and said: “W.W.N.R.D.”
4:44pm: “W.W.N.R.D.? What’s that mean?” Making sure I had all my letters correct I said with utmost confidence: “W.W.N.R.D…. What. Would. Nolan. Ryan. Do.”
4:45pm: Not entirely sure if what had just came out of my mouth made sense or not… I just went ahead and treated it as a mic drop moment, and sauntered out the door back toward the weight room. (I had forgotten my camera stand in there.)
4:48pm: When I walked back into the weight room, I noticed a Yankees game was on TV and CC Sabathia was pitching. With name-dropping in mind, I quickly jumped on a treadmill and started talking to the guy jogging next to me. “Yeah. I was teammates with CC Sabathia with the Brewers way back in 2008 you know. In fact, about a month ago I actually FaceTimed with CC on Bill Hall’s iPhone for like 7 minutes!”
4:52pm: It was only then I noticed the rookie Dominican pitcher take out his tiny headphones, look at me and say: “Hola Dealer!”
9:02pm: Alright I’m back. Here’s the update. My computer gave up and ran out of juice earlier. I was finally able to get into the hotel room. Apparently my room or the room above had a plumbing problem. The maintenance man was very nice, but I could’ve done without that empty Taco Bell bags comment.
9:04pm: It’s getting late… time for Advil. W.W.N.R.D.
To Be Concluded…