During every baseball season, I try to get to as many games as possible, both major and minor league games. This season, as much as I enjoy going to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to see my Orioles play, I have come to really appreciate the minor league games I get to go to even more.
I had to step back and think why I had come to that thinking and it dawned on me, that it was all about fun playing the national pastime. I met West Virginia Power reliever Bryan Pall at this year's South Atlantic League All-Star game at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston and he really impressed me with his love of the game.
"We definitely have a lot of fun; yes, there is pressure to perform and impress the guys in Seattle, but when you think about it, you are getting to play baseball for a living, so yeah, we like our jobs and you have to appreciate it while you can."
After missing two seasons because of Tommy John arm surgery, Pall has pitched in 28 games (through Aug. 28) for the Power out of the bullpen, with a 2.10 ERA and six saves.
Unlike in the majors where all the teams travel first-class on charter airplanes and are basically catered to like royalty, it's a bit different in the minors. Clubs in the low minor leagues, like the Power, travel by bus from city to city. That might sound a bit tiring, but Pall told me that the travel actually creates a bond between the players in the club.
"The travel isn't as bad as it might seem, but it can be difficult mentally and physically being cooped all the time, but it is all part of being on a minor league team and you make adjustments as you go and rely on the friendships with your teammates to get you through."
The Mariners signed Pall to a contract on June 18, 2017.
Like I earlier wrote, Pall was out of baseball for two years because of arm troubles. When he was finally able to get back on the mound and throw again, it made the 23-year-old native of Orland Park, Illinois, appreciate the sport even more than ever.
"From the mental side of things, it was incredibly important to realize that chapter in my life was over and get back to competing, being part of a team and helping a team win, so I think the mental side of coming back was more important than the physical side, because I did the right things during rehab and just wanted to get back on the bump."
In over 34 innings this season, Pall struck out 44 batters and opposing hitters only had a .177 batting average against the right-hander.
Even though he is only 23 years old, Pall was still one of the elder statesmen on the Power this season. I was curious if his younger teammates, many of whom are still in their teens, took advantage of some of his previous experience.
"To be honest, I just try to take care of my business and help where I can. Even though I was one of the older players I still learned from my teammates. That's the only way you can grow in this sport and that is to listen to what everyone has to say, and I picked up a couple things that I added in my routine and they did the same."
Pall's 2019 season came to a bit of an early end, when the Mariners put him on the injured list on Aug. 29.
The Power finished up their 2019 South Atlantic season earlier this week. Now I am just looking forward to opening day in April 2020 and watching the fun begin all over again.
Christian Deiss, of Scott Depot, is a sophomore at Hurricane High School.