ABERDEEN -- Almost a third of the way through the season the Aberdeen IronBirds sit in a tie for second in the McNamara division with a 14-12 record and show no signs of slowing down despite playing 26 games without a day off.
With no days off, the players try to maximize every moment they have away from games. Whether it's taking extra swings in the cage to stay sharp, watching a movie on the bus or just plain relaxing to clear the mind, players have their own ways of keeping themselves fresh and mentally sharp.
Catcher Jack Graham has been using his time to catch up on reading books. Interestingly enough, when he was in school, time to read for pleasure was hard to come by due to the amount of time consumed by school work and baseball. "Since I graduated last May I've been making an effort to read," Graham said. He has set a personal goal to read 50 books this calendar year. "I'm at about 20 and we're already half way through the year so I have to pick it up."
Kris Richards' affinity for outdoor activities led him to taking up fishing while he was down in Sarasota, Florida for extended spring training last year. "I did a lot of fishing," he explained. "It was relaxing. I watch a lot of movies and I play video games but I spend the majority of spare time hanging outside."
Many of the players on the team don't have cars and live with host families. They spend the majority of their time at the ballpark. In the time they aren't on the field, they do things in the clubhouse like play cards, watch television and listen to music.
IronBirds Manager Matt Merullo does an excellent job of keeping the players fresh while still making sure they get their work in. "We try not to make the days too long," he said of managing the players' workload. Merullo allows the team to skip batting practice on days where they return from a road trip, instead allowing them to take their swings in the cage.
Merullo is proud of the players' effort during this stretch and made mention of their 5-2 record so far in extra-inning games. "It's a tribute to how these guys battle, compete and play hard. They play for each other which is pretty cool. It's a good group of kids."
Despite the players' lack of time away from baseball, they are a very loose and relaxed team which is a tribute to their ability to gel as a team.
The IronBirds' next day off, tomorrow July 16th, isn't even truly an off day as the team will travel 450 miles to Vermont on a bus. But as long as the team is winning, the way they have been, they won't be too worried about days off.
(Photo Credit: Bob Rinker)