The Midwest League regular season wraps up on Monday but for many members of the Timber Rattlers there will only be a brief break before it's time to start playing baseball again. The Brewers' Instructional League camp in Phoenix opens on September 18, just 15 days after the final game on Wisconsin's schedule.
Nonetheless, a two-week break will be more than most members of the Timber Rattlers have had since reporting to spring training in March. It's an opportunity to briefly reconnect at home and take a break from baseball for a bit before getting back to it in the fall.
"I'm looking forward to going home and seeing my family, seeing friends I haven't seen in a while and just relaxing a little before instructs," Timber Rattlers outfielder Demi Orimoloye said. "It'll be fun to see my family, just wind down and get ready again for more baseball."
Orimoloye, who was drafted in 2015, will be one of the more experienced players on the Brewers' Instructional League roster, having participated in the organization's fall camp in each of the last two seasons. This year he's coming off the longest season of his professional career: With six games left to play he had already made 494 plate appearances in the Midwest League as compared to 247 with Helena in 2016.
"It's awesome. I really had no idea what to expect, I was just ready for the next level of baseball from where I played last year. It was a good experience and it's been fun," Orimoloye said.
While Orimoloye wraps up his third professional season, teammate and pitcher Braden Webb is finishing his first. Webb was a third round pick in 2016 but made his professional regular season debut with the Timber Rattlers this spring. The adjustment to professional life can be challenging, but he said his previous experiences in college and high school helped to prepare him for it.
"I was used to it at college last year, I only got to go home for Christmas, which was only a month, if that. So I'm used to being away," Webb said. "My dad sent me off during high school to play summer ball away from them so I could get used to the college and the professional lifestyles, if that's what God had in store, and he has. So I'm pretty well prepared for being away from home. Yeah, I do miss it. I miss my family, I miss my dog, but it's an amazing feeling getting to come out here and do what you love every single day so it kind of takes away from the homesickness."
Being at the ballpark every day for months on end can be a struggle for first-year professionals, but Webb credited time spent around the AA Tulsa Drillers as a child for helping him prepare for the grind.
"I grew up my whole life around the AA affiliate for the Dodgers, used to be the Rockies, so I'm kind of used to the professional lifestyle," Webb said. "I'm used to the Midwest weather, I'm used to the east coast weather, the west coast weather, just getting to do things. So my style of play and my adaptation to the weather has really fit into the Midwest League and how I've grown up my whole life."
The Brewers' Instructional League camp wraps up on October 13, and after that point Webb will likely be found enjoying the outdoors with his family. He said hunting is the biggest thing he's looking forward to this offseason.
"Hunting with my father and my little brother for duck and deer," Webb said. "There's just no better relaxation than sitting outside in the cold weather with a gun, shooting some stuff."
Webb's teammate and fellow 2016 draftee Cameron Roegner is also wrapping up his first full professional season, although perhaps not in the way he would have chosen: He's been on the disabled list since August 3. He said he feels pretty close to healthy at this point but the Brewers are being careful not to rush him back.
"I've felt better the last couple of weeks but it's just something where towards the end of the season we're playing it safe," Roegner said. "There's no real rush to get me back for maybe one outing when you risk further injury and you have six months sitting there to rest coming up. I think that's kind of been the way we're attacking it, making sure I get a head start in the offseason as far as conditioning and working out. "
Roegner will not be joining his teammates in Instructional League camp this fall, but he's still only planning a short break before starting to build up to the 2018 season.
"I'm just stepping away for a little bit. Going on a road trip up through the mountains, just kind of getting myself away from people, baseball and all that. Then moving to Milwaukee and getting ready to get after it starting in early October," Roegner said.
When healthy, Roegner has experienced a fair amount of success down the stretch in 2017: He has a 2.01 earned run average with 45 strikeouts and just 15 walks in his last 53 2/3 innings, spanning 12 appearances. Roegner is a native of Beloit and attended Bradley University, and said that spending the season close to home in the Midwest League has been helpful.
"It's a long season. It's been nice being able to go back home every once and a while. It kind of resets you mentally and helps you appreciate baseball, where you came from and all that. It just keeps you grounded a little bit, so that's been nice," Roegner said.
Like Orimoloye, Roegner played in the Pioneer League with the Helena Brewers in 2016. He said there's "definitely an adjustment period" related to making the jump to full season baseball in the Midwest League.
"It's not that much different from Helena, where there's just a lot of free swingers. You have lineups that are a little more disciplined, but in general you have a lot of guys that like to attack fastballs and if your fastball command isn't what it should be on a particular day, you can run into some trouble," Roegner said.
For Orimoloye, Webb, Roegner and all the other players experiencing full season professional baseball for the first time it's already been the longest season of their lives. There are still plenty of opportunities to develop, however, for those able to stay focused and take advantage.
"It's a long season. Keep working every day and get better every day," Orimoloye said.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.