C.j. Nitkowski Newsbeat
Thursday, July 30, 2015
You mean players aren’t just stat lines?
In 1999, I played for the Detroit Tigers. We weren’t a good team and I was a left-handed reliever, the most dispensable job in baseball. In late July, the rumors were flying. I had a player I knew well from an opposing team come up to me during batting practice one day and say, “Yankees, huh? That would be nice.”
Word had gotten around that there was a possibility of a deal that would send me to the New York Yankees. I am a New York native and was a Yankees fan as a kid. This was the greatest kind of rumor I could hear, but nothing ever came of it. There’s a deflating moment for a player who was rumored to be on the move, wanted to move and ultimately woke up on Aug. 1 to realize he wasn’t moved. Many guys will go through that this July 31; they just won’t say so publicly.
There’s also denial that you’d even be traded. The Reds drafted me ninth overall in 1994. At the deadline in 1995, there were rumors I would be on the move. I thought that was impossible. My team just drafted me 13 months ago; how could it possibly trade me already? I ignored the rumors. This predated cell phones. I walked into my apartment in Triple-A Indianapolis in the early evening to my landline phone ringing. “Hey, CJ, we just traded you to Detroit for David Wells.” I was in disbelief.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Good practice, kids. Now it’s time for the easiest part of any coach’s job. The cuts. Although I wasn’t able to cut everyone I wanted to, I have cut a lot of you. Wendell is cut. Rudy is cut. Janey, you’re gone. Steven, I like your hustle….That’s why it was so hard to cut you
There is a chance you’re gone today, off to a meal money-less life of soup and sandwiches. I would sit in front of my locker for a few minutes to see if a coach was waiting for me to arrive to deliver the news. Some guys would get dressed right away, as if putting on your uniform was a guarantee that you got to stay with the team. I never wanted to do that. I wanted to avoid getting dressed and then potentially undressed back into street clothes to do the walk of shame.
Everybody else already knows what is going on, they’re watching too. There’s relief when someone else gets called into that office and it’s not you. It’s a bigger relief when it’s someone with whom you might be in competition.
I was a realist, I knew when I had a chance and I knew when I didn’t. That never made it any easier. At the end of the day, you secretly think you always have a shot. You thought you could beat out the guy who has been there for a couple of years and has the guaranteed deal. He’s slipping, getting lazy, with a good spring you could take his spot. It never works that way.
The tap on the shoulder is just the beginning, next is the meeting. For most teams the pitching coach is there, the manager and the general manager. “CJ, we’re going to send you to minor-league camp.” I already knew, hearing it only made it worse. They’ll tell you what you did well, what you need to work on, blah, blah, blah. There’s a lot of head nodding from the player, you’re discouraged and aren’t taking in much of what is said at that point. You know what’s happening, you’re not going to the big leagues to open the season, that’s all that really matters to you at that point.
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