As many fans know, not every baseball player gets a huge signing bonus or a large salary. Many minor league players find themselves working in the Autumn and Winter months to supplement their income and to stay busy. A question often wondered by fans: What do prospects do during the off-season? The answer is simple...pretty much anything and everything.
Phillies first base prospect Matt Rizzotti is an individual who typically finds himself working during his time away from the baseball diamond. However, Rizzotti is not working this Winter as a result of having spent much of this off-season continuing to play baseball. Following the 2010 regular season, Rizzotti went to instructional ball in Clearwater for a month, then spent another five weeks playing for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .333 with an .865 OPS in 19 games.
Last year, however, Rizzotti, who was a physical education major at Manhattan College, went back to his roots and worked as a full-time teachers assistant at the high school which he graduated from in Floral Park, NY. Rizzotti, a 6th round pick in the 2007 amateur draft, has also held one position in previous off-seasons that he enjoyed quite a bit, while working for a friend's family. "My best friend's father owns a haunted house in New York City and I usually work there every year too, from September through the month of October. I don't even have to dress up, I just naturally scare people," Rizzotti said in an exclusive interview.
Phillies minor league third baseman and 2nd round pick in the 2007 MLB draft Travis "Moose" Mattair is another player who goes back to his high school, as he has coached basketball there for the past three years. "I was the varsity assistant coach for 2 years and I became the head coach for the freshman girls this season," Mattair said. "I never thought I'd coach a girls sport, but I absolutely love it. It's more than just coaching to me. It's a fun gig, and keeps me in at my old high school where I'm friends with so many of the staff there."
2010 Lakewood BlueClaws pitcher Mike McGuire, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, chose employment where he can stay in shape, during the Autumn and Winter months. "For the past three years, I've been working at a baseball facility, up here in West Chester, PA," McGuire said. "And we've got a nice facility here. We've got pitching mounds and an indoor field. We get about 40-50 kids here every week to coach and give lessons. It's called All Star Baseball Academy. We've got four locations around the area right now.
"I'll get to work with an 8-year-old and give him pitching lessons, or work with a guy who is ready to go to college ball. It's a good routine to have. It keeps me working, I'm making some money and keeping myself baseball ready."
McGuire is one of three active minor leaguers working at his location. The others include lefty hurler Tom Cochran, now in the Reds system, who was once in spring training with the Phillies.
Left-handed pitcher Nick Hernandez, a 12th round draft selection in 2009, stays close to the sport of baseball without being on a field, or in a training center. Hernandez, a 2010 South Atlantic League (Class A) All-star, works for a memorabilia and merchandise retailer. "(It's) called Collectibles of the Game. It is an online retail store that ships apparel, signed items, Christmas ornaments, stockings (and more) to people who make orders online through Amazon or through our website which is CollectiblesoftheGame.com. The company has a retail store at our local mall, but most of our business is done online as we have about 2,000 orders daily during the holiday rush." According to Hernandez, his favorite items to sell are player autographs and Phillies bobble head dolls.
Some of the other gigs that Phillies prospects have had in recent years include sales clerk at Best Buy, wait staff at a Red Robin restaurant, office intern and grounds crew staff member at a golf course.
Other players, who don't work, like top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart, simply train during the Winter months. "I spend most of my time dedicated to baseball," said Cosart, 20, who has spent his off-season working out five days a week and began a throwing program in mid-December after allowing some down time for his prized right arm. "I go to a trainer three days a week to work out and condition as well as do the same exercises by myself on the other two days."
Cosart, who went 7-3 with a 3.79 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings for Class A Lakewood prior to having his season cut short due to an elbow injury, will report to spring training early, on January 15th, in order to work closely with team trainers, coaches and other pitchers.
Rizzotti is another player that stays in shape by working with a personal trainer. "I go to a trainer, basically everyday, about 5-6 days a week. I have a trainer that I got with, he got me in shape last off-season. He loves the stairs...anything can be done- walking and running- it can be done on the stairs," Rizzotti, who dropped considerable weight last Winter stated.
Whether it's work or working out, all of the Phillies prospects I spoke with have their minds constantly focused on baseball all throughout the colder months of the off-season. With visions of fastballs dancing in their heads, spring training can not come fast enough for these ballplayers, especially if their meantime employment isn't the most ideal.
And according to one player, "Rolling 70 sets of silverware at the end of your shift (at a restaurant) truly makes you realize how awesome baseball is, even in the toughest of times."
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