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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 5)

Hey, everyone! Sorry for the delay on the post. Was having a little trouble with the new software, but hopefully it's figured out now.

Last week was a great week of workouts. For starters, I threw three very solid bullpen sessions. Also, this weekend, I was able to shake a head cold that had been hindering my conditioning for a week or so. But most importantly, as bullbaiter pointed out in Sunday’s open thread, I was able to dress for the big league game in Peoria vs. the Padres. The 4-3 victory was nice, and while I wasn’t called upon to pitch, I was able to meet some of the new A’s, renew some acquaintances, and meet a loyal AN reader. That’s right... apilgrim was at the game, and he came up and introduced himself. I hope the rest of you that get a chance will do the same, even if it’s at a minor league game.

This week, minor league camp starts on Wednesday for pitchers and catchers. Workouts will get a little tougher, a little stricter, and a lot more fun!

Moving on to more of your questions...

*I was wondering about the vibe amongst players in the minors. Obviously you are on the same team and trying to win together for each team you play for. You also surely become friends with your teammates. However, you are also in essence competing with them trying to be the guy that gets promoted to the next level. Are most guys pretty cool with this situation, or do you ever run across complete [jerks] who let it be known it's them against you regardless of being teammates? -- batgirl

I think the biggest time that comes into place is in the lower levels, when guys are inexperienced and don’t know exactly how baseball organizations are run. After a year or two, you don’t see it as much, and guys start to just do whatever they can to win.

My feelings on it are that if I’m going to get to the majors, then it’s mostly because management decides that I’m a big league pitcher...not just because I’m better than another guy on my team. And if I get there someday, the guys I’m playing with now will likely be some of my teammates, so I don’t ever want to root against them. Plus, it’s no fun to lose, and I want to have fun when I play.

These 2 are along the same lines...

*I have heard that the pay scale is very low in the minors. How do you and your wife make it, especially when you are subject to relocation on very short notice? At 27 years old, do you have a set age where you plan to pack it in if you don't make the show? (I am pulling for you by the way.) Is it a hard way to make a living? -- alox

*Are there career minor leaguers you see who you admire for sticking with it so long, into their late 20s and early 30s, or conversely, how does a team approach a guy who doesn't appear that he's going to make it? And, barring an immediate call-up, how long will you work toward the dream, and what's the fallback option? –- louismg

The pay scale is not good, but it changes once you’re a free agent (which I have been every year since the Phillies released me). You’re not under a 6-year contract like a draft pick, so you get a little negotiating power. It’s still NOTHING compared to the big league money, but it’s enough to get by on until I can get a job in the off-season. And the relocation is just something you learn to deal with.

I don’t have a set age that I’m going to retire. I feel like, in some ways, my career just started over with the switch to submarine. That said, I also don’t want to be a guy who just hangs on and plays minor league ball forever. I’m realistic about it, but right now, I’m trying my hardest to make it as a submariner.

I admire a lot of ballplayers. It’s not an easy life, especially in the minors. And from my experience, teams won’t approach a guy any differently until they actually release him. Prior to that, teams are always working to get guys as good as they can be.

*Can you tell us something about the part an agent plays in the life of a minor league ball player? -- captainbubblehead

After a player has signed a professional contract, the agent’s number one job is to be a business manager, as well as an image manager. We, as players, can use agents for any questions that we have, whether they pertain to baseball or not.

One of the things this has developed into is supplying their players with equipment, and that can be done in a variety of ways. Either the agents help pay for the stuff, or they will get their player endorsement deals to help acquire some of that stuff. Another thing they do is get other types of endorsement deals, such as autograph signings, baseball card deals, etc.

My agent, Rob Martin of ICON Sports Management, has been tremendous. Whether I have questions about my baseball career, or questions about buying a house, he’s been there to help. Also, Rob has always been there through the difficult times. A lot of agents drop their clients when they get released, but he stuck with me. Consequently, he has had the luxury (haha) of negotiating my free-agent contracts every off-season.

As far as endorsement deals, Rob’s done a good job of hooking me up with some great companies. It makes my job so much easier to know I’m using gear that I’m comfortable with and used to using. He worked out a deal with Akadema to supply me with my gloves. I’ve used them the last 2 years, and I really like them – enough that I signed a new 2-year deal with them prior to this season. And the Akadema guys, especially Kris Totten, have really gone out of their way to take care of me.

Also, this off-season, Rob reached an agreement for Reebok to supply me with my shoes and apparel for the season, my first contract of this particular nature. I’ve been using their equipment, and I’m extremely pleased with their quality of merchandise, and I’m glad I’ll have one less thing to think about as the season goes on. Steve Hogan, my point man at Reebok, has been great to work with thus far.

ICON is also big into players giving to charity and giving back to their community, and this is something I really enjoy – and it was also one of the primary reasons I selected ICON to represent me. My wife and I support Project HOPE, which gathers volunteers to build homes and help with some basic medical needs for many poverty-laden citizens in Nicaragua, as well as many other countries all over the world. Another charity we support is the Christian Relief Fund. Through this program, we sponsor a young Nicaraguan girl named Patricia, and we’re helping put her through a public schooling system. Also, Rob is working with a new organization called the Reggie White Foundation that is currently helping continue the aid and rebuilding of the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and we will soon be helping in this effort, as well.

If you have questions or are interested in helping with either of these charities, please let me know and I will be more than happy to put you in touch with the right people.

*Do you have any relatives with roots in the Bay Area? I knew a Ziegler family from Lafayette about 20 years ago. -- McFood

On the Ziegler side, none that I’m aware of.

I hope everyone has a great week! For the rest of spring training, the posts will continue to come late on Monday afternoons after the big league (and minor league) games have ended. See you at the ballpark! (And don’t forget to come say "hi!")