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This is Spring Training

As the cool Arizona air defies a blazing, rising sun, a steady stream of young men flows to the neatly groomed fields. Wearing crisp, white pants and royal blue shirts, they carry their work tools – gloves, bags and baseball bats.

Out of view of cheering crowds and TV cameras, minor leaguers hone their skills one drill at a time. In the Royals camp, young men stretch, run, throw, catch and hit under the calibrated eye of a dozen coaches and team personnel. Each movement is quantified or scrutinized. The routine is as regimented as any military training camp.

Some Major League baseball players roll into spring training driving Beemers or Mercedes. Minor leaguers arrive in Fords and Chevys. For some young men, the glamour of the Major Leagues is a nebulous dream. But for a few — about 10 percent — baseball’s most prominent stage awaits.

Minor league players average $2,150 a month, qualifying them for federal food stamps. A major league promotion fetches a minimum of $545,000.

The minor league story is one of toil and persistence. During camp, 8 a.m. training includes position work, team work – Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A – and individual instruction. Games begin at 1 p.m.

Daily, rosters shuffle like cards in a Vegas deck. Players rise and fall in the ranks between the four levels. By camp’s end, a few qualify for the 25-man big league roster. Many more are told their services are no longer needed.

In the final days of spring training 2018, a dozen University of Kansas School of Journalism students visited Surprise, Arizona. Face-to-face with young men of similar age, students followed the stories of those who will either become major leaguers or what-might-have-beens. The young players were always polite, accommodating and gracious with their time and patience.

The students were required to produce three mini-profile stories of three minor league players in the Royals organization. Each mini-profile includes a written story, a video story and statistics. The projects are featured on this website.

Whether the players become Major League legends or are lost to baseball history, the students will always remember their time together this spring. We were allowed an insider’s view of the blue-collar work required to reach baseball’s highest plateau. We hope we do justice in telling their stories.

Scott Reinardy & Max Utsler

University of Kansas