One of our abiding questions through the process of reporting this book concerned the point in their careers at which players learn the unwritten rules, or at least become cognizant of their existence. Legacy players like Ken Griffey Jr., Prince Fielder and the Hairston boys, all with big-league dads, were taught early. Others had the good fortune of playing for experienced coaches as youths. (“One of my coaches when I was 13 or 14 was an ex-major-leaguer, Mike Epstein,” Eric Chavez told me recently. “Everything we did was everything he learned as a ballplayer. Also, he majored in philosophy [at U.C. Berkeley]. There was nothing that got by him.”)
Shockingly, some players don’t learn about the Codes until they get to the big leagues.” If you don’t have veterans on your minor league clubs, which a lot of clubs don’t have, a lot of that education starts at the big league level,” said Hal McRae.
What’s very clear is that players in high school and even college are not held to the same standards. Look no further than a news account out of Arkansas published this morning, detailing a local prep’s no-hitter. Straight from the mouth of pitcher Trey Wiley, describing the moment at which he was just one out away:
“I never thought about it, not until there was two outs when (third baseman) Derek (Nation) threw me the ball after I struck the last kid out and he goes, ‘You know you’ve got a no-hitter, right?'” Wiley said. “Then after that, I was just like, ‘Uh oh, I’ve got to get this guy.'”
Had Wiley given up a hit at that point, Nation’s primary story of his time as a high school baseball player would likely have forever after spun on the question, “What if I hadn’t said anything?” But as they say, no harm, no foul. It’s not the big leagues, after all.
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