Fleabag hotels, PB & J and baseball: A Q&A with The Pecos League stars
The Pecos League is about as far away from Major League Baseball as a professional player can get. There are no million-dollar contracts, no fancy hotels, no throngs of adoring fans. But that doesn’t dampen the spirits of the guys on the field.
Debuting Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, the six-episode series "The Pecos League" will give you an inside look at the players that make this league tick.
Two of those players — John Sullivan and Sam DiMatteo of the Trinidad Triggers — stopped by FOXSports.com’s offices to answer some questions about life in the league. (They also had a little fun making a video while they were here.)
FOXSports.com: What’s your favorite part about playing in the Pecos League?
John Sullivan: Just being out there and being yourself and cutting up with your friends and chasing that baseball dream. Even though it’s the lowest level of the lowest level of baseball, it’s still baseball, and we play it for the love of the game. Having that to share with each other and all the crazy stuff that happens from start to end in the season, it’s great. … It’s not political. There’s no money involved, so it doesn’t ruin the sport. So it’s all raw and all natural.
Sam DiMatteo: Everywhere you go, you’re going to meet 30 new guys. It’s like your family for three months. After the first two weeks, that’s how it is. You’re traveling every day. You see them every day. So the best part is everything that comes out of it when you’re done. You make 30 friends, almost like brothers. And the stories, the bus rides, it’s just all the crazy stuff that happens you remember forever. … It’s good memories, man. You try to ride it out because it’s awesome. It’s so much fun.
FS.com: What’s the most difficult part about playing in the Pecos League?
JS: Being that far away from home is tough. And then making $50 a week. They’ll put you in hotels, you have host families and stuff like that, but – poor nutrition. You have to stay healthy, play hard, even though you have to focus on where you’re going to eat that night. There’s a lot of mental battles going on. There’s no amenities like you get in the big leagues. Even minor-league players get treated like dirt in some aspects, and we’re even lower than that.
SD: The struggles are in many forms. There’s mental because you’re in a low level to begin with. There’s no room to slip up. Every day, you have to be ready to go. You can do good and get nothing out of it. You’re doing good, you’re mentally feeling good, and then on the flip side of that nothing comes out of it. We had a lot of guys who did good, nobody went anywhere. The food is rough, nobody’s getting any money. The host families help you out as much as they can. That’s a big part of it.
FS.com: What is life on the road like?
JS: On the road, it’s hotels. Host families are only at home games. And that makes it tough, because we love being at home. It’s like having your own family away from home. So when we go out and stay at these fleabag hotels, four or five players in a room, and instead of meal money they delegate you a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly … it’s stuff you get used to, unfortunately. Just being able to play the game, you kind of overlook it. It’s like Bull Durham meets Hard Knocks, but even worse with the living situation.
FS.com: How long are your road trips usually?
JS: Three or four days. Sometimes we’ll play two games in one day.
SD: When we would have peanut butter and jelly, we’d be happy. If we come in, and someone knocks on your door and just gives us some fruit snacks or something, we’d be like, "Oh nice!" You expect nothing.
In Roswell, we stayed in a rehab facility. We pulled up and it’s just one big hallway, with rooms on each side, with shower curtains covering each room.
JS: We had a couple rehab facilities.
SD: Yeah, we walk in, we’re laughing our a**es off, and we’d be like, “This is kind of cool.” What’s awesome is it’s everyone, it’s our whole team in there. It’s like a frat house. It was actually really fun. It sounds like it would be horrible, but like, we lubed up the hallway and we’re flying down the hallway (on our bellies). Took a bad situation and made the best situation out of it.
FS.com: What keeps the baseball dream alive for you guys?
JS: Just to be able to realize some level of professional baseball. As kids we dream of playing in the big leagues. … And to achieve some level of that vision, it means a lot. It gives you a high.
SD: That’s an easy question. Just because, since we were young, that’s your life. There’s so much devoted to it. I was with the Nationals for spring training, so I got to see that competition. … It’s just getting the chance. By no means are the guys so far (from the minor leagues). … You gotta just keep going. If you quit after one or two times getting sent home, you’re done and you’ll never know.
FS.com: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a game?
SD: I played for a team where we had the manager fight one of the waterboys because he didn’t put ice in our water. Our manager, he was a younger guy, something happened where the water guy shoved one of our players and then our manager was fighting him on the ground and got arrested. He ended up quitting.
JS: Dude, there’s so many things. … I guess the craziest thing was at a home game when one of the batters was punched out on the second strike. … It took a little while (to rectify the error). They had to call a timeout and have a meeting.
FS.com: We talked a little about the next step for Pecos League players …
SD: Just trying to climb up.
JS: Well, for me, I’m done. What they say is I’m retired. I’m not retired, man, I’m just done playing baseball. I would love to play, but I have new priorities coming about in my life. Music is one of them, just another dream that I’m chasing right now.
FS.com: So you guys get paid $50 a week? How do you live off $50 a week?
JS: It’s funny because people say you can’t live, but you figure out. You’ll take the $50 and, if you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll grab a bunch of bananas for the day.
SD: We turn into ninjas when it comes to breakfast food.
JS: We know how to take advantage of free food, that’s for sure.
SD: The lobbies would just be cleared out after breakfast, apples falling out of our pockets.
JS: You learn how to adapt. It’s not difficult. It’s not as fun and easy as it is to have money. But it’s a good experience. It’s kind of cool because you have to build camaraderie. You have to share.
SD: The town, honestly, is humongous. After our games, it’s like, "Come here, eat. Do this." That’s such a big part of it. And we had a large group of people that would try to help us. That’s a big part of it.
FS.com: What’s your favorite baseball movie?
SD: The Sandlot. It’s not even a question.
JS: If you say The Sandlot, then I have to say something different — even though it is definitely The Sandlot. … I really like Field of Dreams. I think that’s a great classic. Or The Rookie. That was good too. … I’ll say The Rookie because that scene when he runs out of the bullpen, that’s what I’ve always dreamt of, you know, that run from the pen to the mound.
SD: All the baseball movies I watch are all with little kids.
JS: You’ve never seen The Rookie?
SD: I seriously don’t know … Bull Durham.
JS: You’ve never seen Bull Durham?!
SD: I’ve seen pieces of it. But by no means do I know those movies like that and Major League …
JS: Major League … I can’t choose, actually.
SD: Those are all good, but The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year, I could watch those every day.
FS.com: Sandlot’s great.
SD: Yeah. How could that be beat?
JS: Just put me down for The Sandlot.