Woodrey: A Player’s Grueling Daily ScheduleColumns
Editor’s Note: Former Miami lefthander Thomas Woodrey is now a graduate student at Florida State and an intern for D1Baseball. In his latest piece, Woodrey takes an in-depth look at the time commitment required of Division I student-athletes.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — At this time last year, I would have likely been lacing my cleats and heading out to the field for the third of three games in a weekend series. That’s not the case anymore. I adjust the tie around my neck and head out; I have a big interview at the campus career center. I’ve rehearsed my selling points time and time again: student-athlete, hard worker, confident leader, and team player. As I am escorted with others into the back room where the interviews are to be conducted, I feel nerves and excitement. Finally, I have a form of competition back in my life.
The first question of the day catches me off guard: “How many hours a week did you dedicate to being a college baseball player?” A number comes to mind, but it seems too drastic to be believable. Certainly being a student-athlete isn’t as demanding as a typical 9-to-5 job, right? I decide to short my initial thought and tell the interviewer 30 hours, but begin to walk through a typical week to clarify how I’m arriving at that number. As he looks at me with a surprised face, this is what I tell him:
The typical fall day was a grind, but it always made me really appreciate the season. The days didn’t demand quite as much time from me, but definitely more effort and willpower. I began with conditioning at 6:00 a.m. three days a week. I liked to arrive around 5:30 to heat my back and stretch – avoiding back spasms was definitely worth foregoing the extra 30 minutes of sleep. My alarm would ring at 5:00 sharp, and I would have to splash some cold water in my face to wake up. I never had much of an appetite that time of day, but it was always best to have something in your stomach before exerting that much energy. The running was never enjoyable, but the sense of accomplishment I felt from wringing my shirt of sweat as the sun rose always seemed somewhat therapeutic.
Fortunately, I only had the dreaded 8:00 a.m. classes my freshman year, so from running I would head straight to the weight room to get my lift out of the way at 7:00. I would quickly chug a protein shake and begin my workout. Although it’s not the case, every day in the fall seemed to be a “heavy” leg day. In the offseason, it’s not uncommon for lifts to last upwards of an hour, and there’s always someone there to make sure you don’t cheat yourself or your teammates. Classes had to be scheduled to start no later than noon, so that they didn’t interfere with afternoon practice time. From my lift I would head right back in the locker room, shower and walk to my first class of the day at 9:05. As I walk into the classroom I would typically overhear other students complaining about waking up for morning classes – if only they knew. To top it off, fall in Miami is hot, and breaking out in a rushed post-shower sweat is inevitable. Depending on the semester and year, I would have class around 9 to noon, Monday through Friday. It takes 15 credit hours, or 5 classes, per semester to graduate in 4 years.
My stomach would realize that I didn’t feed it a full breakfast right around the time class would end for the day. I would head back to the locker room and heat up the lunch that I had packed the night prior. By now, it’s about 1:00 p.m.
In the beginning of the fall there was no official team practice, just four-on-one instruction with a coach. When team practice starts, the schedule wasn’t nearly as forgiving. For the purpose of making my point, I dissect the latter of the possibilities.
Team stretch wasn’t until 2:30, so I had just enough time to see the training staff. I was a rather low maintenance pitcher, but typically this was your time to do all arm exercises to ensure you stayed healthy. For me, this was yet another opportunity heat my back and stretch. From there, I liked to head out to the field to hit fungos to any infielders looking to get extra work. After all, I was far from a strikeout pitcher, and anything I could do to help my infielders was beneficial to the team and me.
The team would stretch from 2:30 until 3 o’clock, and then practice officially began. On a normal day we finished around 5:30. By the time I showered and got any additional treatment, it was easily 6:00 as I left the locker room for the day. Roughly half the team had study hall – eight additional hours a week at the athletic center. I didn’t have the obligation, but would often meet tutors there to study or do homework.
Now I’d finally head home for the first time since 5:00 that morning. I’d cook dinner and eat, and by now it would be around 8:00. At this time I get my first opportunity to study the material or do the homework that my classmates have had all day to perfect. My eyelids tend to grow heavy right about this hour, but I would fight the urge to sleep and make sure that I spend at least an hour or two on my schoolwork. No morning running the following day, so my alarm wouldn’t wake me until 6:00 when I had to get up for the same 7:00 lift group as the day before. That’s assuming my name wasn’t on the list for the weekly 6:00 school drug test. If so, I’d be at school by 5:30 yet again.
As I finish breaking down the day, I totaled the hours. I had prepared myself for running, ran, lifted weights, got treatment, and practiced. I had been at the baseball facilities from 5:30 until 8:30 before class, and 1:00 to 6:00 after class. 8 hours. Same as a 9-to-5, and this is just the offseason.
In spring, my day off from baseball was Monday. Tuesday and Thursday were typically practice days, and followed the same routine as a fall day minus the morning running. I had games on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would attend class roughly nine to noon, eat lunch and then go straight to the locker room. Wednesday games were at 6:00, and we began stretch at 3:20. We were encouraged to be out on the field at 2:00 to get additional work in, so I tried to be out there to hit fungos on a normal basis. This meant I had from noon until 2:00 to get treatment, eat and do any homework that I had due the following day.
After stretch, there was batting practice, infield/outfield, pre-game meal and a 15-minute window to shower and throw my uniform on. Then it was game time. The game would end anywhere from 9:00 to 10:00, and by the time I sit through the post-game meeting, shower, get any needed treatment and head home it would be around 11:00.
Fridays followed this same pattern but the game was at 7:00 instead of 6:00. This usually meant I just hung around the locker room playing Ping-Pong or watching TV for an extra hour. Saturday and Sunday were no different, aside from not having class.
When we played a road series, Thursdays were our travel days. The team bus typically left for the airport around 10:00 in the morning. This meant you were obligated to go to your 8 a.m. classes per school policy – luckily that didn’t affect me. Regardless, I still had to be up early to work out and pack before the bus left. If you weren’t on the bus when it was time to leave, you stayed home. We would arrive at the airport, check in, get our boarding passes and walk to our gate. There were almost always a couple hours to kill, since it takes some time to get 40 people through security and it makes sense to not cut it close.
The flight would normally take off around 1 p.m., and land around 4. I learned a general rule of thumb: when you are flying from Miami, every school in the ACC is approximately three hours away. By the time we’d get off the plane, grab our bags, get on the bus and arrive at the hotel it would be around 5:00. We would then get up to our rooms, change into our practice clothes and have maybe 30 minutes to relax before the bus left for practice. Practice was short on the road – two hours was the longest it ever seemed to be. Then we would head back to the hotel, enjoy a big team dinner, and be done for the night around 9:00 or 10:00 at night.
By now, my interviewer looks dumbfounded. I had just told him that a typical week consisted of two practices, at least four games, a few workouts and sometimes a travel day. I told him that each practice lasted roughly two and a half hours, and that we were encouraged to get out and do extra work on our own. I expressed to him that each game lasted three to four hours, and that we began preparing nearly three hours before game time as a team and even longer than that individually. I told him that before and after each game most players received treatment of some sort from the training staff, and that some players were still required to attend study hall for eight additional hours a week.
Altogether, I spent roughly eight hours a day at the baseball facilities. Six days a week. Most days I left my apartment before the sun was up, and didn’t return until long after it had set. It should be noted that not everything I did was mandatory. But doing just what is required of you will never be enough to be great at something. Did I have to arrive early to every workout to get treatment? No. Did I have to hit fungos before practice? No. Did I have to meet with tutors after practice? No. But when you spend 90 percent of every day with your teammates, they become brothers. And when your brothers decide to hold each other accountable, you go the extra mile to not let them down. On the field, in the classroom and in the locker room.
After hearing myself think through it out loud, I finally tell the interviewer what had originally come to mind when he asked the question. I tell him that being a college baseball player was equivalent to a full-time job; that it demanded the same hours from me as a job, but was much harder on my body. I say that I had to manage my time to balance this commitment with a full class schedule each semester. I explain that college baseball has better prepared me for a job than any internship or entry-level work experience ever could.
College baseball taught me the value of hard work. It taught me how to be accountable for my actions, and how to be a leader. Simply put, college baseball helped shape me into the person I am today.