A few Astros players just got some extra schooling in dealing with life in the big leagues.
This past weekend, pitcher Josh Zeid, catcher Max Stassi and infielder Jonathan Singleton attended the league’s Rookie Career Development Program at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA, outside of Washington, D.C. For more than two decades, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association have teamed up for the for the event, which is designed to help up and coming minor leaguers or young players get ready for life in the big leagues, particularly with things that can create obstacles off the field.
“I thought it was really neat,” Zeid said. “You’re sitting there with the top prospects in all of baseball, so you have to realize that you’re in a position to where people look at you and they think really highly of you, so you have to be honored to be there, but you still get a lot out of it while you’re there.”
The three-day program is a crash course in areas such as financial planning, media training, the league’s supplement program, and just how to handle any difficult situation that may arise that players wouldn’t even think about. Resources and teachers are plentiful at the event, including several former major leaguers and longtime media members and team media relations directors.
This was one of Zeid’s most memorable parts of the weekend.
“We got to talk to major league umpires including Dan Iassogna, who is a really big-time umpire who has been around for 13 years in the big leagues.”
Zeid also enjoyed the media sessions.
“They taught us how to talk to the media, how to react especially after certain outings or when things don’t go so well. There was a media panel of guys who were on ESPN for the last 25 years and clubhouse PR directors, and it was just really interesting to see every tip they had to give us.
“The best tip regarding the media had to do with how you handle on-camera interviews – taking your time, not having to answer every question that you’re given, you can kind of deflect a little bit but you still have to be responsible.”
Social media training has also now become a part of the program.
“Obviously, they told us to be careful of what we say – you can say where you’ve been but don’t tell anybody where you are.
“They actually told us not to tweet about food as much because they say people don’t really care about food that much, but I tend to disagree. I think it depends on if you’re showing pictures of your cereal, it matters, but if you’re being more specific I think it’s OK. People in Houston love their food, so I’m going to keep dealing with that.”
This is the main point Zeid took from the league’s supplement program seminar.
“I’ve really never taken any supplements or anything like that, but what they said was if it doesn’t have the NSF for sports logo on it, don’t take it,” Zeid said. “That’s about as simple as you can be. You just have to be really cautious. If you don’t know what you’re putting in your body, don’t do it.”
In addition to nice social events and dinners, the program also included some comic relief.
“They brought in a comedy group that would run skits for everyday life – how rookies would handle certain situations. They were obviously more funny than serious, but they did hit home with a lot of people, so that was a really neat thing that they did.”
For any future players attending the MLB Rookie Career Development Program, Zeid has this advice.
“Go with an open mind. Don’t be concerned that it’s a waste of time. Don’t try to have too much fun at night instead of going to the classes at 8 o’clock in the morning. I would say the only way you’ll get something out of it is if you go, really be a part of it and ask questions.”