Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Michael Schlact - Diary of a Minor League Manager (Part 2)

Michael Schlact is the manager of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.  He began his pro playing career after being selected by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the 2004 MLB draft out of Wheeler High School in Marietta, GA. Schlact spent seven seasons in the Rangers organization, reaching the Double-A level with the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League in 2007-2010. He was named the manager of the RedHawks in September of 2017.

Today is the second of a season-long diary that Michael is going to share with us as he begins his first professional baseball season as a manager.

Spring Training in Major League Baseball is when all the players are preparing for the season, and all the teams are preparing their rosters. This brings both a mix anticipation and dread. When the minor leaguers arrive at camp, all it takes is one look around the minor league clubhouse and you see there are way more people than there are roster spots. My first spring training was in 2005, and my final one was 2010 as a member of the Texas Rangers organization. Showing up on a day where they make cuts is nerve-wracking. Usually, there is a member of the organization’s player development team waiting at the door. No one knows who gets to pass through and who gets told “you’re needed in the office.”

When a player gets released, some move on to other organizations, some move on to other careers, and some move on to independent baseball. That’s where I come in. Right around this time every year, my email inbox is filled with MLB team after MLB team who has sent out their release lists. These emails typically include anywhere between 5-20 players every single day. While a lot of the independent rosters are filled with independent players from the previous year, the roster is usually rounded out by some newly-released minor league baseball players.

The typical process involves reaching out to the player, explaining why independent baseball is a great option to continue showcasing their talent to MLB organizations, and what we can do to help them get back to where they want to be. Since we don’t have a scouting department, my job as field manager is to also help find the players who fill our roster with our player personnel consultant Jeff Bittiger. Salaries aren’t huge. Nobody jumps into independent baseball to make a living. The purpose is to keep the dream alive. The players who come to our league are absolutely talented enough to play affiliated baseball. In many cases, players are signed back to MLB organizations rather quickly. It’s clear that MLB teams are noticing independent baseball as a viable option for scouting players, as many teams now have independent league scouts dedicated solely to our leagues.

Proverbs 3:5-6 should be a foundational verse for many of these professional baseball players (and coaches) who endure the minor league lifestyle for the sake of chasing a dream.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

It’s important to remember that a “straight path” with God may look crooked to the world. God never said it would be easy, but He did say He would be with us on the journey. If we had a say in our journey, we would be uber-successful and realize every dream we chased. However, God sees the whole picture while we only see small portion of it. God knows that adversity strengthens us and helps mold us to view the world through a different lens. Having a dream derailed and a career detour may be God opening (or closing) a door to bring us into something much better down the road. It may be the hardest thing in the world to believe at the time.

Being released from an MLB organization or being fired from a job can feel as though your dreams have been crushed, your life has been derailed, and your identity has been shattered. This is a commonplace occurrence in professional baseball. Most of the sport as a whole operates on a year to year basis. However, always remember that God has a bigger plan. Now, I’m not saying that independent baseball is a God-ordained way to keep your dream alive. What I am saying is that it is always important to, in your darkest moments, keep faith that God is in control and if you keep your eyes fixated on Him rather than your circumstances, He will never steer your wrong.

Pray for these minor league baseball players today. Pray that these athletes will remember that WHO they are and WHOSE they are determines their identity, not what they do. Pray that they will keep their eyes fixated on the love of Jesus. Pray that, wherever God’s plan for their life takes them, that they will always cherish the memories of the opportunity they had rather than feel regret or disappointment. For those players who decide that independent baseball is a viable route to continue chasing their dreams, I am excited for the opportunity to help them grow not only as baseball players, but as people too.

Michael Schlact

RELATES STORIES: 
– Michael Schlact – Diary of a Minor League Manager (Part 1)
– Minor league manager Michael Schlact says his job is ‘worthless’ if he’s not pointing players to Jesus
– NEW PODCAST: Ethan Chapman, Minor League Baseball Player
Ethan Chapman: Diary of a Minor League Baseball Player