Sports

Former Oiler and SBU Baseball Player Offers Inside View of Spring Training

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What is it like to be a player at spring training?

Spring training is a time when players from all 30 MLB organizations come to fight for spots on rosters and potentially a chance at fulfilling their dream of playing in the big leagues.  One of these players who received this opportunity is former Olean Oiler and St. Bonaventure University pitcher Aaron Phillips.

His first spring training experience happened this spring in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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“Spring training is a lot easier than I expected,” Phillips said. “Every day I get a text telling me what I have to do and where I have to be.”

A typical day involves waking up at 7:30 a.m. and leaving the hotel at 8. After arriving at the field, Phillips puts on a Zephyr vest that tracks heart rate and endurance. He also must provide a urine sample and put it into a machine which tells him if he is dehydrated, and he must weigh in. These are just daily procedures a player must go through. 

Meetings take place where coaches and former players talk to the teams.

“I remember we had Barry Bonds talk to us and Willie Mays, which was really cool,” Phillips said.

After meetings, players begin their daily regimens of eating and working out, as well as stretching and meeting with trainers. Soon after, players are given their daily schedule of bullpens and workouts, and they learn if they will be playing in the game scheduled for that day.

Phillips said it is a different experience to be around top prospects and big name players.

“It’s super weird,” he said. He described watching veteran pitcher Johnny Cueto pitch strike after strike in a bullpen and how great of an experience it is to see some of the players he watches on television standing right next to him.

Many diehard Giants fans travel from far and wide to the facility to watch their favorite players and rising stars.

“The fans care,” Phillips said. He said he is amazed that fans not only come to spring training, but also come to the minor league games. He admires them and their support.

For the athletes, it is not just baseball during spring training. There are plenty of other things a player can do in the area, and there is also a great deal of down time.

“I watch TV and play video games at the hotel and that’s about it.” Phillips said. “There is also Topgolf, a casino nearby, the Camelback Mountains, and downtown Scottsdale is pretty cool.”

Phillips finished his career at St. Bonaventure with a 3.17 ERA and 157 strikeouts while also batting .248 with 51 RBIs. He played two summers with the Olean Oilers. His most notable season was in the summer of 2016. He finished with a 1.17 ERA with 38 strikeouts and batted .384 with 62 RBI’s. After his junior season, Phillips was drafted in the ninth round by the San Francisco Giants.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Phillips said about the time he was waiting for a call during the draft. “It felt as if it was supposed to happen because I have been playing baseball my whole life.”

Phillips started his professional career playing in Keizer, Oregon, for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Single-A (Short Season) minor league affiliate of the Giants. He finished the season with a 3-0 record, a 4.45 ERA and 36 strikeouts.

The Giants wrapped up spring training on March 27 against the Oakland Athletics.

“As of right now, we don’t know what teams we’re on, and learning from everyone else makes the team better,” Phillips said.

While everyone wants to be part of a team, Phillips said it is difficult to feel like a team because players are moving up and down in the system. However, once teams are set, he feels it will be easier.

Phillips’ main goal during the winter and going into spring training was to have his arm prepared for the season. He said he feels ready for the season and because he has prepared himself well.

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