Red Wing Jason Bartlett is playing his first AAA season in the International League and his fourth season in the minor leagues. San Diego drafted the Lodi, California, native from University of Oklahoma in June 2001 and traded him to Minnesota in July 2002. "Publication Baseball America" named the 24-year-old shortstop Minnesota's sixth-best prospect in 2003. The Wings' leadoff hitter was tied for second in the IL in hits and ninth in batting after May 1. But he struggled in the field, committing 11 errors. Rochester also struggled, going 2-8 between April 21 and May 2.
This is the first installment of a periodic series chronicling Bartlett's season, as told to Mike Doser.
The camaraderie on this team is pretty good. We started 8-0. Everybody was having fun. And then we got some losses under our belt and things kind of sank a little.
But we have good chemistry. A baseball team's chemistry is important. You hear stories about how some guy might be a cancer --- the way he carries himself, the way he acts in the clubhouse, doesn't talk to anybody. That can bring a team down. Say he might be a pitcher and no one has confidence in him, so no one wants to play behind him. Right now, there's nobody like that here.
Before our April 26 game against Buffalo, I had an 11-game hitting streak. I have no clue if that's my personal best. I try not to think about those kinds of things. I usually jinx myself. There are some guys who look at their stats all the time.
But I pretty much know about where I'm hitting. At times, I can be really superstitious, though it's not like I'm wearing the same underwear everyday. I've been playing with infielder Terry Tiffee ever since the Padres traded me. If I'm going well, and he's not, he'll try to rub my bat and I'll get mad at him. It's a baseball thing. Baseball guys are weird.
Outfielder Josh Rabe has been hitting the ball really good, but hitting it right at people. The other day before a game, Tiffee says, "Rabe, look at your shoes, you're not wearing the same shoes that you did last year." So Rabe ran inside and changed into the shoes he had from last year. Rabe then had two knocks that game.
I've been struggling in the field. During spring training, guys were like, "Wait until you get to Rochester and play on that field. They play soccer on it." The field is not terrible, but it's not great. After the first couple of errors, everything just got in my head. I was thinking, "Alright, I've got to charge the ball. I can't let it get to this dirt right here because the dirt's messed up."
No excuses, though. They haven't even played soccer here yet. Being successful in the field is the same as being successful at the plate. If a player loses some confidence, he's going to struggle a little bit. I've been going out every day with manager Phil Roof. I take some ground balls, work on little things, and try to get that confidence back.
Last night (April 26) Buffalo beat us pretty badly here at Frontier. We came into the clubhouse and weren't saying too much. We just had dinner and left. Usually, if the team wins, we come in and play some music. Everybody's talking. Guys will work out or something.
If we lose, players try to leave everything at the ballpark; it's the same as if a person has a bad day at work, goes home, and wants to leave that bad day at the office. I was 0-for-5 and had an error. I went home and I wasn't too happy. I called my brother. It's always good to talk to your family. They always tell me to keep my head up. It's hard to leave everything on the field when this is your life for six months.
I've never been in the majors, but I imagine it would be hard to get too down after losses when you're making the kind of money they're making. You don't want to make a living playing minor league baseball, but if you're a free agent, you might make six figures in the minors, if a team wants you that bad. I don't make six-figures. I don't know anyone who makes that. If you get called up to the majors, I think the minimum monthly salary is $60 grand. $60 grand for a month --- that's not too bad.
People occasionally ask me about the steroid controversy in baseball. I'm not going to do steroids. If players want to do that, they can, but they should be tested for it. In the minors, they do test. We're not supposed to talk about it. It's an organizational thing. We don't want to say the wrong things so we try to stay out of it.
Barry Bonds is a great player. If he is or isn't doing steroids, he's still going to put up good numbers and be an amazing player. I think he'll break Hank Aaron's career home run mark. If you're on steroids or not, you still have to hit the ball.