The minor-league season is complete, but the grind never ends.
Fans see the life of a professional baseball player as a grand one. You get paid to play baseball, which must be amazing, right? Yeah, sure. But what fans don’t see are the daily struggles minor-league players go through.
Blake McFarland is a former player who spent many seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization. While rehabbing in Dunedin, Florida, McFarland had plenty of spare time. He and an anonymous teammate decided to start an account that focused on the daily struggles minor-leaguers face... also known as “The Grind.”
The username of the account fits perfectly: @minorleaguegrinders.
“The minor league grind is very tough,” explained McFarland. “It is a long season with only one off-day an entire month. I don’t think there are any other jobs in the entire world with only one off day per month. Add that with long, overnight bus rides every week, nagging injuries and little sleep, and that is going to be one long season and grind. It will also leave you with stories to tell, new friends and a ride of a lifetime.”
McFarland is also clear that the account, at least at the moment, is solely for entertainment purposes, so fans and fellow players can share a laugh. “We see this account as pure entertainment, and always meant for it to just be a funny page where fellow players can post, laugh and reminisce over.”
At the moment, McFarland does not want his page to relate to the political aspect of minor-league baseball, where players are receiving harsh salaries and rough living conditions. “We do not want to get involved in any of the lawsuits at this time because that is just not what we started out to do. Maybe in the future that will change, but for now, we just want to have a community of past and present players who can relate to funny things that only happen in the minor leagues.” McFarland also mentioned that his future plans for the account are just to continue to post player-submitted content.
That is what makes McFarland’s page stand out from the others — it was created by a minor-league player and all of the content is from actual baseball players. In addition, players can trust they won’t get in trouble by submitting a photo for McFarland to post. “I think our account is better than competitors because we have a 100% user-submitted photos from all real minor- and big-league players. We are also a place where players can anonymously submit photos if they fear they will be in trouble for posting. We will blur and leave out all names so players cannot get in any trouble whatsoever. We are for the players, and don’t want them to think they can get into any trouble for posting on our account. I also think we are one of the realest accounts out there, that accurately depicts what life is like in the minors.”
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Welcome to the #grind new signees. Don't spend it all at one place #makeitrain #welcometothegrind #ifyoudontknownowyouknow #realpaystubs #whensthelawsuit #minorleaguebudget #lessthanminimumwage #howisthislegal #ifyoudontlikeitplaybetter @milb @mlb @mlbtrashtalkers @_mlb_memes_ @mlblaughs @mlb_players
Other players have praised the account, too.
Michael Tinsley is an outfielder in the Cleveland Indians organization. He says he enjoys the content that McFarland posts because it sheds light on what minor-leaguers deal with while putting comedy behind it. “We are all going through the same hardships, [so] we can all relate to the funny moments that others submit to the account. I’m constantly laughing at the sarcastic humor and situations that the account posts and I’ll keep following for a long time.”
Tommy Lawrence is a pitcher for the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am independent baseball league. He says he loves the account because many people think being a minor-leaguer means showing up to a ballpark a couple minutes before a game and getting into uniform, but Lawrence says that he sometimes gets to the stadium up to six hours before first pitch. “In the minors, it really is a grind. That’s why the name of the account is perfect. But at the same time, if we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t be out there playing this game.”
McFarland, like all baseball players, had to go through the minor-league grind. Sometimes, the grind is long, and sometimes it is short. For McFarland, his minor-league career didn’t result in any big-league action, and came to an end when McFarland retired at the age of 30.
McFarland talked about his retirement from baseball, saying he “retired in 2018 because of a shoulder injury which was unable to heal fully.” He added that he “had a great 8 years playing in the Blue Jays organization and it was unfortunate that [he] could never get back on the field, but [he] really cherished [his] time playing.”
What does McFarland do now that he has retired from baseball? “I am now a full-time artist who specializes in recycled materials,” he explained. “Things are going great so far. I have created sculptures for the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, USC, Ohio State, Wisconsin University, Western Michigan University, Lululemon and Goodyear Tires. I also have sculptures in art galleries across the country as well as some private collections. I am very fortunate to have the career I have so far just a year out of baseball and I am beyond grateful that I get to do something I love for a living.”
When asked about the unique logo that he created for his page, his answer didn’t come as a surprise ... it had obviously stemmed from his art talents. “I spent about a week thinking of, and designing, a logo that represents the minor leagues, and the struggle that all the players face over the long season. My background in art definitely helped and I designed it all on my iPad while rehabbing at the facility in Dunedin.” McFarland added that the logo is actually in the final stages of being legally trademarked.
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Need to help fund your teams next shirt order? Don’t sweat it, just do what these #minorleaguegrinders did. #extraguacatchipotle #makeitrain #giveusyourmoneykids #wewilltakeahotdogtoo #stocksontherise ➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖➖ Thanks for the submission @tyler__gilbert #keepthegrindalive
McFarland’s account reached 1,000 followers in its first few weeks of being on Instagram, and the follower count is now approaching 26,000. Hundreds of baseball players follow the account, including many now-major-leaguers. McFarland said that he has received lots of praise for his account from many players, including Blue Jays prospect Danny Jansen, Blue Jays major-leaguer Jon Berti, and Rangers major-leaguer Austin Bibens-Dirkx.
Not only has his page caught the eye of players and fans, but even popular sports personalities were intrigued by McFarland’s page. Jeff Passan, a baseball reporter for Yahoo, interviewed McFarland about his page during the 2018 All-Star Break.
“It was really funny when Jeff Passan first reached out,” said McFarland. “He DM’ed me and wanted to do an interview. What he didn’t know is that I was the person running the account. I did a interview with him the previous year so we had a good laugh about it because it was very unexpected that I (along with another player) was the one behind the account. I think Jeff is one of the best sports writers in the game and was beyond excited [when] he took interest to the account.”
Although the grind is something all players must go through on their way to The Show, only the best of the best baseball players arrive in the majors. McFarland explained some of the biggest struggles he had to face as he made his way through the Blue Jays’ farm system.
“Some of the hardest parts of the minor leagues are the long bus rides. The average minor league bus ride is around 6 hours,” said McFarland, “and my first year I had the not-so-fortunate experience of riding a 14-hour overnight trip from Vancouver to Boise Idaho with one old rickety bus and every single seat on the bus filled. Most bus rides are after night games, so players get little to no sleep at all before having to arrive at the field the next day. It is a grind to stay awake, let alone hit a 95 MPH fastball.”
The grind of being in the minors is extreme, and only a select number of players see their dream of playing in the majors get fulfilled. Blake McFarland does a great job showing the lesser-seen aspect of baseball with his rapidly-growing Instagram page.