Postcards from the Minor Leagues
This is the first installment in a four-part series this baseball season. Todd Van Steensel will check in with blog posts on his experiences in the San Diego Padres organization, giving us a front row view of MiLB life. Look for added features such as photos and special Q&A's with every installment.-- Jessica Quiroli, AHOD Editor
Greetings from Spring Training with the San Diego Padres!
How did I wind up here, so far from home in Australia?
Let us start when I was part of the Minnesota Twins organisation. An organisation I had been part of for six seasons. But just over a month after appearing in the Southern League All-Star Game, and spending two weeks on the injured list, I was told that there was no longer a spot for me within the Minnesota Twins and I was handed my release. Although I was disappointed and had to say goodbye to some close friends that became like family, I was excited at what the future would hold and looking towards a fresh start somewhere else.
A few teams came calling over the next few days, affiliated and independent league teams, but nothing really worked out. I decided to begin my off-season early and prepare to play for my hometown team in the Australian Baseball League. Heading into the ABL season there was a lot of excitement for me. For the first time in six years I’d be part of my first opening day roster and able to play a full season, our team was under new ownership by one of the most passionate baseball people I’ve met, and two new teams were joining the league. But the thing I was most looking forward to was showing teams what I was capable of doing on the field and try and secure a contract in the USA for the 2019 season.
Week one of the season came along mid November and we were facing newcomers, Geelong-Korea. A team comprised completely of Korean players from the Korean minor league or former KBO players, but they were based in a town in Australia. I pitched twice that weekend and was able to get video footage and scouting reports from that weekend. I passed it all onto my agent, who quickly shared it to any MLB team he had contacts with.
Within a week of him sending out all that information, the Padres came calling, offered me a contract and I had signed. It was a sense of relief, to know I still have a spot in baseball, and someone saw value in me.
The ABL season came to an early end for my team, the Sydney Blue Sox, as we were knocked out in the semi finals. I didn’t have too much time to be upset and dwell on it, because in a few weeks time I was going to fly to the US for spring training. That isn’t without a little scare at first whether I’d make my flight or not!
As an international working in the US, I need a visa and, well, the visa process isn’t fun at all! I applied for my visa on January 10th, and had a flight booked for February 21st. You would think I gave myself plenty of time to have it approved and sent back to me. But, after sending countless emails, and one tweet, which received an immediate response, my visa was back in my hands on February 18th! In years past I would send my completed papers to the Consulate and have it sent back to me within ten days but the last two years it’s been a real struggle. Last year I actually missed my first flight to Spring Training because I hadn’t received it back yet! Nonetheless, I got my visa back and made my flight!
And this is where I am today. Currently in Peoria enjoying my first spring training in Arizona and my ninth spring training overall. No matter how many years I do this, no matter how monotonous it gets or how many bullpens, drills, games, bus rides and meetings we go through, it’s still a special feeling being in spring training preparing for another Opening Day.
You can follow Todd on Twitter @toddvs35