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Gamecocks in the Minors handling a year without baseball
Baseball  . 

Gamecocks in the Minors handling a year without baseball

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

There is no joy in Mudville. There’s no joy in Asheville, Greenville, Fayetteville, Lawrenceville, or anywhere else that affiliated Minor League Baseball teams play either. While Major League Baseball is set to play a 60-game season, the 2020 season for Minor League Baseball was recently canceled due to COVID-19. For many of those who dream of making it to “the Show,” including former South Carolina Gamecocks Adam Hill (2016-2018) and Jonah Bride (2016-2018), they’ll have to wait another year to make their way.

“We all kind of had an idea that the season was going to be canceled,” said Hill, who is now part of the Seattle Mariners organization and is working out in his hometown of Anderson, S.C. “Just seeing it become official was tough because everybody wants to play. We understand it, though. Hopefully, we can get through this and get back to some normalcy. It’s definitely disappointing.

“I’ve been playing since I was four years old, so it’s probably the first time since then I haven’t played.”

“It has been tough,” said Bride, who is with the Oakland Athletics organization after being drafted in 2018 and is currently in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We all had an idea that it would be canceled, but it took a while for it to happen, so we had been working hard to stay ready. I’ve been working out a bunch to stay in shape, and now that it’s over, you have to treat it like an off-season and continue to go hard.”

Major League Baseball informed Minor League Baseball on June 30 that it would not be providing its affiliated teams with players for 2020. It was the first time since Minor League Baseball was founded in 1901 that the season was canceled, leaving the players thinking about what might have been.

“I was hoping to be in Midland, Texas, this year in double-A ball,” said Bride, who played in Stockton, Calif., last year in single-A.

“It was kind of up in the air,” said Hill, who left South Carolina after his junior season in 2018 and spent last year as part of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, playing low-A ball in Wisconsin. “I probably would have been in Modesto; high-A ball in California this year.” 

Unlike some professional baseball players who were released recently after the COVID-19 shutdown, Bride and Hill are still receiving pay checks.

“The Mariners agreed to keep paying all the minor leaguers through the end of August,” Hill said. “That’s been nice. We’re still getting a little something, so it helps you get by.”

“I’m still getting paid every two weeks, so I can’t complain too much,” Bride said. “I’m still working out every day to try to earn those checks. I’m also doing some work (outside of baseball) by grocery shopping for other people. It’s called ‘Instacart.’ I’m taking people’s groceries to them. A lot of people want to stay home, so I’m doing that for some people to make some money. I could get through with what they’re paying us, but I don’t have anything else to do other than work out. It’s been really good.”

While Bride and Hill are disappointed to not be playing in any games, they’re trying to treat this summer as an extended offseason wherever possible.

“It’s a long time to get bigger and get stronger,” Bride said. “It’s weird not being able to go out and play every day. I’ve been lucky to have access to a lot of difference resources to get all my work in with a weight room and things like that. We have programs that they send us to keep us on track.”

“I’ve been working out and throwing with some other guys in this area,” Hill said. “What they’ve told us, and what I’m going to continue to do is try to use this time to get better. Nobody’s ever been through something like this before. I’m just going to try to use this time to my advantage and try to improve.

“I’ll continue my throwing program. I throw off the mound once per week. I’ve been throwing with a bunch of guys from the area, including (former Gamecocks) Graham Lawson, Ridge Chapman, and guys like that. We’ve been throwing at Fluor Field, the Greenville Drive’s stadium.”

“The biggest challenge is not being around that group of guys that you build a relationship with.”
– Jonah  Bride

The former Gamecocks also can’t help but be appreciative that they still have a chance to chase their MLB dreams.

“I know some guys that have been released and some guys, who, this was their make or break year,” Hill said. “It’s tough. We’re adjusting as we go. You can’t really let that worry you. You just have to keep trying to get better and whatever happens, happens.

“It does make you take a step back and realize what it’s like when the game is taken away from you. The team just tells us to use this time to improve and do some things you might not have been able to do in the past because when are you ever going to have a summer off in the future? I always have the motivation to keep working. There are a lot of challenges in not playing. The uncertainty about what the future holds is probably the biggest thing.”
Jonah Bride (20) vs. Charleston Southern (Feb. 23, 2018)
Jonah  Bride

“I know some guys who have friends that thought this would be a big year for them,” Bride said. “They were trying to show that they could keep moving up, but now they don’t get that opportunity. I feel really bad for those guys. It makes me think that whenever I’m not going to have baseball at some point in my life, I still have to try to find a way to be happy. Right now, you have to find a way to be happy without it because that’s the reality.

“The biggest challenge is not being around that group of guys that you build a relationship with, in the locker room. Not being with them has been weird for sure. You rely on those guys throughout a season to pick you up. It’s been different trying to adapt to all the different stuff we’re going through with all the Zoom meetings and things like that.”

With no games to play in the near future, the former Gamecocks are enjoying some free time, while also realizing what they’re missing.

“Sometimes I feel like a little kid again when we go to the lake or do something I wouldn’t normally get to do at this time,” Bride said. “Now you have all this time to get all this work that you want to get done. I’m not used to having all this free time. I’ve played a lot of volleyball with (former Gamecock) Braden Webb. I’m sure he will say he is better than me, but I’ve got about 20 guys who will tell you differently!

“I miss being out there and running on to the field. I see pictures where I’m running out at South Carolina, and the adrenaline of running on to that field with the cheers and the fans; you just miss it.”

“I miss just playing the game,” Hill said. “I went to spring training in February, and then about a month to the day in the March, they sent us home. So, I didn’t get to play in any games. Just being back on the field in a competitive setting is what I’m looking forward to the most.”

As Major League Baseball plays its shortened season, Bride and Hill will be watching and longing for their chance to be back on the diamond.

“I’m anxious to watch,” Bride said. “I’ll enjoy sitting back and watching baseball, but at the same time, it will be hard. I know I’ll be thinking that I wish I could be out there.”

“I’ll definitely be watching,” Hill said. “It’s tough to know that we won’t be playing. Hopefully, sometime soon, we’ll be able to get back out there and do something!”