Larson: Confessions of a minor-league jockstrap washer

From SABR member Greg Larson at Switchback Magazine on January 12, 2016:

Alex Schmarzo sits in front of his locker in the Aberdeen Ironbirds’ clubhouse during preseason workouts. There are forty players milling around a locker room meant for thirty. Schmarzo was the Orioles’ forty-eighth-round draft pick in 2010, which means one thousand four hundred thirty-seven players were chosen by every team in Major League Baseball before him. It’s 2012 now, and he is twenty-three years old, a veteran among children who have just been drafted out of high school, barely old enough to legally spit the tobacco they have lodged in their lips as they laugh around Schmarzo in groups of fours and fives. Everyone wears high black socks and all-black dry-fit shirts and shorts with the Orioles’ cartoon logo on them.

Schmarzo’s lip, too, is fat with Grizzly Wintergreen chewing tobacco that he spits into a small paper Dixie cup in his left hand. Framing his mouth is a fu-manchu mustache that makes the brown gobs of spit look like footballs soaring through goalposts. Bags shadowing his blue eyes, he stares at the ground that is visible through the faded carpet. I know Schmarzo well enough already to guess that he did not sleep last night.

When I ask him what’s going on, he glances up and shakes his head, running his hand through his hair, which is coarse and feathers out from the bottom of a mullet sticking out the back of his Ironbirds cap. This is what the players refer to as a “flow,” as if his hair always has the wind-swept look of running, even when he sits still (which, as a relief pitcher, he often does). It’s one of those baseball styling choices that garners respect in the dugout and clubhouse, but makes the guys look like high-school kids in the real world.

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Originally published: January 14, 2016. Last Updated: January 14, 2016.