Jake Arrieta has a feet-firmly-on-the-ground approach to life in the minor leagues. One of the top prospects in the Orioles’ organization, the 24-year-old right-hander isn’t just excelling on the mound — the 2007 draft pick is 6-2, 1.85 for Triple-A Norfolk — he recognizes the importance of safety and comportment.
David Laurila: How would you describe life in the minor leagues?
Jake Arrieta: Overall, it is grinding and sometimes it’s hard to stay mentally locked in, not only on the field, but off the field. Sometimes you’re in towns where there’s not a lot to do. I know that at the lower levels a lot of guys kind of get burned out a little bit with the travel and just trying to keep themselves busy. When you’re at the field, you’re around the rest of the team, which keeps you busy, but off the field that’s not always the case.
DL: Is it different from level to level?
JA: Yeah, it definitely is. When you start getting moved up you get the sense that you’re making your way through the ranks and putting yourself in a good position to get to the big leagues. I think it definitely changes as you go up. The cities, most of the time, are better as you move up levels and that makes it a little bit easier day to day.
DL: Is life in the minors different for highly-regarded prospects than it is for guys who profile as long shots?
JA: It’s a business, and guys who [organizations] have more invested in are going to get more opportunities. They’re obviously going to run them out there every day as opposed to later picks who don’t have as much invested in them. More times than not, unless they’re playing really well, [lesser prospects[ aren’t going to see the field every day. So I think that it’s definitely different for a prospect than a guy who’s not necessarily a prospect, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to the big leagues if you’re not a “prospect.” But that’s the nature of the beast and like I said, it’s a business.
DL: Does jealousy exist in the minor leagues?
JA: Oh yeah, absolutely. Whether it’s verbal, or non-verbal, there is definitely jealousy. And the majority of the jealousy, I feel like, is at the lower levels. When you get to [Triple-A], most of these guys have been in the big leagues or are prospects who will be in the big leagues soon. But then again, if a guy gets called up, there are going to be guys who feel that they should have been the call up. There’s a little jealousy there, but it’s going to be that way in any industry; if somebody gets a promotion ahead of you, there might be a little bit of jealousy.
DL: Is a minor-league clubhouse basically a cross-section of personalities, much like you’d find anywhere in society?
JA: No question, and I think it might be even more so in this type of job, just because there are people from all over the country and all over the world. And we spend a lot more time together than regular people do in their jobs. We travel together, we’re with each other on the weekends, the weekdays, and at night. We spend a lot more time together, and the more time you spend together, the more time there is for a little bit of conflict. But more times than not, teams gel, and they usually stick together.
DL: How cliquish are minor-league clubhouses?
JA: I wouldn’t say there are really cliques. There are guys that hang out with certain people, but that just goes with the differences in personalities. Some guys are going to hang out and some guys aren’t. That’s just the way life is. Not everyone is going to get along and that’s okay, as long as everyone gets along while they’re on the field. That’s all that matters. Not everyone has to like everybody, but that’s with anything, in any job.
DL: Pitchers tend to hang out together, but they’re not always talking about pitching. Is that accurate?
JA: Off the field, there is some baseball talk and that’s just something that is going to happen, because it’s our job. It’s just like with an engineer, or any kind of businessman. When they’re away from work, and they’re with their colleagues, they’re going to talk about business at some point or another, even though they‘re out of the office. But we try to talk about baseball as little as possible off the field, because we play every day and we’re at the field nine, 10 hours a day. When we’re off the field, we usually talk about other stuff.
DL: How hard is it not to get in trouble off the field?
JA: It’s not hard at all. You just have to be mature and realize what you’re here for. Guys like to go out, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to realize that there is a target on your back. You really need to be mature when you’re off the field, whether it’s in a bar, at the mall, or at the movies. No matter where you’re at, you’ve got to realize that people are going to pick you out as an athlete and you have to both wear that proudly and be mature about it.
DL: Do you like people to recognize you as a professional athlete, or would you prefer that they didn’t?
JA: Personally, I’d prefer that they didn’t know, because there might be some jealousy there. Like I said, there’s that target on your back and if you’re out with a group of guys and a bunch of people know that you’re athletes, bad things might happen. You see it happen all the time, so I think the best thing is to just keep a low profile. If you go out, just don’t let people know you’re a professional athlete. It’s as easy as that.
DL: What about attention from women? Being a professional athlete probably has its advantages there.
JA: In the minor leagues…I don’t know. Maybe. I’m married, but I’ve been around for a little while, so I just think you need to be careful. Like I said, if you’re single you can go out and have a good time; there’s nothing wrong with that. But again, you have to be careful, because people will know that you’re a professional athlete. You need to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re safe.