Baseball players are known to have a drink from time to time, and according to Brad Ziegler, the consumption is all about camaraderie. Drafted out of Missouri State in 2003, the A’s right-hander spent part of the 2004 season with the Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League before returning to affiliated ball and pitching himself to the big leagues.
Bonding experiences are big in baseball, and when I was in independent ball, we had several. Indy ball is a lot different than affiliated ball in that there is alcohol in the clubhouses. They’d bring in a keg after every game, because there were no league rules against it, and everybody would just kind of hang around after we played. We’d stay in the locker room a whole lot longer, with some guys drinking and some guys not drinking. It was just time spent together, because in indy ball, a lot of guys are just hanging on. They’d love to get back into affiliated ball, even if it’s a long shot, and they don’t know what else to do at that point in their lives, so that time spent with the guys — the camaraderie you get in the locker room — is something they’re not ready to lose. They’ll stay in the clubhouse for two or three hours after games, whereas in the big leagues, guys sometimes can’t wait to go home to their families. When you’re in the minor leagues, whether it’s in independent ball or affiliated ball, quite often the team is your family.
Players drink, but I honestly don’t think that a lot of guys turn to alcohol as a stress reliever. It’s not really a release for them. Guys have a beer now and again, socially, but when you get to this level, guys understand — and it’s becoming more of a public awareness, too — the importance of eating healthy. There is a much greater awareness of what you put in your body than there used to be. Not that guys don’t go out and have fun, but especially with the media around, they’re a lot more careful about how they do it; they’re more restrictive about when they go out. And while it’s something that guys can use as a bonding experience, there is never any pressure for anybody to go with them, and if you do go out with them, there is never any pressure to drink. Everybody just wants to hang out, and that camaraderie is important if you want to have a really cohesive unit on the field.
When you’re in the clubhouse, you don’t really have to worry about what you say or do. It’s kind of like, “What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.” Guys aren’t going to run out and tell the media, “Did you hear what he said? Have you heard the story yet?” That’s not going to happen. Everybody knows what happens in here stays in here, so you can kind of say whatever you want and it’s not going to cause problems – whether it's joking around or something said in total seriousness. We’re not trying to be offensive, it’s just everybody getting together for story time, which is a big part of how we bond. For some guys, that bonding involves alcohol, but for a lot of guys it doesn’t. Mostly, it’s about just hanging out.