Spring Training is the time for fans to see their favorite players back in action on the baseball diamond. However, the agendas of superstar players are vastly different from that of no-name players. A player such as reigning N.L. MVP and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw knows his role on the team and takes his time getting loose preparing for the season ahead.
A non-roster invitee is trying to prove his worth to the team and coaches. He is going his hardest every pitch of every inning to show that he deserves a spot on the roster come Opening Day. At the least, the non-roster invitee wants to be signed to a minor league contract in hopes of making the big league club at some during the season.
Despite the month of exhibition games, signed players that are a lock to make the Major League roster are eased into action and play more as Spring Training progresses. The team wants these hitters and pitchers to be up to speed on the field but also in full health once the season begins. The players are starting games that they play in; hitters will get two or three at-bats and pitchers will throw a few innings or will be on a pitch count.
Coaches have to balance the Major Leaguers with the no-name players, because the no-name players are the ones who will fill out the Major League roster. There may be a slew of top prospects that could perform off of the bench, but if a prospect isn’t being called up to play right away, he is better served in the minors. The player gets game action every day, and the team saves money by keeping the service time and salary to a minimum.
The non-roster invitees are typically MLB veterans who have been to The Show before. They have proven themselves enough over their careers to warrant a team inviting them to Spring Training to fight for a roster spot. Whether in the Cactus League or the Grapefruit League, no-name players try to impress whoever is watching.
Non-roster invitees with no names
Now when I say no-name players, that isn’t always referring to the fact that those players have not made a name for themselves and don’t have their jerseys for sale in the team store. A handful of these players will play in games and literally have no name on the back of their jersey. The Yankees never have names for any player, but most every other team does. And when a non-roster invitee gets the chance to play in a Spring Training game, sometimes he gets a jersey with just a number and no name.
Even announcers have trouble figuring out the no-name players sometimes. There will not be an updated roster everyday for players that may have arrived in the morning or are going to play in a game. When there is no roster card and no name on the jersey, it is hard to know who some of the no-name players are. Television crew guys also can have a problem if they need to put a graphic with the player’s name on the screen.
No-name players may not have an actual name on the back of the jersey, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t good. Any player who is playing in Spring Training theoretically has a shot at making the Major League roster or else he wouldn’t be there. A non-roster invitee may not make it onto the roster, but his time in Spring Training is still spent playing with the rest of the Major Leaguers and in front of fans who perceive every player as a Major Leaguer.
Every player in Spring Training wears the big league club’s uniform. It doesn’t matter if they are a Hall of Fame candidate or a free agent out of an independent league. That is what Spring Training is for: to mix the returning guys with the non-roster invitees and find the best 25 players that can help a team win once the season starts.