Dec. 1, 2021

LA Dodgers prospect Justin Yurchak on minor league baseball life, his MLB dream & an insane 2021 season (feat. Meaghan Gray)


Longtime friend Justin Yurchak joins the show to talk about what life as a minor league baseball player is really like. In the conversation, we discuss his stops in Michigan, Montana and Arizona, the trade that changed the trajectory of his career, his wildly productive 2021 season (22:53), if he's ever felt like he doesn't belong, not making much money (31:44), his hopes of making the Dodgers roster and so much more.

Plus, his amazing girlfriend of eight years pops in to talk about the evolution of their relationship as they both chase their own respective professional dreams (36:28).

Justin Yurchak is a 24-year-old first basemen for the Tulsa Drillers, a Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox, Yurchak later joined the Dodgers via trade in 2018. Yurchak has amassed a very impressive career to date, sporting a career .321 batting average.

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peace and love.

Transcript

So excited to welcome onto the podcast today, a guy that I have known for forever, uh, back to the old Skano elementary school days and played sports all together, growing up, we played basketball. Uh, you were adjusting. I mean, if someone were to ask me not to harken back on the glory of the high school days, but if someone were to ask me who were the top athletes in the Shenendehowa..

Class of 2014. I mean, you were right up there with the, with the mat drums and the Matt Hardy's and the Jeremiah Smiths and all those people, uh, you played growing up soccer, basketball. I think there was some football in there. And then baseball is kind of where you separated yourself for as good as you were at all those other sports.

It was baseball that you were the best. And so there's so much that I want to talk to you about today, about. Journey from Clifton park to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and all of the, all the crazy things that you've done in between. So Justin, super excited to have you here. How are you doing? I'm doing well. Thanks for having me.

And don't forget that. You're a pretty good athlete yourself. So don't cut yourself. I tried. I did lead the area in bloody noses. That was my, uh, my strong suit, bloody noses and bruised eyes. That's what I remember exactly. That was a, one of my, one of my best qualities, uh, as an athlete. Uh, I've just kind of want to start there with your childhood for a bit, because tell me if I'm wrong.

I'm going to do some, I'm going to do some reaching here for as good as you were at all of those sports. I kind of got the vibe that soccer was your passion. Like that was your favorite thing. I feel like you were into that sport the most, it was the sport that you were the biggest fan of the sport that you enjoyed the most and that baseball, you just happen to be the best at.

So that's kind of why you chose it. Am I right or wrong there? Yeah, it was definitely a time when I was younger. That soccer was definitely my favorite. I think growing up with my older brother being a soccer player, I just wanted to be like him and that was SOC or, and then, uh, I think, uh, there came a time where I realized, I think I'm a lot better at baseball and that kind of took over and consumed everything.

And that's when it became my favorite. So, yeah. So I mean, some of those, those Shen athletes that I just named, like I'm at drum, I think about him. He was a two sports star. I mean, he played baseball and he played football and did them both quite well at a school that was as big as ours though. They.

Discouraged being a multi-sport athlete, because if you really wanted to stand out, you kind of really had to commit to one sport. So at what point did you kind of realize, you know, I love all these sports, but I really think baseball can be the one to take me somewhere and I have to go all in on. Yeah. I don't know when I realized that I'd say it's probably around freshmen or sophomore year when I started talking to some colleges.

Um, but you know, I still played basketball for the town throughout high school and, you know, I was pretty active and, you know, pick up football and all that kind of stuff. So, um, but yeah, it was definitely around sophomore year. I would say when it kind of stood out that our baseball might be a little bit more of my future and I should, that should be my area.

So, what did you think your future was? Did you have a dream at that point yet about what you envisioned for the rest of your. No, no, gosh, no. I was just worried about trying to get a college scholarship. That's all I was looking at. And, uh, you know, I didn't know if that was something possible even, and I was fortunate to have that opportunity.

And you know, when I did that, I wasn't thinking about the future. I just thinking about that and uh, you know, here I am all these years. So the college, the first college that you went to was wake forest, which is, you know, an ACC school down in North Carolina. Why did you choose that? Ah, that's just, you know, ACC competition in baseball is, you know, you can't beat it now.

ACC SCC, you know, those are the big baseball conferences and, you know, get mixing that with a top tier education. I, I was pretty excited and, you know, that was, uh, when I had got that opportunity to go there, I was thrilled and, you know, got to live it for a year. So it was pretty exciting. Yeah, what happened there?

Why didn't you stay? Because if you look at the stats from your freshman year at wake forest, I mean, you did really well. You did really well as a freshmen, which you do really well as a freshmen and ACC baseball. I mean, that's a really good sign about your future, but you chose to go away from that. Yeah.

Just, uh, you know, I'm kind of a home body and being in North Carolina, that's pretty far away. No, it doesn't it's, it didn't seem like the right fit for me. You know, it was a, obviously an amazing academic school, amazing baseball competition got to meet some pretty cool people along the way. I got to play with a lot of guys who were in the major leagues now and, uh, you know, it just wasn't the right fit for me.

And, uh, you know, we, that was a very tough decision to leave and made it and, uh, you know, everything worked out for them. After that, but it was a definitely a tough decision. And, you know, it took some time to realize that it probably wasn't just, for me, it's funny that you say you're a homebody because I would fully agree in that assessment of you that you are, but here you are all around the country in the most remote places of the country.

So somehow making it work. So, uh, kudos to you. So you you're at Binghamton for a couple of years. It's new being a 10. You have some success there, and then you get drafted in the 12th round by the Chicago white Sox. What are you expecting that the draft day's a crazy kind of thing. You know, you here, you talked to all the Scouts and all the different people in the front office.

Leading up to the draft and, you know, you're hearing 20 different things about when you might go and, you know, the opportunities that you might have and come draft day kind of seems like it's all out the window and it's kind of a, a free for all. But, uh, I was hopeful. I would have the opportunity. I wasn't sure when if or when I would be, but, um, you know, it was pretty exciting certainly to have my name called on draft day.

Was there any hesitation about actually. Going cause I mean, you can, you can get drafted, but you don't have to go play if you don't want to, you can. Cause you still had college eligibility left. So you could still, you could still play. I remember at that time I was following it pretty closely. And just knowing you and your family and where you come from and how important academics are to you.

I was thinking like, I don't, I don't know if Justin's gonna go. I mean, I feel like school is really important to him. He wants to graduate and he wants. Have that degree ready? If in case the baseball thing never works out, he has a good head on his shoulders and he's smart. So what was that decision like for you?

Yeah, because I was a red shirt, sophomore, technically I still had some leverage if I went back for a red shirt junior year. But, um, you know, I know what kind of was a tough decision. You know, I, my best friends are at Binghamton and I loved my experience there. Um, it was a tough decision and ultimately.

Uh, you know, like parents and I decided that this was going to be, you know, an upgrade opportunity and, uh, I would have the opportunity to go back to school and finished my degree. Um, But I didn't know when I would get that done, but I knew at some point I would have that opportunity and, uh, you know, I, I saw, I ended up signing and you know, it wasn't an easy decision.

I missed, you know, I was watching all the Bampton games that following year thinking, man, this would be fun to be on the field with them, but, you know, it was, it was just the right thing for me at that time. So, uh, we ended up making that decision. That's so funny that you mentioned that because I can relate.

Because I graduated a year early, so I was in the same situation as you, whereas like the friends that I had in college, they were still in college and here me and you are out in like random parts of the country working in less than ideal circumstances. And so what was that like for you? Watching all of that happening.

You not being able to be a part of it. And here you are out. The minor leagues, DRA, like trying to make a buck, uh, doing all these weird things on buses, living in less than ideal circumstances. Yeah. So I'll tell you this. My first, uh, location after I got drafted was a town called great falls, Montana. Uh, and you know, it's pretty out there.

It's, it's like a small electric town and, uh, you know, the next biggest town is like four hours away and that's like 50,000 people. Uh, so you know, I'm on these buses and these remote parts of the country and don't get me wrong. It's beautiful. But, uh, you know, it's definitely not home and it's definitely you meeting all these new people that are in the same situation as you.

So, you know, you're getting used to knowing these guys and, uh, it's just a little bit different than when you came from college and, you know, we were living with everyone and your tight knit group. So it was definitely an adjustment, but, uh, you know, it was fun to get to do that at least. Did you get lonely at all?

No, not really lonely. You know, that's actually the opposite of a minor league season. You live with the guys, you go to the field with them, you're there for 10, 12 hours a day, and then you go home with them. So there's not much time. Um, but yeah, you definitely miss the people back home. You miss friends and family and, uh, you know, you miss just being home at times.

Yeah, we kind of worked through it and everyone's going through the same thing. And you got each other there for that. Now, when you say you play for 10, 12 hours a day and then you'd go home, where exactly are you living? Yeah. So that's another thing about minor league baseball. Uh, you know, our salaries, aren't exactly high to say the least, but, uh, you know, there's a lot of times different places.

There's host families that put us up and. You know, that's incredibly nice by these families. And I've always been fortunate to have really great families. Um, but there's some places where we've had to get apartments and we're packing seven, eight guys into a two or three beds. Uh, just to try and save some money on some rent.

And, uh, you know, you're not always speaking the same language as those guys that are living with this. So, uh, you know, the living situation, minor league baseball is a little unusual, but, uh, you know, we, we make, do with what we got. I feel like people who don't really know sports have such. You know, an image in their minds about professional athletes, like you, uh, I'll be at not in the majors, living some glamorous life about having all these amazing meals and people recognizing you everywhere you go, and everything is spoonfed to you.

And you're making a lot of money for a designer to clothes and all that stuff, but that was not life for you. Uh, for the last several. Yeah, no, not at all. That's certainly, you know, we're fortunate. Uh, the Dodgers are a great organization. I'm feel really fortunate to be with them. And they, uh, you know, we are lucky that we have some chefs with us, but, you know, that's, that's lunch and dinner and, uh, you know, that's not everyday thing.

And, uh, but you know, not everybody has that in the minor leagues by any means. So I'm pretty lucky to be with them and have that opportunity. Has there ever been a. In the last few years, especially early on where you kind of looked around. And you're sleeping with like seven guys in a room or something like that.

I'm exaggerating, but you know what I mean? And then you think of, I mean, I think of one of your, one of our mutual friends, when you were really good friends, like an eight Oliver, for example, who is probably out on wall street. I know he's in New York city, like making bank, doing some crazy thing. And several other people, you know, like in that situation who are out here really doing something with their lives, making a lot of money and doing all of these things.

Have you had. For a moment. Cause I mean, you're very capable of many things off of the baseball field. Have you ever just been like, what am I doing this for? Why I can do other things? Yeah. I, you know, unfortunately I think that creeps into a lot of minor league guys. You get late in the season, your body, sir, and you miss your family and Mr.

Love ones. And uh, you're always like, is this really what I want to do? And then, you know, you kind of get into the game and it's. I couldn't do anything else. And, uh, you know, uh, no, that's kind of how it is, you know, you see people that are making some money and live in their lives and it's like, oh, that sounds nice sometimes.

But you know, this is kinda what we do. And, you know, I always think, you know, I always joke around with people and say, Uh, ruined. I know does exactly what I do. So, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's funny that we all go through those battles sometimes. Have you ever set a deadline for yourself? If I don't make the big leagues, which I imagine is the ultimate goal.

If I don't make the big leagues by this date, I'm calling it. Ah, I've never really said it. They, um, you know, obviously I would like to get there as soon as possible. Um, but no, I I'm just going to keep, uh, keep going as long as I can. Um, you know, obviously there's going to be a time where, you know, it doesn't seem like a realistic possibility.

I would have to seriously consider it, but, uh, you know, at this moment I'd like to give it my best shot and never, never think about it later in the road saying I didn't give it my best. What is the support of your, of your parents and your friends and your girlfriend? Megan, we'll deal with her, uh, in a couple of minutes.

What is all that. Uh, it's been amazing. Uh, now my parents they've, uh, they've been there since day one. They've kind of given me all the opportunities I have and I owe them the world. And, uh, you know, they're, they're my biggest fans. They come, come as much as they can, even when I'm in remote places of a country, they, uh, you know, they'll stay up till 2:00 AM.

If I'm playing on the west coast, watching or listening to every game and then go to work the next morning, uh, you know, My brother's always doing the same, you know, if I need a call and at one in the morning, he'll pick up and then he'll go to work at seven in the morning. So, um, and then obviously Meg's been amazing.

She's out there as much as she can be with her busy schedule. And, uh, you know, she's, uh, she was actually here this year when I got moved up and she is a big help to, you know, it was a nice support cause. And I was going through one, when it getting told you're going somewhere in a different part of the country pack, all your stuff you're leaving in a couple hours is kind of a big news.

So it's nice to have people around like that to help me out. Speaking of that, that is something that I wanted to ask you with regard to that or with when you got traded from the white sock to the Dodgers organization. Whenever I think of professional athletes, especially early on, I tried to equate it to.

Our own careers, whether it's Megan studying law or me in the media, like there's no other business besides sports where your boss is going to call you into his or her office, or call you on the phone and say, Hey, uh, pack up your bags. Another company wants you. And you have absolutely no say in this, you're going, when you got traded from the white Sox to the Dodgers, Eddie, what was that like?

And B what were you thinking when that. Yeah. So I have to tell you, I was with my grandparents out in Cape Cod. I was just visiting them. And, uh, you know, I, I have a missed call from our farm director. I'm thinking what our farm director want. That's kind of scary, you know, I knew I didn't have a great season that year.

So I was like, oh no, is this, is this a bad call? And, uh, you know, he kind of broke it right away, said, uh, you know, just want to let you know, you've been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and. I think at that point I went into shock. I was like, oh, I didn't know this was how this worked. And, uh, you know, in a matter of minutes, he's like, I'm going to hang up with you here.

Soon. Someone from the Dodgers is going to reach out. And, uh, you know, in like five minutes, someone from the Dodgers had called me and saying welcome to the Dodgers. Um, but you know, I had absolutely no idea where this was as partial partway into the off season. And I wasn't really thinking about baseball at this point.

Um, you know, and it was all a whirlwind and a matter of a couple of minutes there. So, uh, it is pretty crazy, um, how fast that goes. And, you know, there's people that get traded after games to teams and become into a locker room and he starts telling us, you know, I've been traded guys and you gotta say goodbye.

So, uh, it definitely goes fast. That is so wild. Okay. So in 2018, when you got traded from the white tux to the Dodgers, now, the Dodgers are one of them. Most storied franchises in baseball, they are one of the best teams in baseball have been. One of the best teams won a world series last year, several multiple, uh, world series appearances in the last few years, all stars and money, like everywhere on that roster.

So when you got traded to the Dodgers as a minor leaguer, is it like I'm pumped to be joining this organization because of. Of everything that comes with it, but they're so good up top that it's going to be that much harder for me to get to that team. Yeah. That definitely runs through your mind, but I definitely have to say the Dodgers are known and for developing players.

Um, so meaning they work with you extensively and very analytic, uh, you know, Advanced ways. Um, and so everyone, you know, everyone in the minor leagues kind of knows that. So getting traded to the Dodgers was super exciting for me. Um, and I feel like I've had the opportunity to grow, uh, and you know, defensively, offensively, mentally.

And, um, I feel like I've been helped tremendously in my development by being with the Dodgers. Um, so I have to say, I have to give them a lot of credit and then. Immensely better baseball player. So you were in high school, you were shortstop, which is the position usually reserved for the most athletic player on the field or the best player on the field, generally shortstop center field that then you move to third base, right?

Yup. And then college, third base in college. Right. And then. In the pro in the minor leagues, you then at some point transition to first base, right? Yeah. I, I split the first year between third base and first base and then pretty much should have been at first base since, um, this year was pretty funny. I actually got a couple opportunities out in left field, which was pretty cool.

Um, but yeah, it's predominantly been first base for the last few years. So why did you move to first, uh, uh, you know, that's a. You know, I don't get to control everything, but, uh, you know, there are immensely talented, two guys out there who, you know, probably a little bit more fitting for third base, but obviously I want to do my best to be able to play wherever I can that, uh, you know, it gives us opportunities and, uh, we're going to just going to keep working at be the best defender I can be.

Now, I can't think of a person who has any less of an ego than you did that hurt at all, um, for you to kind of come to grips with, I'm not as good at, as these five people at this, at this position. And like, I have to move because of it. Yeah. I, uh, obviously it's not something I'm thrilled about, but you know, I, I, like, I just gotta do my best to do the best first baseman I can be.

And, you know, I, obviously, I, we do a lot of work at, you know, first base, you know, and, and field I'll take balls at shortstop and second base and third place. And, you know, last year our coach was like, you gotta be able to write it, play all the positions. So I was like, that's pretty cool. And, uh, you know, we just keep working.

So another thing that I'm curious about, again, trying to be equated to the rest of us, not playing professional sports, if you're, when you're early on in your career, I can think of no, just to relate it to myself. I, when I worked at ESPN. I was amongst a group of several part-timers who were all vying for like one full time position.

And so we were all friends. We were all buddy buddy, but there was like a bit of competition there for us. You know, we were close, but at least maybe I looked at that way. It's my competitive spirit. Like we're close, but we're still kind of competitors competing for the same thing in the minor leagues.

There are so many minor league baseball players and so few roster. At the major league level. So I'm wondering what the workplace dynamic is like for you and your teammates who are trying to win games, who are trying to impress the big leagues and impress the Scouts and put up good numbers and all that stuff.

Like what is the dynamic like working for, working with other people who want the same thing as you? Yeah, I it's, it's a pretty. You know, it's funny, everyone's different, but for the most part, everyone I've come across and minor league baseball has been pretty amazing in that everyone's rooting for each other.

Um, no, that was, uh, that was one thing I realized when I got traded, you know, you kind of look at the guys ahead and you're like, oh, I have to do better than these. And, uh, you know, once I got traded, I realized, you know, it doesn't, you know, it's not the people ahead of me that matter. It's making myself the best baseball player I can be.

And, uh, you know, you gotta be the one to push yourself to the major leagues. It's not, uh, it's not anyone else. So I think everyone kind of starts to learn that mentality as you progress from the rookie balls. Um, you know, that you don't have to look at everyone else's stats. It's, uh, you know, it's a matter of what you do yourself and, uh, that's going to be how you.

Really. So if someone that you're right alongside, you know, in the dugout every day gets called up before you, you just feel genuine happiness for that person. And don't see it as a slight to you at all. Yeah. You obviously are a little disappointed. Do obviously want that call to be you. But you know, at the same time, you know, these guys in the front office are there because they know what they're doing.

And, uh, you know, the decisions they make are, you know, usually the right ones. Obviously you want it to be you, but you know, there's so many good guys out there. And so many that work hard for what this opportunity, um, you know, you gotta feel pretty excited for them, um, to get the opportunities when. Well, I mean, that's what, any pressure on you, but if you keep raking at the plate like you are right now, I mean, that opportunity could arise for you.

I mean, you are putting. You had a ridiculous 20, 21 split between two teams. You ended the season played 30 games, I think for the Tulsa drillers, which is the AA affiliate of the Dodgers. For those of you who don't know, goes AA, AAA, then the major leagues, and then you're, you're on the Dodgers roster. And so you had a huge season, half the season for the AA team and you just have a resume.

You had a kind of a down year in 2018, there was no baseball at the minor league level in 2020. But other than that, like you've been raking and you've been putting up really good numbers. Now, your first basement, the stereotype about first basement is you got to hit home runs and driving a lot of runs.

That's not really your game. You're a high average hater get on base score runs, which is not the stereotypical first basin, but it's a great way to play baseball. A small ball always wins. There'll always be a place for that. So you're raking super pumped about this. What do you attribute all of this success of the place?

Uh, well, thank you. First of all. And, uh, I don't really know. I've always been, uh, I've always had really supportive, great baseball people around me, even since the time I was little, whether it was my dad or coach Dempsey or moving up. Sweet and south Troy and in Shan baseball, Christa, do you know? Um, I've always had people there and, you know, I have to say when I got moved to the Dodgers, I, uh, you know, the hitting coaches, there were just so advanced in there.

They're saying stuff about the bio mechanics. That's going so far over my head that I'm like, whoa, slow down, explain this in real terms. And, uh, you know, I have to say. You know, numerous, numerous amazing hitting coaches, uh, in professional baseball that have kind of been able to make me learn so much about my swing, this swing and my swing, um, that I think I've just been able to keep growing, um, as a header.

And hopefully that can continue, um, to the best I can. The reason that I stopped playing baseball, uh, so long ago, it was not that I didn't like playing it anymore. It was that I struggle with failure and baseball is a sport where failing 70% of the time is considered elite. I couldn't get past that. I couldn't deal with that.

How do you deal with that? Well, first of all, you were a great pitcher and you were getting 70% of people out, but yeah, that's obviously a tough part of baseball. Um, you know, you got to make sure that. Th you don't let it get to you. Um, you know, you, everyone around you is going through the same thing. Um, you just got to go up and do your best.

You want to go up half quality at bats. You know, you're not going to get ahead every time, but you want to make card contexts. You want to have good bats. You want to have quality at bats, you know, work pitches where counts kind of stuff. And, you know, even if you're only getting a few hits every time, you know, if you know you're doing those things, then you feel a lot better about your.

And there's going to be times you go through a lot worse than a three for 1,000. It's going to be the good times. So it's all about riding, not too high, not too low. Has there ever been a point? This is something that, uh, I've talked about on the podcast several times imposter syndrome, where young people, especially are in art, in a boardroom or in a meeting or talking to some person are given some tasks where they're like.

This is, I'm not qualified for this. I feel out of place. I feel like I don't belong here at any time in your pro baseball career, especially in the Dodgers organization, a world-class organization, have you ever just felt like I don't belong here? What am I doing here? I'm just kid from Clifton park, New York who didn't grow up in the Dominican Republic, living and breathing baseball.

Like I'm sure some of your teammates. Yeah. I've actually felt that a few different times in my career. I remember the first day I got to wake forest and I felt overwhelmed. You know, these guys are bigger, faster, stronger than me. They hit the ball harder than me. They throw harder to me and I was like, whoa, what am I doing here?

And, uh, you know, you just kind of get better by playing with them and, uh, you know, You kind of learn, okay. After time you learn, I realize you do fit in. But, uh, and then another time was the first day I got to pro ball. They flew us down to Arizona and, uh, you know, first day on the field, I'm hitting with three guys who are in 450 foot homers every time.

And I'm like, what am I doing here? These kids are so much better than. And, uh, you know, then they were on my team and you kind of keep going and you're like, all right, I can play with these guys. So there's definitely an adjustment. Every, every level you go up, there's an adjustment. It's kind of like, all right, this is a higher level.

Do I belong here? And you know, you kind of play some games and you're like, I definitely can play at this level. And, uh, you know, that's what kind of helps once you get that confidence. What do you think that you need to do? Or what else do you think you need to prove? Uh, in order to get a shot at the doctor?

Uh, you know what, I don't really know. I just know I gotta keep hitting, you know, play good defense, um, you know, just kind of go out and do the best version of me that I can be. Um, you know, hopefully I can add a little bit strength this off season, maybe hit a couple more homers and, you know, hopefully I'll be able to keep that same swing that I was in that, and that group that I was in last year and, you know, just continue off the 2021.

Is that stressful living in so much uncertainty all the time. Like, you don't know when exactly you're going to report to camp. You don't know what, what team are going to be with what city you're going to be in. Like, what is that like? Yeah. It's a stressful, uh, you, you're just kind of living on edge all the time.

You know, there's always like trade deadlines and then there's a winter meetings and then there's always stuff and it's like, am I going to get traded? And then you're like, okay, now I'm not going to get traded. What am I showing up the spring? And you're in the middle of spring training. It's like, where am I going?

And then you're playing in a season you might be doing well or doing poorly. And you're like, am I going to be moving somewhere soon? So, uh, yeah, there's a lot of stress. And I think I put a lot of that on my family members and Megan, they deal with a lot of my stress when you're in. Uh, I mean, you spend a lot of time in Arizona.

You were in Montana, you were in the earlier parts, one in 21 in Midland, Michigan. Tulsa Oklahoma. You've been all around the country of all the places you've been. What is the most remote or the worst part of the country that you've been that you're like, I can't believe I'm playing a baseball game here right now.

You know, I asked to say, I am a, I'm kind of an outdoorsy person. I know that. Um, I have played in Missoula, Montana, which is. It is my, one of my favorite places I've ever been, but it is remote. Uh, you know, the university of Montana is there, but we were always playing in the summer. So half the town isn't there.

Um, so I, it's an amazing town, amazing outdoor it's most, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, but it's out there. It's definitely remote. And, you know, I've played, I've played all over the country and there's different places. And you know, there's definitely a story for each of the places I've played at, but I'll save you from that.

Uh, no, I would love to hear a story. What is, what is this story? Like a moment where I can't believe that this is where my life is going right now. Uh, let's see. So we were in a. I want to say it's Greenville, South Carolina. And, uh, you know, we drive to the game from our field, you know, spend the day at the field, drive back, drive back to the hotel, me and my roommate, try and go out and get food after the game.

You know, we finished games at 10 o'clock. By the time you get back to the hotel, it's probably 11, 11 30. Every restaurants closed. Couldn't find a place to, so then we walked back to the hotel, we're staying at a days Inn. And when we get in. And our beds are touching, you know, it's just like a really rundown motel and, uh, you know, like holding hands as we're sleeping and it's like, wow, we are in the minor leagues.

So yeah. But you know, hopefully, uh, you know, as you move up, the hotels go a little bit nicer, so hopefully we can keep doing. We've referenced it a few times. I mean, I know for, I know for a lot of people, it's a taboo subject kind of like talking about money. I personally don't care. Uh, you know, I like talking, I like talking about kind of as a young person, personal finance and how to, how to manage your money in a smart way.

So, I mean, I know you got signing bonuses when you got drafted and that can carry you for a while, but on a week to week basis, You're making a couple hundred dollars a week for how long? I mean, like, I don't know how much you're making at this exact moment, but for a while there just a couple of hundred dollars stipend a week, essentially, right?

Yeah. So actually, um, you know, this year 2021, uh, minor league raise salary, um, and. Yeah, I make around, I take home around 450 $500 a week. Uh, and that's, you know, because I've moved up some levels, you know, at the lower levels, it's even less and that's with the salary increase. Um, so yeah, it's definitely not, uh, if you're looking to make money, I don't recommend minor league baseball, but, but we get by, um, you know, You gotta be smart with your money, save your meal money, you know, you stingy with where you go out to eat.

Yeah. How much of your expenses are covered by the team versus how much are on you? That's that's the one thing that's really nice. Um, you know, they'd take care of a lot of our food coverage. Um, you know, with the Dodgers, we're lucky we have the chefs and I cook us lunch and dinner every day. And, uh, you know, we'll get meal money on the road, even though we have the chefs.

So that's kind of part of our sales. Um, okay. And then, uh, you know, obviously when there's host families that makes life a lot easier. Um, it saves you a lot of money. Um, but when you're looking for apartments and everything that's, that was on you next year in 2022 will be the first season that minor league will be covering your teams.

We'll cover your housing stipend. Um, so that was the big news this off season, but, um, for the most part, our expenses stay low in the season. So we do get to take home a lot of that. I want to talk about your 20, 20 forbid, obviously a challenging time for all of us, but especially was for minor league baseball.

Um, I forget exactly what all the numbers were, but a significant number of teams were cut from minor league baseball entirely, which drastically reduces the player pool. When you first heard the rumors that that might be a thing that was probably going to happen as a result of, you know, maybe it was a long time coming.

Like COVID just kinda like change a lot of things that were a long time coming. So maybe it was a long time coming. You know, ultimately like the bottom was falling out of baseball and they needed to, to cut the teams at the bottom to try to save some money and expenses. So when all of that was happening, were you concerned that like I might be, I might be at the end of the road here.

Yeah. You definitely always have those thoughts that creep in when you hear rosters are, uh, getting cut. But, you know, I, I wasn't sure. And I was lucky. Um, you know, it seems to be a reoccurring theme. The Dodgers actually didn't cut very many guys, um, despite having to cut the rookie ball teams. Um, so I felt lucky to be with them.

Um, And then a lot of teams weren't able to pay their guy is during COVID and we got a much smaller stipend than what we normally make, but we were actually getting a little bit of change. So, um, I felt really fortunate during COVID to be able to have that since I wasn't really going out and working and, uh, you know, able to bring home money.

Now also in 2020, you had no baseball season and you had a lot of time on your hands and you decided to go back to school and finish out the degree that you left behind when you got drafted. Why did you decide to do this? Well, I guess COVID made it, uh, COVID made it a lot easier actually by having all the remote classes, um, for me, uh, you know, I was taking one, maybe two classes each year, um, you know, for the first few years to try and get a little bit closer, but once everything went online, I had all that time.

Um, I was like, this is something I want to take care of right now and get, uh, you know, get out of the way. And you know, I look at my diploma sometimes. I'm like, yeah, it took me seven, eight years, but, uh, I got it now. So, uh, so it was pretty exciting. Um, yeah, it was, it was good to get that, uh, taking care of.

And I don't have that hanging over my head. I want to bring in your girlfriend now, I think she's right alongside too. You guys are, uh, at, in an apartment in Albany, which is where you are spending some of the off season. So incredible backstory here, uh, as Megan gets set up. So you guys started dating in high school at Shen you go off to wake forest.

Hi, Megan, you go off to wake for. She goes off to school in Connecticut. Shout out to Hartford, then you go to Binghamton. So now you guys a little closer toward the end of her college life, she goes off to New Zealand. Right. And New Zealand for a couple months, then you get drafted. You go out to Montana, you go to all these crazy places.

You're going back and forth across the country. Megan moves to New York city, and then she's in Boston, back in Albany. And now you guys are living together in Albany. You guys have been together through all of this, and it is absolute insanity. And anytime that I'm talking behind your guys' backs, it is, I can't believe Megan and Justin are still together.

So to what do you guys attribute? This, uh, ability to stay together, despite all of this, because so many other people would have plugged in much, much earlier on, well, it's funny you say that because we always say that as well. We say we don't know how we're still together. Uh, you know, uh, I have to say that junior year was tough when she was abroad and then she came back and I'm in Montana.

Uh, so then she spent her last time that she had, and, uh, flew out to see, um, I don't know, she's been amazing through the whole, uh, minor league baseball thing. Uh, it's not an easy lifestyle for me, but it's actually not for spouses or girlfriends. Um, so I put her through a lot, if she would like to comment.

Yeah, I dunno. It's an excuse to see weird parts of the country. And a lot of the time I'm very small airplanes going to very smaller airports. So it's been fun. But yeah, the, the airport in Michigan, where I was at this year had three gates, three gates, and only flew to Detroit, which we were only a two hour drive from.

So, uh, Meg's been to some remote parts of the country. How do you find the time to do this, Megan? Because I know you are very, like, you are more than just a baseball girlfriend here. You are very much. Uh, doing your own thing, studying in school, like working like a dog, also not making much money. I presume as you're chasing a dream.

How do you find the time to do all this? Uh, yeah, with coven and remote school, it made it a little bit easier. I could go out and just do class while he was, um, playing baseball. So that helped a little bit. But other than that, Vacation days and short weekend trips. And you know, I'm doing what I can to actually see him in person.

But we talk on the phone a lot. Yeah. A lot of phone calls and face times late hours later, early hours. Yeah. How many times Megan, over the past few years has Justin called you frantically and been like, my life is, uh, has taken a turn for the worse here. I'm going to bet. Actually less than you would think.

I feel like most of the panics come and we're in person. Um, yeah, it hasn't actually been that bad about it. I feel like he's pretty calm about baseball, shockingly. Cause if you know him, he's that calm about everything else, but, um, yeah, I can't think of any. I mean, the tray, me being there when he got moved up was definitely, uh, a panic moment cause I had to buy it, but we were trying to see if I go back to Oklahoma with him and then I cut in and where I was going to go since I no longer had a person to see a car or a place to, she had just gotten there that day.

She was supposed to stay a week. And uh, you know, I came out after the first day. She's there after the first day of. I think you're going to kill me, but then I'm going, I'm going to Oklahoma. So, you know, we were working out getting their flights, which working on my flights and packing up all my stuff and.

No, it was definitely some mayhem. And I had a little bit of guilt to say the least out though. I flew to my parents' house and got to celebrate my little sister's 21st birthday. So I love that. I love that. Now, how emotionally invested are you Megan? In Justin's baseball games? Like when he does something good.

Are you standing up and clapping or even watching? Like, let's be honest. Cause I don't know how you watch a AA baseball game. Um, yeah, so it's a big joke because I think I'm less invested than the average girlfriend. Um, I definitely, you can watch his box score on like your phone or something. And if I'm sitting around doing homework and I see he's of coming up to battle, like turn it on my computer for, you know, the three minutes he's there.

Um, cause he plays six days a week, so I don't have, you know, three hours, six days a week to dedicate to watching him play. But I'm there. It's a lot of fun and he doesn't like when I chaired side down, but don't let her fool you. She's a very supportive of it. Uh, not my favorites. I know through a lot of baseball games.

I remember when you went out to Montana for the first time, Megan, when Justin was playing in there and you're like, It was so random where I was, it was so cold and not fun at all. I can't believe he's doing this. Yeah. So I had just gotten back from Australia. I actually had no money. I worked for like three weeks before I could buy my plane ticket Montana.

Um, and it was not cold. It was 104 degrees. So I was not feeling great about that. His whole family was there and ended up being a lot of fun. We got to go to glacier national park, which is amazing. So we make a trip out of it when we can. So stereotype about a lot of girlfriends or wives. Professional athletes is that, you know, they're, uh, you know, they're gold diggers.

They're like they do nothing with their lives and they just ride the coattails of their man. That's making a bunch of money, uh, playing pro. The Dodgers in Los Angeles. I imagine there's probably not to stereotype, but I'm going to, I imagine there's probably a lot of wives and girlfriends of Dodgers players that are like nothing like you at all, Megan, that like, you could not be farther from them.

And I mean that in a good way, like, it is good that you are not like that. It just never makes it to the majors. And you're there in the stands in Los Angeles. And you have to sit with the other women associated with the team. Like, do you think you'll fit in? I've met a lot of girlfriends in my trips. We usually all set together already with some of the host families and stuff.

And, um, I wouldn't say we have a ton in common, but I've met a lot of really nice girls and they're fun to sit in the game with and a lot better than going by myself. So. Um, I think it would be fine. I can talk to just about anyone for three hours. Oh, that is true. That is true. That is one of, uh, one of your finest skills.

Uh, I'll get you out of, I'll get you guys out of here on this, Justin. Uh, one thing that I forgot to ask you that I'm curious about John. Uh, it's from our area, like Rooney is one of my favorite people on this planet. I spent a lot of summers with him at basketball camps. Couldn't like, couldn't be a nicer kid from Hoosick valley, New York, which is, God knows where and in upstate New York, and now he's on your team, like you were in the same organization.

I believe he might've been drafted by the Dodgers, whereas you were traded there and then you guys are on the same team and Tulsa, what is that? Yeah, that was, uh, you know, it's funny because, you know, in 2020, a lot of the local guys were working out together and, you know, John and I were both with Dodgers who said, well, we haven't played together yet, but that'd be a lot of fun to get to do that.

And, uh, you know, this year, once I got moved up to AA and he was there and, uh, you know, it's just such a great, goofy, funny, nice guy to be around that. You know, it's just so much fun getting to play with them. And, uh, unfortunately he was hurt for a lot of the 20, 21 season. Um, so hopefully comes back healthy next year and, um, you know, cause it's so much fun getting to play with him.

He's a, he's a goofball and then stops on the mound and such a fierce competitor. So, uh, you know, it's, uh, uh, I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to play. Yeah. I mean, talk about an athlete and then Brian wards, Zach was also in the organization, right? Where, where where's he at? So all three of us actually were in Tulsa, um, for a little bit.

And you and Brian were teammates at Shen that's crazy. Oh yeah. And, um, you know, unfortunately Brian's not with the Dodgers right now, hoping to get picked up by someone, which I'm sure he will. Um, you know, and you know, hopefully it works out for the best. Yeah, all three of us, you know, the three guys from the air, three guys from the area all, and not only in the same organization, but we're all on the same team.

So that was, that was pretty unique. The Clifton park to a LA pipeline. That's wild. Yeah. So, all right, Megan, now we'll get you out. If you're on this quick life update, you're in Albany. What's going on? You were in Boston now at night or Albany. What is that? Yeah. So I'm in law school at Northeastern, which does the co-op program for law school too.

So we do like our first year as normal law school year. And then after that, every other semester is school or interning. So at school, over the summer, I'm interning with a judge right now, which has been really cool. Got him to see a lot of crazy stuff. Um, so then I'll go back to Boston to do class again in June.

All over the place so much school. I don't know how you'd do it. I mean, it's like my two best friends in the world. Ben and Shannon, who, you know, will have just like a decade of school left between the two of them. And I have no idea how they're doing. And so all the respect in the world to you for doing that.

Yeah. They have a lot more than Maine. Yeah. Crazy. Well, Justin, your check, Megan Gray. Thank you so much for joining me, Megan. Best of luck with everything that you're doing. I'll see you soon, Justin, best of luck with everything that you're doing. I hope you guys have had a great Thanksgiving that you're going to have a great Christmas.

Hopefully we can all see each other. I don't know where you guys are at, but I'll be home for, for a minute. We'll have to get together. Good luck with everything and rooting for you. You've got a whole, whole crew people rooting for ya. Biggest Tulsa drillers fan out here. Best of luck. Thank you for joining me.

And we'll talk soon, soon.