Written by Nicole Johnson, Wife to Elliot Johnson
We were all there once, traveling to see our boyfriend play baseball in some unknown city while we had our own crazy lives back home. Finishing up school to get on a plane that very night and go stay with him and watch him play ball for a few days, a week, or even a month (if we had that kind of time). Taking time off our jobs or careers, being supportive and expecting nothing in return.
When I got married, I met some girlfriends that had been with their boyfriends for longer than I'd even known the man I married.
I want to introduce you to some of the girlfriends of baseball. The MiLB Girlfriends.
Recently, a couple minor league girlfriends started a blog. I found out about them through some friends on facebook (as many of you found out about me), and looked into it more. What a great concept! There is a lot more help in the major leagues than there is in the minor leagues for significant others. Often times, you show up in a new city, don't know your way around, and your man has no idea either, and has to get to the field, leaving you to figure it all out on your own.
Not any more.
These girls are working on putting together a Yelp! idea for minor league girlfriends, fiancees, and wives. They are working on getting information on where to live where you play, where to go to Church, where to get a haircut, and some child care in the area too.
I interviewed one of the girls for my blog, and I want to share some of our conversation with you.
Nicole: You recently told me you started your blog because you had a friend that just got into the baseball life, and you had forgotten about all the questions you have when you first get into the game. What was your first year like?
M: Honestly? I spent our first season crying myself to sleep more often than not. They weren't all baseball-related tears, but the majority of them were. It was SUCH a foreign lifestyle for me, and to be so in love with a man who didn't even have the time or energy to really "be there" whenever I needed him? That takes some serious getting used to. And you can't even blame them for it .... This is something most guys dream about since they were three. I'd want someone unconditionally supporting ME, too, if I had a chance to make my biggest dream a reality! So OF COURSE they're going to be focused and selfish and one-track-minded! Before I met my boyfriend, I was under the impression that all baseball was good for were pin-striped butts. And to be thrown into that world without any warning or manual was the perfect recipe for daily anxiety attacks. I didn't know if I was handling things right, acting like a baseball girlfriend was 'supposed' to be acting, and mostly, I didn't know what in the hell was going on with the organization and his assignments. I didn't understand how much work he had to put in, how many weird rules there were, what was expected of him, etc. The amount of traveling alone was mind-boggling. I quickly learned how uncertain everything is in the minor leagues. What an adjustment period.
N: Any funny memories of experiences you've had at the field?
M: Due to the organization's lack of "taking MY life into account," my boyfriend has always played thousands of miles away from me. Rude. Therefore, I only really have a few game-instances to even draw from. I'm not sure too many of them are "laugh out loud" funny, but I can remember going to visit my boyfriend in Arizona a month after he got drafted. He was playing Rookie ball, and I was so excited and proud!!! I spent longer than usual getting ready for my first game, and pull up to the stadium all ready to cheer my man on with hundreds of other fans ...... only to find that I was THE ONLY PERSON THERE besides the team/staff. Sweet. Awkward. Please don't watch me while I turn bright red and find a seat. It was like the guys had never seen a female before. I felt like I was getting hunted. If you've ever wanted to feel self-conscious, go do THAT, and enjoy yourself while 30+ men watch you while your sweat stains grow increasingly apparent thanks to 104+ degree temperature. My first sign that the minor's were not what I originally thought them to be. NOW, I know that no one goes to the Rookie ball games ..... I wish I would have known that sooner. Not that I wouldn't have gone, I just maybe would have slept in a little more than morning.
N: I saw your post about spring training, minor league spring training is definitely way different than major league spring training. I remember my first minor league game- I sat on bleachers in heels and almost got his by 5 balls and a flying bat! What was your first minor league spring training game like?
M: My first experience was anything but normal. My boyfriend's dad and a few friends were with me, and they are the *ahem* carefree, enthusiastic types...to put it lightly. I mean, my girlfriend was wearing rhinestoned EVERYTHING and heels at 11am.. If that gives you a visual. I'm pretty sure they were all way more excited about my man's inter-squad scrimmage than should legally be allowed, since after my guy hit a huge double, they started cheering and hollering like they were at a Beyonce concert. While my man had long-ago taught me the art of "Big Leaguing" during the games (acting like whatever play/hit he had was "routine" and should not be cheered for), apparently, he had missed passing the memo out to all appropriate parties. There is nothing worse for the guys than to be cheered on at a minor league Spring Training game. Biiiiig no-no. You sit quietly and try not to sweat through your clothes and/or get in the way. I felt so bad for him ... especially when his dad refused to stop. Hey, can't blame the guy for being excited ..... but needless to say, we all sat at least 20 feet away from him for the rest of the game. :)
N: Since your site is mostly geared towards girlfriends, let's touch on that a bit. Many people on the outside don't realize that often times, girlfriends in baseball are treated significantly different from wives. It is like that in the minor leagues, and it's like that in the major leagues. Not many girls stand out to be the voice of the girlfriends, so what made you want to put yourself out there and reach out to other girlfriends?
M: Life as a girlfriend is tough. You're going through all of this for a man who has not yet made an official, life-long commitment to you. That takes an exorbitant amount of trust, faith, and patience. And since EVERY FEMALE starts out her relationship with her ball player as a girlfriend, this is a demographic that really needs to be addressed. So many people don't give girlfriends the "respect" or "acknowledgement" that wives or even fiancees get. People see us as being temporary until there is a ring on our finger. They don't realize that we go through the exact same things as actual wives. We support, care for, and struggle with our men just the same.
N: You're creating a kind of "yelp" idea on your site, as well, to help women when they are placed in new cities. Can you tell me more about that, and how wives and girlfriends can help contribute?
M: After "meeting" other girlfriends and wives on Twitter and through blogging, I kept hearing over and over again how tough it was to get flung into random cities at the will of the organization. You never know where you're going,and unless you're in AAA, most people have never heard of the majority of the minor league cities. The women I met always talked about what an adjustment period there was, or how they were "so mad they had JUST discovered this day care" or "this hairdresser," or "this yoga studio," after they had already been living there for three months. I kept thinking about how frustrating it must be that these women have to keep "reinventing the wheel" every year. It's not like families haven't been there before. Women in this life often forget that couples have been going through this exact same thing for DECADES. We are not the first to do these things, and we most definitely will not be the last.
My underlying premise behind this website is WOMEN HELPING WOMEN. Why wouldn't I want to share any knowledge I had with other females who are going through the same thing? Why would I want someone to go through what I've already been through? The same applies here. I'm hoping that by this time next year, this site will have lists of restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, day cares, apartments, hotels, outlet malls, etc for the majority of minor league cities. But, the hard part is finding people who are willing to help contribute. In the next week or so, I'm going to add information/recommendations for a few cities that I've been to or lived in. Maybe that will help get the ball rolling.
But, what I am looking for are wives/girlfriends who have lived in or visited any city that has a minor league team. (ex. Dunedin, FL; Visalia, CA; Helena, MT) I'm hoping that those women will email me (email@example.com) and send a name of a business (hotel, rental company, manicurist), a suggestion for an activity (maybe they have an awesome zoo that you think other women would like), or even a warning (bring a heavy jacket, or "careful! it rains 7 days a week, here!"). Anything that you think another girlfriend would appreciate. All the email needs to say is something like: "Chattanooga, Tennessee: Great day care called 'Helping Hands'" ... That's it. It's that simple. I will do the research and get the contact information and provide links, etc. Right now, I'm in the process of finding some time to type out ALL of the minor league team names/city names and organize them by parent club so that they're easier to find. This is something that will be a constant work in progress, and I thank you ladies in advance for helping me out in any way you possibly can!
Make sure you stop over at the MiLB Girlfriend blog by going to http://minorleaguewomen.blogspot.com and please help them put together a resource for those in the minor leagues traveling to new cities this year and in the future!