'Time In The Minors' A Big-League Effort

'Time In The Minors' A Big-League Effort

John Drennen is one of two players featured in a poignant documentary, "Time In The Minors". Baseball fans will love this film. It chronicles the career of two ballplayers, each with a dream shared by thousands of young men -- the hope of playing Major League Baseball. Tony Schrager chased the dream for nine frustrating years in the minors. Drennen's hopes remain alive in the Tribe farm system.

The film, available on DVD, is particularly interesting to fans who have watched Drennen play for Indians affiliates in North Carolina (Burlington and Kinston) and Ohio (Lake County and Akron). The documentary is much more than seeing Drennen hit, field or throw, however.

It is about the daily grind, and the uncertain yearly rollercoaster ride of any minor-leaguer. Introspective interviews with Drennen, Schrager and their families provide exceptional background. Additional interviews with a scout, sports psychologist, coaches, managers and baseball executives complete a very thorough picture of the trials and tribulations of a pro ballplayer who doesn't get the money, fan adulation and fame enjoyed by household-name superstars.

The filming and editing are absolutely top notch. Most of the action takes place in 2005, when Schrager's once-promising career goes south -- and in 2006, when Drennen hits a memorable home run off legendary Roger Clemens, bats .321 at Class A Lake County, and gets promoted to Kinston.

The story is not a particularly happy one for either player. Both have their moments, but their failures are graphically pointed out -- such as the time Drennen gets fined for a bonehead play in the outfield. His manager at the time, Lee May Jr., explains that "This is going to hurt me as much as it hurts you."

For Indians fans, it is enjoyable to occasionally catch a glimpse of other ballplayers they have become familiar with such as Chris Gimenez, Ben Francisco as well as many who have played in Cleveland's farm system. There's plenty of great photos, some by Indians Ink photographer Ken Carr, as well as great video excerpts.

John Farrell, recently named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks about the minor-league experience and about Drennen's ability. The interview was done when Farrell was the Indians' farm director.

There's plenty of action from the Indians' old spring training home in Winter Haven, Fla. You also see Drennen playing home games in Burlington, Lake County and Kinston, as well as in road games.

Schrager is likely unknown to Indians fans, but his story is interesting to even non-baseball fans. A handsome high-school star from America's breadbasket in Nebraska, he's not only athletic but bright enough to attend Yale University on a baseball scholarship. He transfers to another academically advanced university, but one with more emphasis on sports -- Stanford.

Drafted in the sixth round by the Chicago Cubs, he has some good years in their system (16 homers, .270 at Class A Lansing; 14 homers, .314 at Daytona Beach), but gets traded to the Boston Red Sox system after a miserable 2004 at Double-A West Tennessee (.229).

Schrager works his way up to Triple-A Pawtucket, but is traded to the Dodgers' system, where he is told he will be sent back to the minors, but could be called to Los Angeles shortly. Sure enough, the Dodgers have injuries and need help -- but Schrager is in the midst of his worst season ever with a .165 batting average at the time. He gets bypassed -- and traded back to the Boston organization.

A year later, he's a man without a ballclub. He signs with an independent league team, trying to keep his dream alive at age 29. The Florida Marlins take note and buy his contract, putting him back at Triple-A. He's once again only one step from achieving his big-league goal.

But it doesn't happen.

How tough is it to make the majors? Schrager was a sixth-round draft pick in 1998. Only six of the 30 men selected in that round made it, few for more than a handful of games, though Bill Hall has had some good years in both the American and National leagues.

Drennen is still chasing that goal. He's had his ups and downs through six years in the Indians' system. Once regarded as a top prospect as a first-round draft choice out of high school, he's had his moments, but not enough of them to get even one at-bat yet at the Triple-A level.

Drennen is only 24 years old and still has a chance to make it to not only Triple-A Columbus, but Cleveland.

Time In The Minors gives an honest account of why he is still living the dream. There's little money, long bus rides, and a lot of hard work involved. Professor of sports psychology Dr. Kenneth Ravizza points out, however, that the umpire at the start of every game gets to the truth of why guys go through it all. "He yells out PLAY ball," Dr. Ravissa says.

With the emphasis on "play".

For information on Time In The Minors, go to www.ohshowproductions.com

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