Life in the Minors
Brendan Sagara

No, I can’t hear you
now -- or ever

Moving to the mainland for baseball each summer has made it apparent that I have to take the good with the bad.

The obvious good is I get paid to put on a baseball uniform and partake in professional baseball. With no minor league teams currently taking up residence in Hawaii, the bad is spending time away from friends and family, allowing me only eight months to watch my nephews, Davan and Keon, grow up.

I concede getting to spend a third of the year living abroad has also been refreshing, allowing me to experience snapshots of life in different parts of the country.

For four months a year, I get to put a twist on my diet a bit, as chicken katsu, hamburger steak and anything that might appear on a Zippy's menu are very hard to come by.

The different climates of the various cities that host minor league ball also allow me to use some jackets and pants that I don't get out of the closet very often back home. So far this season, I have yet to go a day without wearing jeans, shoes and a jacket to the ballpark.

I think I might have worn long pants, shoes and a jacket simultaneously four times during the entire offseason. Maybe even just three times.

In my almost four weeks of life here in Northern Indiana this summer, I have encountered another drawback -- a hurdle much harder to conquer. A roadblock, not a speed bump.

Here in my suite at the Lee's Inn in Merrillville, I get no reception on my cell phone.

Well actually, there is a small corner of my bedroom in the back of my place that does get some sort of reception. If I jam myself into the 2 feet of space between my dresser drawer and the air-conditioning unit, and don't make any sudden movements, I can actually sneak in a word or two here and there.

Call it impatience, call it claustrophobia, but either way, I ain't about to stand in that little corner to talk on the phone all night long. Using my trusty bluetooth earpiece, I can expand my talk zone a little bit, which allows me to communicate somewhere between my bathroom and my sink, before a dropped call occurs.

Sometimes it lasts a minute, sometimes 10, but talking on borrowed time has been all too frustrating.

So needless to say, there has been a lack of communication between myself and the homeland thus far. At first, I tried each night to get a few minutes of calls in. But after an endless string of "can you hear me nows," I have just about given up.

When I call my folks, my dad never talks for long. He isn't about to deal with the poor reception. So like a good father, he hands the phone back to my mom and asks her for the highlights later. She is the patient one.

For the past three weeks, I have been racking my brain trying to find a solution. Holding the phone against the window, trying not to move a muscle as I make a call.

I even tried to talk while touching the metal base of my lamp, hoping somehow that it would help. It didn't.

Stepping out into the hotel's parking lot gives me great reception, but my survival instincts prevent me from standing out there in the 40-degree nights of the area to reach out and touch someone.

In the meantime, I have been trading a lot of voice mails with a lot of people. Considering the 5-hour time difference between Gary and Hawaii, calling people at home in my hours spent before the ballgame hasn't been much of an option, either.

The only people I have been able to communicate with somewhat regularly have been my pals Darryl Arata and Derick Kato. Darryl is back home on vacation from his job with the NBA's Sacramento Kings, so he's always willing to chat mid-day. Derick, a coach with the UH women's soccer team, is in his offseason as well, so he is usually able to pick up his phone.

But again, other than that, a lot of voice mails.

So Ryan, Rick, Mom: keep calling. I'll figure it out pretty soon.

Thinking back to much simpler times during and shortly after my college days, when my pint-sized budget did not allow me to have such conveniences as a cell phone, I take great amusement in how dependent I have become on my cell. As if the lack of consistent cell-phone usage makes me feel incomplete.

Soon we'll be on road trips, and hopefully, I'll figure out a way to get the job done here in Merrillville. Until then, there's the Internet, e-mail and cable TV.

The necessities.

A taste of early success on the field has helped ease the pain of being shut off from home a little bit. At 4-3 through our first week of play, we are certainly finding ourselves to be downright competitive. With our pitching staff allowing just seven runs in 36 innings during our series win over the Edmonton Cracker-Kats, this pitching coach is cautiously optimistic about the next few games of our season.

Seven games done and we're a game out of first. With 89 games remaining, we still have a chance.

Now if I could only tell everyone back home.

"Can you hear me now?"

Brendan Sagara, a former University of Hawaii-Hilo pitcher, is in his first season as pitching coach for the Gary Southshore Railcats.

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