Hollins' love of the game
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
On television, you see the glitz and glamour of players in the big leagues. The big stadiums, the cathedrals they play in. The big money contracts. The thousand of fans that show up to every single game, every single day.
But, before you get to “The Show,” players need to bide their time in the minors. There, players are taking the long bus rides from game to game. They are part of the promotions the team is trying to put on.
Every day could be a different color jersey, or a different theme. It’s an entirely different experience. But, one, that 1,000’s of baseball player go through each year to try and realize their dream of one day playing in the Major League’s.
“Our coolest promotion that every one likes it our mullet night,” stated Pensacola Blue Wahoos third baseman Bubba Hollins. “We were these mullet jersey’s. Some of the guys put on the wig for the game. The crowd gets into it. It makes the game more fun for the fans and for us, too.”
Bubba Hollins has been around baseball his entire life. His dad, Dave, played in the Major League and the game has been in blood since he was born. His career started at St. Bonaventure University, a small Catholic university in Olean, NY. There he played for the Bonnies before embarking on a his dream of playing baseball in the Big’s.
His career so far has taken him to the New York Penn League, to Pensacola; to even a one game stint for Triple-A Jacksonville. The minor league scene is a grind, but it’s a grind that Hollins has loved ever since he signed with Miami as an undrafted player.
“I remember getting the phone call, I was at home,” stated Hollins. “I was just sitting on the couch not really expecting anything and the Marlins wanted me to come down for a workout. I went down there, had a workout, and ended up signing. It was an awesome feeling.”
The grind of baseball just hits different. Players in the minors play more than 120 games a season. They play almost seven days a week, without many off days in between. To be a baseball player, you have to be mentally ready to go every single day.
There are slumps, and there are hot streaks. It’s how a player is able to handle all of that, that’s what the decision makers are looking for. The grind isn’t for everyone. Some players after a year or two in the minors just don’t want to do it anymore.
They don’t want to have to prove themselves at every single level of the organization ladder. That right there is the hidden truth about minor league baseball. Because you have a good rookie ball, or Single A season, it doesn’t mean you are on the fast track to The Show.
It means you have to go out there and prove yourself the next season, and the season after that. The proving yourself is the real grind of the minors.
“I think it gets hidden a little bit of what we do behind the scenes,” stated Hollins. “It’s definitely a grind. I’m sure the Major Leagues are a grind, too, but in the minor leagues you are at the ballpark around noon every day. You don’t leave the ballpark until around 10 p.m. You take BP, hit in the cages, take grounders in the infield. Get your workouts in, then you play the game. You do this every single day, with a couple of off days a month. It’s pretty taxing, but it’s worth it.”
It’s easy to give up. The game, or series, might have not gone the way you wanted it to. Bad days, and weeks easily happen in baseball. But, there is something about the game. The game brings out the kid in you.
Hollins loves the game. He loves to compete. Going out there between the white lines and performing at his best every single night is something that he loves to do. Being around his teammates, and forming that bond is something that he knows he wouldn’t be able to do at a regular 9 a.n. to 5 p.m. job.
“It’s still a lot of fun, being around all the guys,” stated Hollins. “Getting to play baseball everyday, it’s not really hard to complain about that.”
Everyone has different motivation for playing the game of baseball, and going through everything that a players goes through. The ultimate goal is to see your name, in this case, in a Miami Marlins jersey.
To say you are a big leaguer is the ultimate goal. But, just the love of the game is another big reason why Hollins does what he does. He loves the game, and somedays the game might not love him back.
But, he isn’t about to break up with the girlfriend for a new girlfriend. He still loves her, even though there are days she could get pretty mean.
“Definitely just the love of the game,” stated Hollins on why he still plays. “Baseball is still fun now, and it was when I was kid. I still have so much fun playing baseball.”
In the minors the carrot is right there. It’s dangling right in front of every player that puts on a jersey that day. That carrot is The Show. It’s what players dream about every time they step in the batters box. It’s the dream every time they cross those what lines.
Thinking about the carrot, however can be a dangerous, dangerous, game. This how players go in slumps. Maybe they are thinking to much about the end game, instead of focusing on what is right in front of them.
Hollins has goals. His goals this year could be getting the call up to play in Triple A, but he doesn’t think about what he needs to work on to make the next step. He is all about the here and now. He is just trying to be the best version of himself today.
If he plays the game the way he knows, then everything will fall into place.
“I try not to focus on that. I try to focus on the now,” stated Hollins. “I have to hit. To make it to the big leagues, all those guys we watch on T.V, they were probably the best hitters on their team. Whether it was Double A or Triple A. I just have to keep working on the swing. Keep getting better at hitting and defense, too. All around you have to be pretty solid.”
While Hollins is grinding through the minors, he might not even be the best Hollins athlete in the family. While he has another brother is raking in high school, and has already committed to South Carolina, he also has some pretty talented sisters who all have played tennis, including one that is a sophomore at Coastal Carolina.
Coming from an athletic family just fuels the fire between all the siblings - which has turned out to be a good rivalry between every one,
“My sisters are the real athletes. They are unbelievable,” Hollins said with a laugh. “Obviously, everyone is very competitive. It’s a lot of fun, and pretty cool. We all bond over it. We are able to talk to each other about certain things, and help each other through tougher times. It’s sad that we moved to South Carolina, because you guys are missing out on the best one of the bunch. My younger brother, BO, he’s going to be a superstar. He’s already committed to South Carolina as a sophomore, he’s a stud. He’s a beast already. Two-way guy, lefty pitcher, first baseman. He’s the one.”
Competition is fierce in the Hollin’s house. It even comes down to ping pong. If there is a game to be played, you bet there is a lot of smack talking being said.
“We have a ping pong table at home, and we all go back and forth,” stated Hollins. “My little brother goes can I face you, please. He wants to pitch against me. He’s already touched 90 miles per hour as a 16-year-old. I’m like not yet. It’s fun. It’s definitely a good time.”