This second episode of the podcast introduces the “Path Through Pro Ball” series which will be an ongoing series in the podcast that functions as a platform for pro players to share from their personal experience in pro ball and is aimed at helping listeners have tangible takeaways that they can apply to their own lives and careers.
Brill introduces this series by clarifying the three main points the series will dig into with each guest:
The Grind is a story or example of what it means to live the pro ball lifestyle.
Covering the Bases are 4 things (single, double, triple, home run) that the listener can apply to their life to help them in their pro career journey.
Inside the Clubhouse is an inside look into something you wouldn’t know unless you’re on the inside of pro ball or an opportunity to clarify a common misunderstanding about pro ball.
In proper podcast fashion, Brill kicks off this new segment by putting himself in the interview seat for the first pass at this series and is interviewed on these topics by co-host Joe Torre.
Getting things started, Torre gives a short introduction about Brill and how they came to know each other. The two met out of college while playing in New Jersey. Brill, who is from Florida, was recovering from an injury when they met and had made his way to New Jersey after college on his journey through pro ball. But even at this point, Torre identified that Brill was already somebody in the pro league circuit and had made a name for himself in baseball.
Later Brill will share how he went to Quebec to play in the Can-Am league right out of college, which began a years-long journey of playing through nearly every league in the US in his journey through pro ball. But as Torre explains, even at the time they met, Brill was on a path that was different from many other players in pro ball.
As they transition the conversation to talk about The Grind, it’s clear that pro ball is not always as easy and glamorous as people think.
While pro sports have a certain notoriety and produce certain images in people’s minds (both fans and players), as Brill explains, it’s a grind that requires that you push through hardship and challenges. So what’s Brill’s idea of suck it up and grind? As he shares, in 2016, he went into the training season, thinking he’d be secure in his position as an every-day shortstop.
This is what he’d been doing until then and how he had been training. But as he explains, when he walked in to report for training, he was met by the team’s owner and manager, who made it clear to him that nobody's spot was guaranteed. He explained that all through spring training, he only had a few at-bats, making it clear he wasn’t in the plan to be kept around.
But as chance would have it, the one guy that was in the team’s plan ended up needing to be replaced last minute. Brill sets the stage for how on the night before opening day he’s waiting for a call to let him know if he made the team or not. And just as he’s thinking he wasn’t going to make it, he gets the call and was given the opportunity to try out for first base.
As things unfolded, he started playing every position except for center and catcher and solidified his place on the team. While the results were positive, the point is that the grind is just that-something you have to grind through every day and be ready to roll with the punches if you’re going to win.
Building on this idea of the grind, Brill uses other examples from his career to explain the differences within the different leagues. Some have team housing with 40 players sharing a single home, where cultural differences clash. Other leagues have host-families that the players stay with, which provides more stability and solidarity. But even through all the differences, as Brill explains, if you’re in the circuit, you have to earn your way back up to where you may have been at one point, or wherever you see yourself going. It’s hard work and mentally taxing.
After playing through different leagues, Brill explains that the grind is all about trusting your talent and your mental fitness to keep improving and get where you want to go, no matter the obstacles. So what about the grind motivates players to get better or what ultimately makes them turned off? As Brill explains, it’s all about whether you believe in yourself or not.
The conversation then transitions to the second part of the “Path Through Pro Ball” by running through Brill’s thoughts on Covering the Bases. If you’re wondering why someone like Aaron Brill has been in the game as long as he has and what keeps him in the game even after reaching success, he explains the handful of things that drives him.
First, he offers step one, or his single. Take care of your body. From playing college and amateur through pro, Brill has had to figure out how to take care of himself through his nutrition, training, recovery, and rehab. As he explains, having enough talent is good (and necessary), but you have to take care of your body if you’re going to succeed and win. As he says, you have to ask yourself, “What do I have to do to stay in the best shape to keep doing what I love?”
Secondly, he offers his double. Invest in yourself. Now by this, he doesn't just mean money but time, effort, and being willing to drop the things you don’t really need (even simple things like junk food). As Brill explains, be willing to do whatever you need to do to invest in yourself and keep yourself fit. Invest in better quality foods and supplements. Do whatever it takes.
Third, he offers his triple. Be willing to experiment on yourself. What Brill means is not to assume that the things you’ve done in the past are still the best. Just because it’s worked does not always mean it’s the best option now. Be willing to try new things. Experiment. Combine. As Brill says, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Lastly, he offers his homerun. Simply put, adapt or die. It’s Brill’s way of living and something he believes so strongly about; he’s tattooed it on himself. What’s this mean? Don’t get stuck in any one way. Be open to change. If you aren’t open to change, you won’t be doing what you love (i.e., playing ball) long.
An example from his own career with this is that he played shortstop all the way up and through college, but he had to be open to playing second base, first base, in the field or whatever was required, if he was going to survive and continue his journey. If you don’t adapt, you’ll cut yourself and your journey short. Be open to change.
Be sure to check out the next episode of Baseball Brilliance - Part 2 of the Brill Path Through Pro Ball episode!