Ahead of their Friday night clash with the Ottawa Titans, the Empire State Greys sit with a nearly impossible to comprehend 0-23 record, losing their first 23 games of the 2022 Frontier League season. The Greys, of course, are the league’s only travel team, and as such, don’t have a home ballpark. Every single one of their 96 games this season will be played on the road, and already, it’s taken a toll on their players.
This includes 25-year-old catcher/infielder, Tyler Hill who is currently fifth on the team among players with 10 or more games played in batting average, with a .218.
“It is a grind,” Hill said. “Quebec did it last season, and they had a good record on the road for 80 games, but for us, we just have a lot of young guys who have never experienced professional baseball. They have never been on a bus for 12 hours every three days, and it kinda gets to some of the guys trying to figure out how their bodies work.”
“We don’t go to the gym every day, we’re eating McDonald’s consistently. It’s mentally tough. It’s very hard for the younger guys. The average age for us is 25, and we have three guys over 28 on our squad, and two of them aren’t even here.”
“We still show up every day,” Hill continued. “We don’t pretend like we’re in the big leagues. We work hard, and the wins will come. It sounds like an impossible statistic to have, being 0-96.”
Last season, Hill spent time in the Atlantic League playing with the York Revolution, where he lived the typical independent baseball league lifestyle. By no stretch glamorous, but compared to what he has been doing this season, not too bad after all. Even though he has professional experience, even he didn’t quite know what to expect.
“I had a great place to stay, a great host family last year,” Hill said. “It’s still professional baseball in the Frontier League, this is a beautiful stadium we’re about to play in. I love it, and I’m happy to be on a baseball field every day.”
This season, Hill doesn’t have his own bed and pillow to sleep in each night, he doesn’t have a house where he can go unwind after the game, and he doesn’t have a billet family to spend some time with. All he has is the other members of the team, and the four walls of the bus.
“The bus is our home, but it can also be a prison,” Hill said. “When we lose bad, we gotta drive 14 hours to the next destination. It’s not a nice little 30-minute ride to go home and get a good night’s sleep. You’re sitting on that bus, rocking and rolling.”
“It is ridiculous, but it’s still 96 games where I get to put myself in front of these other teams and continue to play baseball.”
Between the long bus rides and the seemingly endless losing, Hill says that his love of baseball is being tested. Despite that, he keeps coming back, a sure sign that he does, in fact, still love the game.
“[The love of the game] is tested for a lot of guys,” Hill said. “Consistently failing in a game where you consistently fail is tough. In baseball, once you get hot, it’s like a miracle that you string together six or seven hits. We have done that, it’s just the consistency behind that. We’re just always trying to put something together on the field.”
As for the feeling when the Greys eventually do win a game, Hill says that he has given it a lot of thought, and it will be a special night.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Hill said. “It’s going to be like we won the World Series. Not a single soul on this team has ever been 0-23, and I don’t think anyone has ever imagined being 0-23. It’s going to be nuts. We’re going to have so much fun with it.”
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