It didn't take long for players arriving in Williamsport this past week to start talking to pitcher Jim Birmingham and first baseman Brock Stassi. The duo has talked to many of the new arrivals suiting up and have heard all sorts of questions.
How many people come to Bowman Field?
What's the New York-Penn League like?
What's Williamsport like?
They take it all in stride, answering any questions the young players have for them. While both Birmingham and Stassi may not be that old, they do have the distinction of being the only returning players in Williamsport.
In 2011, Stassi had 150 at-bats through 50 games while hitting .200 for the?Crosscutters. Stassi had 30 hits as well.
The other 25 players on the 2012 roster are all making their debuts with the Crosscutters this season.
And while neither may have been in a leadership role in the past, it's something they both are embracing.
"It's definitely cool. I've never really been one of the older guys on the team, even (in high school) I was young for my grade, so it's definitely a different experience," Stassi said. "It's fun to answer (their questions) and share my experiences from last year with them since it was a really fun year and a really close knit group last year."
That group from last year has moved up and down the minor league system of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Many of the young players in Williamsport this year are making their professional debuts. Nine players were playing in college last year while three are straight out of high school.
And while they knew they wanted to play baseball, they may not be sure of much else in the minor leagues.
"I don't think they really know what to expect at all to be honest," Stassi said laughing. "I didn't know what to expect and I know Jim (Birmingham) probably didn't know what to expect last year. I don't think they have any clue what's in store. It'll be a fun summer, it definitely was last year. Hopefully we can have some similar chemistry that we did last year."
Birmingham pitched eight games last season for Williamsport, having a 2.31 ERA through 11 2/3 innings. While he wasn't near the top for Williamsport in terms of innings pitched, Birmingham did put in plenty of practice at Historic Bowman Field and the pitcher knows the daily grind is a lot tougher and different than in high school and college.
"They're used to being in the park at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning and being done at the park by 2 o'clock but here, you're getting here at 2 every day and you're here until 10:30, 11 o'clock at night," Birmingham said. "So it can be a grind, so just trying to lead by example and showing the guys that you got to have fun with it as well and stay with the routine, so every day you come prepared."
The talent and skill within the New York-Penn League is a change of pace as well for the younger players. Stassi and Birmingham both found that out last season, like this crop of Crosscutters will.
The length of the minor league season is a lot longer compared to high school or college as well.
"It's tough because a lot of those guys have probably never failed in their life. They're used to being on top of the world down at (the) high school level, but they're going to get their lunch ate a few times and it's a long season," Stassi said.