Many times when a Major Leaguer spends time on a rehab assignment they’re strictly there to do their work, get in, get out and get on with life. With Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Joe Musgrove, both he and the Altoona Curve with whom he was rehabbing with embraced their experience with each other.
Musgrove has yet to pitch in a Pirates uniform in a Major League game due to a shoulder injury sustained in spring training, but his presence has been felt in big ways both in and out of Pittsburgh.
Whether it be in the dugout with the Pirates or around the ballpark with the Curve, Musgrove was there to support his teammates the best he could. And with that support, he not only has the respect of his teammates, but also the coaches he encounters during his stint.
“In every aspect, he’s helped at least each person in the clubhouse,” Altoona Curve manager Michael Ryan said of Musgrove. “Whether it’s the support in the dugout or it’s being the first guy here.”
If ever there was a perfect time for a rehab stint to take place, the presence of Musgrove was it. Mired in an offensive slump and not being where Ryan wanted his team to be mentally, his squad was able to see what it took to be a professional in every sense of the world while Musgrove was in town.
Seeing a professional such as Musgrove come in and embrace his time in Altoona should serve this year’s Curve club well as they are loaded with prospects throughout their roster, from Cole Tucker to Taylor Hearn to Will Craig to Ke’Bryan Hayes. Those aforementioned prospects will more than likely see their ways to the Major Leagues in some form or fashion within the next few years and seeing how professionals go about their business is a great opportunity for the rising stars to take notes and learn from the experience.
Musgrove’s work ethic earned him the respect of those within the Curve clubhouse as soon as he got to Altoona. He was the first one in and the last one out of the building each day during his stint with the Curve, something not lost on his manager.
“Just a consummate pro, man,” Ryan said. “When you think about a Major League guy and how professional someone needs to be, he can be the model for it.”
Embracing the experience
There really is no comparison when comparing Minor League baseball cities to their Major League counterparts. Fans in Minor League cities such as Altoona are true fans in every sense of the word often following teams no matter what prospects are playing there on a given night.
So for a guy like Musgrove who’s been in the Majors and pitched in a World Series, being in Altoona, while not the place he wants to be, is a breath of fresh air during a long season.
“I’ve always been a fan of the minor league cities, you get to see the true fans,” Musgrove said. “People that have been coming to games for a long time and have nothing but love and support for their team, so that aspects cool.”
In the big leagues, it’s not a rough life when compared to the dead-ball era when teams rode trains to cities and only played during the day prior to when teams had lights in their stadiums. It’s a posh lifestyle featuring chartered jets, five-star hotels, and the best food money can buy. In the minors, there’s no such thing as posh, the food is sub-par, and some hotels teams stay in are lucky to even get a single star. For lack of a better word, it’s a grind day-in-and-day-out that serves as an eye-opener for big leaguers on assignment.
“You get another reminder and a different kind of appreciation coming back down here and being back on the Minor League grind of not having the best food to eat, not having the best facilities available,” Musgrove said of his experience. “There’s a lot of things that you don’t have access to here that you do in the big leagues. Getting to come back down is kinda refreshing to get another look at what the guys are going through here. It reminds you to stay humble.”
Staying humble is just one of the pieces of advice Musgrove has for his teammates in Altoona. The biggest piece of advice though, is preparation.
“Preparation. You know the game is gong to dictate how you work. How you work is going to dictate how you play every game so the preparation is everything,” Musgrove said. “When you get out there you compete. you’re not trying to do too much stuff, you’re not trying to think too much, just compete and trust that the work you’ve put in and the preparation you’ve done is enough to execute out there.”
While Musgrove’s time in Altoona was short, only a few days, his impact will be felt moving forward for the rest of the season, wherever that takes him.
“It’s been an honor for us to have him here,” Ryan said. “We got however many people we have in the clubhouse, coaches and staff included, 45 people that are going to root for him just because of the way he handled himself.”
Musgrove will make a few starts in Indianapolis before heading back to Pittsburgh once his rehab stint is over. When he does finally get back to the Steel City, there will be a clubhouse full of Curve players, coaches and staff members watching and rooting on their former teammate.