Music blares in the cramped visiting clubhouse at NYSEG Stadium nearly four hours before first pitch of Tuesday night’s game between the Binghamton Mets and Portland Sea Dogs.
One Sea Dog, sitting at his locker, repeatedly pounds a ball into his glove. Another receives a massage from the team’s trainer. With just the pitching staff and catchers occupying the clubhouse — if you could call it that — players don’t have much space for comfort.
But this is minor league baseball.
If you don’t like it, says Sea Dogs pitcher Mike Augliera, you should play better.
“If you complain about the spreads or the showers or the bus rides, pitch better. That’s what we always say if someone complains … just, ‘You’re in the minor leagues. Pitch better,’” Augliera says. “You can use that for any scenario: the showers and the hotels sucking, the Internet not working. If you don’t like it, pitch better and go to Boston.”
Boston is the destination. The Red Sox are Double-A Portland’s major league affiliate.
For Augliera, Binghamton University via Old Bridge, N.J., is the origin.
In four years pitching for head coach Tim Sinicki and the Bearcats, Augliera amassed a program-record 23 wins. Augliera’s command drew the attention of professional scouts, and the Red Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
No player has ever been drafted higher out of BU.
“I’m just happy to come from Binghamton and be where I am now,” Augliera said. “I had a great four years, and Binghamton set me up really nicely for the transition.”
A human development major in May. A professional baseball player in June. That’s quite the transition.
And Augliera never shied away from the challenges inherent in Low-A ball or any subsequent level of the minor leagues. With control still a key part of his approach on the mound, Augliera made the Double-A squad out of spring training.
Luckily, he arrived in Portland with his entire wardrobe.
“In spring training we took all his clothes and put them in someone else’s locker,” said teammate Keith Couch, who believes pranks keep everyone loose. “Harmless stuff like take all his hangers and all his clothes and just throw them in someone else’s locker and make him find it.
“He was flustered. He didn’t know what to do.”
That hasn’t been the case on the mound.
Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper, who played for three organizations in eight major-league seasons, has seen just a limited sample size of Augliera, who spent 2013 with High-A Salem. It didn’t take long for the 6-foot right-hander to make an impression.
“I’m very, very impressed with how he conducts himself day in and day out with regards to how he works,” Kipper said. “That work ethic and preparation definitely has translated into success on the mound. I love the way he competes. He’s a guy that never backs down.”
Kipper cited two of Augliera’s three starts with Portland as examples.
In his Double-A debut, Augliera surrendered four first-inning runs against Reading. He responded with five scoreless frames.
In his second start, Augliera allowed four runs in the third inning against New Britain. Those were the only runs the Rock Cats would score against him in seven innings.
“He doesn’t seem to get rattled too often with regards to failure,” Kipper said. “He seems to be able to keep himself together and pitch effectively to the extent that he keeps his team in the game.”
Through three starts, Augliera has posted a 2-1 record with a 3.79 ERA. He has walked just 1.89 batters per nine innings.
Augliera did not appear in the series against Binghamton. Portland’s pitching schedule has him slated for this weekend against Trenton.
The coaching staff wouldn’t alter the rotation to grant Augliera the opportunity to start in his college town — not that he even considered asking.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Augliera said with a smile.
Of course. It’s the minor leagues. Pitch better.
But Augliera, who had opportunities to catch up with former coaches and teammates, expressed nothing but gratitude and excitement about his return to Binghamton.
“Being here as a player with a uniform is definitely very cool,” Augliera said. “I never thought I’d be back here, playing.”