It’s done every year by every team in major league baseball – invitations are given to players within the organization who are not currently on the team’s 40-man roster to attend spring training with the hope – however slight – of making the team’s 25-man opening day roster. And while it may not happen often, it does occasionally happen.
But the simple truth is that while it is a tremendous honor for a young minor leaguer to receive a non-roster invitation to major league camp, the odds of making it to The Show – at least the first time around – are astronomical at best.
So what, then, does a manager and his coaching staff do to try to encourage these young ballplayers and instill confidence in them when so very few NRI’s make it onto the opening day roster?
“Our front office and development went through a lot of different reasons and there’s reasons why each [non-roster invitee] is here,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that for me – the message from me, the coaches to these guys – is to enjoy it. When you see major league players work, that in itself is a win.
“But they’re going to go out there and impress, but I think for me, the coaches, it’s good to put eyes on Trevor Oaks and different guys that we haven’t really seen and we’ve heard a lot about, and even guys like Willie Calhoun and [Alex] Verdugo who we’ve seen a little bit,” Roberts added. “But they’re going to go out there and they’re young, they’re energetic but just go out there and learn and watch.”
2017 Dodgers Non-Roster Invitees
On the other side of the coin are veteran major leaguers who, for the most part, are on the downhill side of their careers – guys who may have once held a full-time MLB roster spot but were not re-signed as free agents or outright released from their previous team but were later signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp in hopes of resurrecting their careers. Although it may be more common for one of these guys to make it from NRI to the major league roster than a raw minor leaguer, it is still an enormous challenge for these veteran players.
The guy who immediately comes to mind in this regard is Jamey Wright, who successfully made his respective team eight consecutive seasons as a non-roster invitee, including once with the Dodgers in 2012. (Note: Wright signed with the Dodgers again in 2013 but was given a major league contract, thus breaking his consecutive NRI streak. He would eventually return to the Dodgers as an NRI in 2016 but retired from the game after not making the team. He did so at a remarkable 41 years of age).
But miracles do happen and occasionally a non-roster invitee actually does make the opening day roster. And sometimes there are even miracles on top of miracles when it happens. It’s impossible not to notice that 27-year-old / four-year MLB veteran Charlie Culberson – a 2016 Dodgers NRI who made the team – is again a non-roster invitee this spring; and we all know what Charlie Culberson did on September 25, 2016.
Yes, occasionally miracles do happen. But even if one doesn’t happen this spring, I can absolutely positively guarantee you that there isn’t anywhere that this year’s 22 Dodgers non-roster invitees would rather be than in the major league clubhouse at Camelback Ranch right now.
Let the miracles begin.