I love the idea of MLB getting involved to help/educate transitioning players to the real world. Make no mistake, it is the Athletes responsibility to take the initiative but I believe MLB could help prepare players to face the percentages of reality.
I was drafted in 1996 and played through 2004. Highest level was AA, 2001 Arizona Fall League. The period between spring 2004 (release) and September 2005 (landed a real job) was absolute despair. I had no idea where I was going. I had 1 year of college education and elected to take cash as opposed to schooling in my initial contract.
I was 27 years old and had no work experience.
At 36 now as a Business Owner, I believe this to be the largest obstacle to players exiting the game no matter what level of education. I was very fortunate to be caught up in in the real estate boom and be given a chance to become a construction manager with a Home-builder in 2005. I remain with this company 10 years later and I now own a franchise in a remote market.
There is no solution to this dilemma and I imagine it’s been around long before myself. That being said, none of the 3 clubs I played for ever focused on education. I don’t know the answer but I fully support any initiative to support transitioning players to the work force. Adam R.
From the time I was a little boy, about five years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Playing baseball is what I loved, and I could only imagine what it was going to be like when I turned professional. It wasn’t a question in my mind if I would be a professional, but when. I took all the necessary actions to prepare myself for competition on the field. There was one thing that I definitely was not prepared for, life after the game was over. It seems like it happens so fast, even though you hear people saying to prepare for life after the game is over, it’s hard to get in that mindset when you’re still playing and doing well. I can hear the message to prepare time after time, but I need someone to guide me and tell me exactly what I need to be doing and how to go about it.
I remember being released in spring training and being overwhelmed with emotion wondering what I was going to do with my life. I was drafted out of high school so I had no schooling, all I’d ever done is play baseball, so I had no experience or training in any other fields. I was in a tough spot and had no idea what to do. Looking back on it now, I wish there was somewhere for me to go to get solid advice from people who have been through the same situation. Not only would be great to have advice at the exact moment I was going through the experience, but if the seed was planted early in my career about preparing for life away from the game, possibly I would have started early making the necessary arrangements for there to be a smooth transition.
I remember searching through the job ads daily being frustrated because I did not have the required experience or the required education to support my family.There were many emotional nights with my wife trying to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to pay our bills. I took jobs making minimum wage to ease the burden without success. The stress was tearing us apart. A couple years went by and I finally got my degree and was able to get a decent paying job. It was a job that I did not enjoy, but one that could support and pay our bills.
It cannot be overlooked that professional athletes are going from something they absolutely love and something they have dreapmt about their entire lives to something that has no significance in their life other than paying their bills. This is and extremely difficult transition and one that is mentally draining and stressful for not only the athlete but the entire family. If there is a way to prepare an athlete and his family for life away from the game in order to reduce stress and turbulence, then I would be 100% for it! There are plenty of people who invest in athletes while they’re playing, that’s the easy part. What about investing in the individual to better his life after he has given it all for the game? Brian R.
When I was released by the New York Yankees, I was only 22 years old. But I had played for a few years and I felt old. I felt like my dream was over. I didn’t have an agent and I didn’t know how to continue to pursue my dream. I didn’t even know if it was possible to continue to pursue my dream. It would have been helpful to have someone help me assess my career and help me get connected with another team if possible.
But, I had given up at 22 years old. I spent about 2 years of my life in a pretty severe depression. I rarely left my house, I didn’t get a job… My young wife didn’t know what to do with me. She reached out to people for help for me but nobody really understood what I was going through and they didn’t know how to help me. Baseball was my life. I hadn’t made a backup plan. I didn’t want a backup plan. I had failed and didn’t know what to do with myself.
I wish there had been someone to tell me that life was going to pass me by if I didn’t get up and do something. That one day, I would wake up and I would be 26 years old and have accumulated a lifetime of regrets in only a few short years. I let my college scholarship that the Yankees had paid for expire and I had no direction. It wasn’t until I had my first child at about 27 years old that I “began” my life post baseball. I literally wasted about 4 years of my life with depression, lack of direction, and no feeling of purpose.
If there had been an organization in place to help me when I was let go, I would have taken full advantage of it. I needed someone to talk to that understood what I was going though, I needed someone to help encourage me, I needed someone to help me get my life on track and to help me find a purpose.
I think the organization that Matt Laporta and others are starting would be a tremendous asset to baseball players trying to find their way in a post baseball life. Clay E.
The day I decided to hang up my cleats, I had no real plan for what was next. I had earned my degree from a great University, but was not sure where that degree could take me. I had always thought that I would stay around the game of baseball as a Professional or College coach. With my wife new in her career and my son being born, the idea of more travel did not appeal to my family’s situation. As any professional baseball player with a wife will know, and especially with a kid, travel puts a strain on relationships. With that option looking less and less appealing as the days of pondering my next move went by, I decided to think about my strengths outside of baseball. This is a novel concept for any baseball player because honestly we think, eat, and dream baseball. Period. Anything not baseball related was often seen as a moot point. Not anymore. Now it was a matter of putting food on the table for my family.
I was fortunate enough to reach the goal of the big leagues and earn myself enough scratch to enjoy an off-season without the odd jobs I had done so many off-seasons before while spending time in the Minor Leagues. My off-season jobs ranged from Septic Cleanup to Drywall Hanger. Now that my playing career was over, these so called “off-season” jobs were starting to look more like my future careers. A decent baseball earning can only last you for so long before you realize you need more to raise a family. And relatively quickly I might add. More school? Certifications? Contacts in the work force? Who do I know that can get me a job somewhere? These were all of the questions I asked myself as the days wore on. I finally was able to find myself a career doing something ELSE I love. It was a matter of asking myself the right questions and remembering the work ethic that I have which enabled me to reach the same professional goals I grasped in baseball. The transition is unique to professional baseball players, and professional baseball players alone. Evan C.
After playing 10 years of professional baseball, which ended with an injury, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do as a career. In my eyes my options were:
1. Coach at the college or professional level- I was offered both but at 32 years old an independent professional team coaching job was not enough to help support my family and I would be away from them for long periods of time.
2. Go back to school to be a teacher or Police Officer- I knew if I did this I would be working full time and would have to make sacrifices with my family for a couple of years but I would still be home every night.
I decided to finish my History degree which took about two years. I was a substitute teacher during the day and was a full time student at night. During the time I was in school I began applying at local police departments and was hired the police department in the city I grew up in.
Being out of the game has been a struggle at times but I have found that coaching my 3 sons in the sports they play is very rewarding. I am very happy with my career and proud of my past career. I look at it this way: Kids pretend they are major league baseball players and love to play cops and robbers and wear a badge that says police officer. I got to do both and feel very blessed when it comes to the family I have and the support they have given me.
I would have taken advantage of a service that would have talked to me about my options after my professional baseball life and believe it would have just added to the support I already had at the time. Scott W.