What a postseason. What a year. I have one client playing on a postseason team, so that has been quite exciting to follow. Only one of my clients has ever won a ring before—Darren Ford. Such a strange concept to me. Ford has won one but Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, and Barry Bonds didn’t. It’s a huge honor and a numbing experience.
During the postseason I have been inundated with even more emails than usual from college-aged kids asking for advice on working in the business. I get these emails from time to time, usually people asking for internships. I review every single one of them, but, with that being said, I have yet to hire anyone, ever. Most people I get letters from are fans. There is nothing wrong with that but it would be difficult for any diehard fan to transition into the business side of this business. It’s one thing to love the game—I mean, I of course do—but I in no way am a fan of a team. There is a distinct difference between loving baseball and being a fan.
What most people do not realize when coming to work in the industry is the amount of failure you face on a daily basis. You find a player, you meet with him, you don’t get hired. You find a player, you sign a player, he does well, you get fired. You find a player, he hires you, he does well, he keeps you for a time, and then you get fired. Or, worst of all, you spend a decade nurturing a player’s career on and off the field, only to lose him right before his pay day. These things happen. You can work for a decade and in an instant that decade goes out the window on a whim. Poaching is rampant in the sport. It’s a reality of the business and it is one of the reasons I value makeup above all else. It isn’t the first agent who discovers a player who gets paid; it is always the last man standing. That is why some agencies are structured to avoid the nurturing phases and just pluck guys right before they are about to get paid. This creates a system where certain agents have an incentive to take subpar, early contracts for their players because of the very real fear that they will eventually lose the client to a larger firm and end up with literally nothing. I am still an optimist and have never thought this way, but I also don’t see this changing. Every time you see a club-friendly contract, think about what went into signing said deal. Was it really about the player taking care of his family? Sure, in some cases absolutely, and at the end of the day the player always has final say on contract matters. But players pay their agents for their expertise, and occasionally you end up with a rich agent and a club-friendly contract.
The other part of the failure aspect is this: I am a good scout. I am confident saying that. I am 32 and have sent well over 25 players to the major leagues. Some have played for a year, some five, some even just a week or a month, but nonetheless I have found more major-league players than some people who have spent 30 years in this game. And I am pretty much numb to the business side of things. You can’t let certain things personally affect you, or you will be incapable of doing your job. Let bygones be bygones—I mean I had three, yes three players who fired me in 2012 rehire me in 2013. These things happen. You know what is hard, however? Watching a player you found before anyone else, years before anyone else, a player you helped carry through the totality of the minor leagues, through a rookie MLB season and a gut-wrenching trade—watching him succeed without you. Putting in eight to 10 years behind someone nobody believed in, only to get fired and watch him explode on the biggest stage in the game. Am I happy a former client can provide for his loving family? 100 percent. Am I happy he figured things out? Sure. Does it still sting that a person who was a dear friend is out of my life forever? All the time. You never get over certain players who leave you. It is definitely “the one that got away” syndrome.
There are instances where I have had players for six months, then they have a meteoric rise and switch, where the situation doesn’t bother me as much. If you have a player who has had three agents before reaching the big leagues, the kid obviously has a problem being loyal. However, when you lose someone after playing an integral role in getting them to where they are today—well, that just sucks, and it never stops sucking.
The best thing you can do is go back to work the next day, love and appreciate everyone you have the privilege of working for, and try to find the next guy who has been overlooked. You help that player who appreciates the help. You help the next kid make it. You don’t let past experiences tarnish your future. And you know what? When that next kid makes it, and he appreciates the sacrifices you have made, it really does make it worth doing this job.
One player texted me this past season: “Without you I would not still be playing, I owe you my career.” That text was worth more to me than any fee I have ever collected, and it’s the reason I get out of bed to do this job. My personality prepared me for this job better than I could have imagined. Baseball is a game of failure. As a hitter you’re going to fail more than you succeed, and the same can be true on the business end of this sport. But when you do succeed the failures make the successes that much sweeter.
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