In April 2006 I was living in Tallahassee, attending my final semester at FSU. I had also been working for an agent for a few years and had pretty much no idea what I was doing, just figuring things out as I went along. The highlights of my year: My client Carlos Martinez (of the Marlins) made it to the major leagues; and my client/friend John Buccigross on SportsCenter got to cover a huge brawl in Houston. I got to watch this from my house in Tallahassee, which at the time was quite surreal. I’m mostly numb to that now; one of my friends, Eric Hosmer (not a client—I went to high school with his brother) was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and had a great postseason. To me, it was just watching Hoz play, but my wife, who couldn’t care less about baseball, was in awe that a guy she knew was on national television in the World Series.
But it wasn’t like that for me back in 2006. Back to the story at hand: The Pittsburgh Pirates were having a predraft workout at Tallahassee Community College, about three miles from my house. I was advising a projected high-end pick, so I went to see his workout. The best thing to happen at the workout was Gaby Sanchez airmailing a throw from third over the first base bag; the ball flew into the driver’s side window of the car owned by the scout who was running the event. The window was just shattered. I am certain I will never see anything like this again—and still Sanchez signed with the Pirates.
Anyway. The player I was advising had one condition in order to attend the event: His dad would throw him batting practice, another thing I never saw before or since or likely ever will again, as it is just a strange request. So I sat down in the bleachers and watched the workout.
After about five minutes alone, a woman whose son was playing in the workout sat down next to me. I talk to everyone. This is a known fact. Introduced myself immediately with zero intention of recruitment. She told me all about her son, who was from Port St. Lucie. He pitched, he played outfield, and his father played two seasons in the major leagues. Now, as an agent when you hear a player’s dad played in the majors you immediately assume that player is off limits—or, at least, I used to. I didn’t even really watch her son play, but we talked and hit it off. We stopped talking when the kid I was advising came up to hit and his dad come onto the field to throw to him—awkward.
When the workout was over the bleachers emptied and that was it. But I said to myself, if I don’t give this woman my card I’ll kick myself the rest of my life. So I did, and she asked if I wanted to meet her son. I said sure, and this was the first time I ever met Michael Charles Brantley. I was able to build a career, and make a friend so close he was a groomsman at my wedding, and all because his mom sat next to me at a workout for a kid I don’t even work for anymore.
After the draft in June, Michael ended up, by some fluke, rooming with two of my clients. We stayed in touch, and over the years he went long stretches without an agent at all, just relying on his father, who was a major-league hitting coach at the time. When he hit Double-A, I was hired and told two things: “As long as you don’t mess up and don’t lie to me you’ll be fine with me.”
And it was true. Michael is one in a billion. There are not people like him in this world. He is one of the best men I know and comes from one of the best families I know. I know I am heavily biased, but I owe so much to him. This month he was nominated for a Gold Glove, an MVP award, was an All-Star, and won his first Silver Slugger award.
The last story about fate. When Michael came to play in Tampa in 2010, his entire family was at the game. He hit leadoff and at that point had never hit a home run as a big leaguer. I was there. Lo and behold, first inning, he hit a home run. I bolted to right field wearing a full suit and found the usher, who found the fan who caught the ball, and we were able to get Michael’s first home run ball back for a couple autographs.
What are the odds I’m at that game? What are the odds I even found him? If anything they found me.
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