I am alive and well, thankfully. As I wrote earlier this month, on the eve of a fairly invasive procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, there is no such thing as a routine surgery, and my 90 minute procedure stretched to twice that long and a 24-hour stint in a recovery room (due to a room shortage). But otherwise, it was a totally different experience than any of my 43 previous surgeries. I had terrific nurses, my parents visiting, and a wife who didn’t leave my side until I was discharged.
Before I got cut again, the doctors couldn’t find a vein on my arm and I had an I.V. paced in my right heel. I highly suggest avoiding this in your life. Right before surgery I got some meds to knock me out., and as they wheeled me into the O.R. and I was on the brink of passing out I was doing my standup routine on the O.R. staff. The nurses’ laughter certainly calmed me down and I really felt like I’d be okay. I got through two jokes before blacking out, and the next thing I remember I woke up in the recovery room, alive once again. The one joke I think I can get away with telling on here was [Ed note: He can’t get away with telling it on here].
After discharge, I stayed at a hotel in the inner harbor. Hilariously, there was a sports supplement conference, not unlike the winter meetings except that this was for nutritional stuff. Two days after surgery I wandered around the hotel and ended up riding the elevator up and down for a good hour talking to every person with a name badge from the conference. This was a 180 experience from the winter meetings for me—I was the nobody at a convention, basically in the same shoes as a job-fair seeker, which I found to be quite ironic. I was wearing baggy sweat pants and an oversized shirt so as not to injure my stitches and staples, not to mention the stupid bag I had to wear until my stitches came out. I cold introduced myself to 20 or so people, and after minimal success in the supplement market over the past decade I am now close to finalizing my first real supplement endorsement deals! What’s nuts is that the companies I’m dealing with are approaching athlete endorsements for the very first time as well. So that was a cool work experience 48 hours after my operation.
Throughout the recovery process I took phone calls from all my clients. My wife would yell at me in the hotel not to pace when I was on the phone. I have free agents left and I need to work hard to get them jobs. One GM yelled at me for going to work so soon after surgery. My answer to that was “What else am I going to do? It's not like anyone ever popped a stitch from talking." And with that I went back to work. I set up workouts, hashed out terms. I have a boatload of endorsement deals I’m working on. I even was able to get Darryl Knight of the Mets his very first endorsement, a wonderful deal from All-Star. Darryl is a plus make-up kid I just love to work for. Faced doubters in high school, JuCo, D-2, and then boom—he gets drafted and now has a real chance. Getting a deal from the hospital was pretty cool.
The endorsement stuff for MiLB players is so substantially important, I would argue that aside from contract management and general support it’s the most vital thing I do. Companies sign players in rookie ball or newly drafted guys for a litany of reasons, the main reason being relationship building. I don’t want to name the brand, but one company invested heavily in a minor-league 10th-round pick years ago, then the guy became the face of this "no-name" brand, and a few years ago the guy wins the MVP. Jeremy Jeffress signed with All-Star, a company predominantly known for catcher’s gear, and ended up on the cover of their catalogue.
Helping build brands is something some players like doing, so it isn’t always a slam dunk that they’ll all want to go to a "name" company; of course in some instances it is. All companies search for players every year, but when guys fall through the cracks it’s the agent’s job to search out any endorsements, and I mean ANY, that are possibly out there. I found a shoelace-clip deal last year. It is entirely feasible, depending on the player, for a guy in A-Ball to generate more financially from endorsements than on the field, at least until he’s on the 40-man.
There are many intricacies in doing such a thing, but I cant elaborate on job secrets beyond broad generalities. I remember the first time I ever called Nike with a major-league player. I sold my guy hard and couldn’t understand at the time why they wanted nothing to do with my client. Their answer was priceless: We're Nike. We have Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Why do we need your guy? I mean, what the hell do you say to that? Over time, I grew to understand this business model. If a company believes in your guy, either on their own or because you sold them on him, the company will invest in your player in hopes that they’ll recoup the investment when he makes the majors. MiLB players usually just have to wear the product, endorse it on social media, and in some cases be part of the catalogue. Some also have to make appearances. Meanwhile, specific clauses might be written in to involve charity contributions by the company, which is terrific. It doesn’t push the financial burden onto the MILB player, and he gets to give back to school or baseball program that helped them get there.
Now I’m back to working on it all from somewhere other than a hospital. I’ve been told I won’t need a 44th surgery until my 50s, and that’s simply overwhelming. It was a hard decision to go public with all this—while I was in the hospital, Joe Lemire published a major article about my health, and how it has affected me professionally—and clubs, vendors and readers have reached out so graciously and generously. I’m in the thick of endorsement season and I feel so alive, even more than I did before the surgery. So thank you again, to every one of you.