I was lucky enough to attend Opening Day in Tampa Bay this year to watch my client Steve Clevenger crack his fourth Opening Day roster. It should have been a special day, but the events that soon transpired—he got optioned that night—made the day not as special as in years past. I wont get into those events here, though I did publicly discuss the topic at length with Roch Kubatko at MASN. I had previously had a ton of great memories at Tropicana Field. Michael Brantley’s first major-league home run, and the first time I saw Jeremy Jeffress after he signed for the second time with the Brewers—one of the most emotional moments of my career—was there. It was there that I got to see Jeremy Jeffress for the first time after he re-signed with the Brewers, which was one of the more emotional moments of my career. And one of my favorite untold baseball stories happened Opening Day 2014 at Tropicana Field.
The Blue Jays were in town, and at the time Jeffress was a member of the Blue Jays. I got to the park early with my wife, as I do every Opening Day. I was waiting at the will-call area. There is one booth for fans, one booth for the home team, and one for the visiting club. When I got in the correct line I noticed a recently retired Roy Halladay was behind me with his family. Roy had played with my client David Herndon for several seasons. I imagine this was also the very first time Mr. Halladay ever waited in a will-call line himself. The usher had absolutely no clue who it was, nor did anyone besides me, for that matter.
When it came time for Mr. Halladay to go to a window the usher asked him, “Home, away or general?" Roy replied, "I'm a player.” The usher then asked Rays or Jays?" to which Roy answered Jays. I couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually, I went over to him and told him how awesome and hilarious that was. Inside the stadium, he blended in just as easily: A throng of fans and autograph collectors waiting for the Blue Jays was there and totally ignored him, and every two or three minutes a new autograph collector with a binder would walk past the entire Halladay family. I kid you not, not one person recognized him, let alone asked for an autograph. Roy seemed quite at peace with this. He was relaxed to the point that he was eating a giant ice cream cone by the seventh.
I remember as a kid being so excited for Opening Day. I was spoiled, being a kid in South Florida in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I was at the very first Heat, Panthers and Marlins games. I got to see Scott Pose get the first Marlins AB and Charlie Hough get their first win. I remember the first Marlins games in 1997 and 2003, both championship seasons, and then the subsequent seasons after two purges—1998 was one of the saddest days I ever had as a fan. I got Devon White’s autograph pre-game and told him that what happened to the Marlins was sad. “Sad indeed,” White responded.
I remember 2004 Opening Day well because it followed that amazing 2003 season, when the Marlins beat the big-money Yankees. It was the last day I felt anything as a fan. I honestly miss that feeling of being on the outside. I joke all the time about what I look for when I watch a baseball game: I see dollar signs on a diamond. Jaded, I know.
Opening Day is different now. For one thing, it’s a misconception that there’s any offseason for an agent. In January of any given year, I’m finishing up endorsement work from the winter meetings. I’m building off those meetings so players can focus on having the best spring they can have. By February, spring is starting, and I have to make sure everyone has what they need to play baseball. Meanwhile, I’m still talking to clubs, and doing anything I can to get any remaining free agents into camp. March is spring. I am visiting all my players and hoping no injuries or releases occur. April is, besides Opening Day, the start of the MiLB season. May through October is filled with work, the sort of conversations I can’t really discuss here. November I am finishing up preparations for winter ball, arbitration, a fresh round of free agency, and the all-important winter meetings. December is the winter meetings.
No offseason. When someone tells me I probably enjoy my offseason, I never correct them or complain because I am so fortunate, but this job is crushing. It is by far the most difficult job I have ever held in baseball, and I have held a few positions on both sides going all the way back to batboy.
I am really thankful I got to be an MLBPA agent for a big-league player on Opening Day for the seventh year running. I never take for granted my position, and when I'm old it is something I will undoubtably look back upon fondly. So now it's April and I’m in the blackout period of what I can talk about in specifics. I am banking on my clients having special seasons with special stories that I can share with the rest of you. I also have been researching how I can do more fundraising for the pediatric urology department at Johns Hopkins hospital. (I should have more information on that after the 20th.) I have a checkup on the 21st, so fingers crossed. If it goes well I allegedly won’t need surgery again for 20 years. As Jake Taylor of Major League said, "Here's to another year of fun in the sun.” Res Ipsa Loquitor