There went 2015. Work was, as it always is, a total grind, but this was a tremendously fulfilling year for me, personally and professionally. Some of my clients had tremendous seasons, and some called it a career. There were downs in my family life—my grandmother, the artist Lee Silton, who knew (and perhaps dated!) Meyer Lansky, has been battling cancer. There were also ups—my surgery in January, which I documented here, led to my healthiest year in forever.
The hardest thing for me personally was dealing with the fact that I wasn't going to be "dying" anymore. For 33 years, I woke up every day knowing my family and friends were going to outlive me. Now, I am back on a level playing field with them. It was such a large part of my identity for so long that it was a bizarre adjustment taking it away. This is the furthest thing from a complaint, rest assured, but there was a period of adjustment that my brain struggled with. So, too, did talking about my health publicly for the first time, especially in the article that Joe Lemire wrote about my and my birth defect back in January.
The article brought back so many replies, by email and on Twitter. People learned about bladder exstrophy, and instead of being the sick kid or facing death, I had a chance to be an advocate for the B.E. community. I don’t think I could ask for anything better than that.
But now here comes 2016, which is poised to be the best year of my career on and off the field. I have two clients headed for arbitration after the season, and two more on the verge of MLB debuts. I have never had that much occur in one season. So once the winter meetings ended and I began to dig through the business card pile, and once I had responded to every inquiry I got, I began doing all of my normal work duties plus arbitration prep, which means building a proper team to help maximize the case for my players’ value. I have no idea today what they are going to be worth in January 2017, but it will be significantly more than they will have ever made in their lives. That puts a lot of pressure on their representation.
Both clients that are going to be arbitration eligible have been clients for a decade each. Jeremy Jeffress is going into spring as a closer candidate for Milwaukee, and Steve Clevenger is competing for a starting job in Seattle. These are, then, huge years for the players—huge spring trainings, huge Aprils, huge first halves, huge second halves. These next few months will affect their families’ financial security for decades. Really, this is what we've all worked for, them on the field and me off the field.
I first met Jeremy 13 years ago at a Perfect Game event when he was 15 years old. I didn't use prospect lists to scout (and I still don’t), so I would bounce from field to field looking for guys. I was watching Jeremy throwing 93-95. Little did I know he was a sophomore. I mean, good heavens, I have never seen an arm like that at that age in my life. After he threw, a mutual friend introduced us and we stayed in touch, but at that point in my career I wasn't ready to represent a first-round pick, and didn’t hire me for the 2006 draft. In 2008, JJ did hire me full-time, and despite the ups and downs of his life I never turned by my back on him (and never will). He has one of the biggest hearts of any man I know, and helping him fulfill his dream is one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
I met Steve Clevenger in 2006 at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Florida, when he was playing Tallahassee Community College. Steve was a referral from a client I had at the time named Randy Roth, who if not for one bad break would have been a big leaguer. Steve absolutely raked and I was excited to meet him. He couldn't have been any nicer and after the draft I was soon hired. I have been with Steve from the time he was drafted as a shortstop, then moved to catcher, then called up, sent down, called up again, traded, called up, sent down, and now recently traded again. He has not had it easy and nothing has ever been given to him, but finally after a decade it seems he has a real chance to break out playing for Seattle.
Both men are at very special points in their careers. This is their platform year. This is the money year. This is what every player works for. And the entire way, I personally will be watching—no exaggeration—every single game each player plays in, preparing the entire 2016 season for a possible arbitration hearing that might not actually even occur. I have to plan as though it will, because this moment in their careers can be, for better or worse, life changing.
I also have Seth Lugo battling for a spot with the Mets and Carlos Asuaje, recently traded as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, battling for the Padres’ second base job. There is no better feeling than seeing a kid you saw play as an amateur make it to The Show. That first day in the big leagues only happens once in a player’s career, but one of the perks of my job that I get to feel that experience more than once in a lifetime. I’m very lucky. Here’s to 2016 being just as lucky for you. Res Ipsa Loquitor
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