Friday, February 26, 2010

Build It Up Slowly


Sometimes things happen in your career that shock you no matter what you've seen or been through before. I have seen almost everything happen in this business and I have to admit, I have become numb to a lot of the bad things. There is one act, one very specific experience that I never ever have gotten used to. Getting fired is still the ultimate pain in a very painful business. Getting fired by a player signals several things. It’s the death of a relationship and because of the way I try to structure my relationship with my clients it is a gut wrenching hell that has nothing to do with money. Anytime that I have gotten fired I have been pushed to the point of exhaustion. I have become physically ill and I have cried because I not only have lost a client but in almost every case, a friend. The other reason getting fired is so hard to swallow is because it’s a condemnation of your work. You feel like a total failure and again in my case, I feel like I have let down a player and his family. I am supposed to aid and assist these young men in their careers so if there comes a time where a player feels I have not upheld my part of the bargain I feel like a total failure.
There are some instances where an agent can get fired through no fault of his own. I had a player fire me once because a childhood friend of his started a company of his own. What am I supposed to do in a scenario like that? I also have been fired by players who have been lured away by other agents by the promises of better contracts and more money. These things happen. Companies see players they want and they go after them regardless of if they have representation or not. I have been fortunate thus far where I have not lost many players to other companies. I think I do a well enough job educating my players about what an agent can or cant do for them. I never promise any of my clients anything I cannot deliver and I think that’s a large part of my appeal. If a players asks me a question they know I will answer it as honestly as possible. If I cannot deliver something a player desires, well then it’s simple, I just tell them this isn’t something that I can do and if I cant do it there is a real good chance nobody else can either. Again though, there are just some times where there is nothing you can do anymore and the player agent relationship just dies.
Several weeks ago while I was in Arizona working, I had dinner with 10 or so of my clients. Everyone that was in town showed up except for one player who I had signed a couple years ago. Over the last two seasons I felt that I had cultivated a pretty good relationship with him. I felt especially close to him because here was a guy that was a lot like me. He had a reputation off the field which was totally unfair because this is an absolutely great guy. He was not unlike me with regards to what outsiders thought of him, but if you took the time to get to know him he really is a tremendously awesome person. I learned something valuable on that trip to Arizona, a very painful lesson that I will carry with me the rest of my career.
I picked up said player from the field my last day in Arizona to meet for lunch. As I had said earlier this player bailed on the team dinner the night before so that was a very bad omen. I had a horrible feeling about this meeting going into it but it didnt make the news any easier to hear. I was getting fired. Two years of work , all the phone calls, the travel, the endorsements, the meetings, the dinners, the baseball games, everything, finished. This player handled the situation as classy and as professionally as anyone I’ve dealt with in my entire career. I was shocked to say the least because I thought my relationship with him transcended baseball. I thought we were friends and that because we were both a little bit misunderstood we at least had each other to lean on when nobody else did. I was wrong. Very wrong. This is a sobering reminder that no matter how much you care about a player or how much you think you're helping them there are still things out there that can get you fired. This player voiced some concerns, we talked, but I wish to god he said something sooner than just firing me. I teared up during several points in the conversation and you know what? That’s a good thing. I really cared about this guy but in the end it didnt matter to him. In his eyes, and he has every right to feel this way, I just wasnt right for him. I respect him for being honest with me but I am saddened that our relationship is damaged forever.
When I first began my career I did everything I could to be a textbook agent. Suit and tie, slick hair, expensive shoes, the Jerry Maguire special. I did that for a few years and it was the worst mistake of my entire career. I failed. I not only failed but I failed hard, so much so that I almost quit the industry all together. Nothing sat right with me when I tried to do this job the way I thought other people wanted me to. I sold out and I almost burned out. I hated my job and I hated what I had become. I was a monster and not only that an unhappy monster with zero clients. Anytime I did have a client during that time period eventually they would move on to another agent in short time because I was just like everyone else. I was a carbon copy of the text book agents out there except I was the Ed Wood version of the bigger agents. If a player is going to hire a text book agent why would they ever hire someone like me? They would and they should hire someone with more track record. And that’s when things changed. When I realized how miserable I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t , only then could I start to become the kind of agent I ultimately am today. I made the very conscious decision at that point in time that I was going to do things my way no matter the cost. I was going to dress the way I wanted, speak the way I wanted, and do the things I wanted and if it worked, fantastic. If I failed? Well, there is always stand up comedy. As soon as I fully embraced the DIY approach I started to head the right direction. This is a double edged sword though. The players who buy into my program, who buy into me as a person, as their representative, will stick with me to the bitter end. As beautiful as that sounds the flip side is equally ugly. I am not for everyone. Because I am so open, outspoken, loud , whatever, there are some players that wouldn’t come within 100 miles of me much less even consider hiring me. So in some respects I limit the player pool that I get to represent but as a bonus the players I do represent love me and I love them in a way other agents could never understand.
And that’s the rub. The sobering cold reminder of everything that everyone always tells me. It's still a business. This is just a business. So, if the player is reading this, I'm sorry that you feel I let you down. I make no apologies for my actions or anything I have done that has gotten me to this point. If I didnt do things exactly the way I did them, I wouldnt be where I am at today. That doesn’t mean going forward Im the same person I was a couple years ago. All last year I worked hard to shake any labels I may have had. I worked hard to show people I was doing real things instead of coasting on potential. I think I have done a pretty good job of getting to where I need to be with my career thus. Im proud that I have 11 40 man guys, Im proud I have 5 25 man guys. I am proud of everything I have done so far.
All I can do now is keep doing what Im doing and hope that the guys I have will appreciate everything I try to do for them because god knows I appreciate all of them for sticking with me. I thank god every day for every single player I represent because I give up my life for them. They are my world, they are my life, and without them Im nothing and there is nothing I could do to ever fully repay these guys for giving me the life I have today. You win some you lose some but if you fully give up your soul for your job like I have you will never feel bad when things go wrong because deep down you know the problem is not with you.

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