Baseball as everyone knows is a game of failures and its how people deal with these specific failures that determines how successful they are within the confines of the game. How is an individual persons life measured though? Is life measured by the amount of success one has at the time of his passing or is it measured by how a person overcame specific failures in spite of all odds to excel? I tend to be in the middle when it comes to such philosophy. I believe everything just is. Things happen, people react, events occur, and that’s life. It’s how people deal with these events that determines individual success or failure. Two people can be dealt the exact same hand and end up on opposite sides of the spectrum. Two kids could be given the exact same professional opportunity in baseball and for one reason or another kid a ends up in the big leagues while kid b ends up watching kid a from the stands. As an agent, one of the most difficult parts of the job is watching someone you love give everything they have effort wise only to realize that they are just not good enough to make it to the top. What is the road like that determines failure or success?
There are two kinds of players in the minor leagues, the prospects and the players who get to play with the prospects. There is an old adage that says if you have a uniform you have a chance. That’s true to some extent, but more often than not, minor league baseball players will fail in their attempt to reach the major leagues. The later a player is drafted the less likely that that player will become a major league baseball player. The draft is where it all begins. As an agent, my philosophy has always been straight forward. The round a player is selected in is totally secondary to the amount of money that a player receives as a signing bonus. It really is basic common sense. The more money a player receives as a signing bonus the more chances that player has to screw up. It’s better to be a 50th round pick who signs for a million dollars than a 1st round pick who gets 850k. Due to the MLB Draft being 50 rounds, most prospects who end up signing a professional contract do so with a minimal signing bonus which in turn means these players are signing knowing they have little more than the chance to chase their dream.
When a player signs his first professional contract the player ships out to the teams complex in Arizona or Florida and that’s where the road begins. If a player signs out of high school at the age of 18 and climbs the organizational ladder year by year, that player would be projected to reach the major leagues at the age of 24. If a college player signed at age 21 and was forced to climb the organizational ladder at the same year to year pace as a high school player, that player would reach the major leagues at age 27 so it can reasonably be argued there are more opportunities for a high school player to succeed as opposed to a college player based solely on age. From a business stand point as an agent, there are pros and cons to representing both college players and high school players. In theory the high school player tends to have the higher level of potential while the college player tends to be more mature and thus closer to reaching his albeit lower ceiling (again I am speaking in total generalities). If an agent were to sign a high school position player after the draft, the agent would be making a massive long term financial commitment due to the fact that there would be no income generated from the signing bonus. So with that being said, an agent better be certain that that this player who is not going to pay them for many years is not only talented enough to potentially make it to the big leagues, but is of strong moral character that when the player excels he wont leave the agent high and dry.
I have represented many players who have not made it to the promised land and I have represented several that have. I have made the conscious decision to run my company as hands on as possible. I love my clients. I know each and every one of them not because I have to but because I want to. I could never give my life to this career without the relationships I have with my clients. I love all of them dearly and I know they love me or they wouldn’t be here. The absolute hardest part of my job is watching someone I care about fail. Sometimes a players talent takes them to a point and then its over. Other times injuries derail a promising career and that’s that. The hardest part of this job is watching a kid walk away. I stay in touch with several of my retired players. For me, the agent relationship doesn’t end just because the career does. It is my sincerest hope as an agent that I become engrained in these peoples lives so much so that the relationship transcends the players career.
The second player I represented was a cubs farm hand named Nathan Mitchell. Nathan was a pitcher who had a good deal of success in college at the University of Houston but was never drafted and was signed as a NDFA by the cubs in 2002. I signed Nathan in 2003 after meeting him at a Jupiter Hammerheads game. I became quite close with Nathan over the next three years because I felt this man gave me an opportunity to live my dream when just about everyone else thought I was crazy. I knew I would do everything I could to help make this mans dream come true because he had done the same for me. Nathan got all the way up to AAA in the 2005 but injuries derailed his career and after one season in Independent league baseball Nathan called it a career. We have since stayed in touch of the years and admittedly we are not as close as we were during his playing career but that doesn’t change how I feel about what this man did for me with respect to my career. We still talk and email a few times a year and if he ever needs anything at all I still would drop anything to help. Nathan has a regular job, a wife, and a child now, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Nathan Mitchell is the kind of human being you would run through a wall for and I still wish there was something I could have done that could have helped him break through to the major leagues.
Each player has their own breaking point on weather to continue on with their dream or to give it up for the 9-5 world. The boundaries are different for everyone. Some players are content playing until the uniform is torn of their back and other guys will only play as far as their talent will take them. Its hard to watch players fail that give up everything to do this job. Their lives are put on hold in pursuit of a childhood dream. Obviously if a player reaches the big leagues then every ounce of the struggle was worth it. It also could be reasonably argued however even if a player doesn’t reach the major leagues the struggle was still worth the effort after all. Maybe the reward is the opportunity and not the end result when it’s all said and done ?
This is a cynical business I work in and a lot of the human element of my career is removed because of the ungodly amounts of money that are available to my clients but that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that the pursuit of money should triumph above all else. Agents are supposed to aid and assist people in pursuit of the dreams in addition to enriching their lives off the field. Agents have a responsibility to do everything they can off the field so all the player has to do is go play baseball. A good agent simplifies the situation to that very basic equation. The agent does everything off the field and the player goes to work on the field. it’s a mutually beneficial relationship if both parties do what is required of them and that’s just the way things are.
I wish each and every player who has a dream to play in the major leagues could achieve that dream. The deck is stacked heavily against each player who puts on a uniform each day that a game is played. For a lucky few the dream is ultimately realized but for the vast majority of players the dream dies at some point in the minor leagues whether it be because of injuries or a lack of ability or lack of desire. As an agent if a player doesn’t make it to the big leagues it’s a devastating event. For me personally it has less to do with the monetary loss because it is absolutely impossible to put a price on somebody’s dreams. Even though players retire I am always there for a client as long as they will have me.