Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hang 'em up

In my 3.5 month hiatus from my blog (due to laziness), quite a bit has happened. I finally made a decision about my professional baseball career. Us baseball players would say that I've officially "hung 'em up." In layman's terms, I've decided to end my career as a professional baseball player. After going through the emotional ups and downs of last season with the Armada, I've finally decided to call it quits. The decision was made back in September after the season had ended. A lot of people keep telling me that I should still play and that I still have the skills and talent to play professionally. Albeit that might be true, there are tons of guys just like me who have the talent and skills to play, but never get the opportunity or if they do, somehow wind up with the short end of the stick.

Professional baseball is all about opportunity. Politics also plays a role in this game as well. The game of professional baseball is a BUSINESS first and game second. Not many people know the business side of baseball and let me tell you it's not pretty. I'd have to say the most difficult thing about this game is getting the right opportunity to play. Unless you are a "bonus baby" (a.k.a. top draft pick), you need to put up some serious numbers to get noticed. One great season could guarantee you a job for years to come, but are few and far between for late round picks. It's the only job I know of where all your friends and bonds you've made over the years can disappear in an instant. Trades are a part of the game, although I've never been traded, as well as releases. Every year trades and releases claim hundreds of victims throughout every system in baseball. After a release, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Who is looking for a *pitcher/position player*? Who can I call that knows somebody? How can I get to another team?" That all happens after the initial shock wears off and you pack your bags and say your goodbyes. Everybody knows that cuts need to be made every year at spring training and hope they do enough to keep their job for the coming season. For some of those, me included, that didn't happen on many occasions. I made good friends on a few teams only to have the rug snatched from under my feet and sent packing my bags and heading home once again.

The next thoughts that pop into the head of a freshly released minor leaguer are "What am I going to do? Go back to school? Hang 'em up? Get a job?" The young and determined first or second year minor leaguer would shed these thoughts in an instant, but the seasoned minor leaguer with a knowledge of how the system works would take a step back to assess his situation and determine what would be the next best option. Families, wives, sons, and daughters all factor into the decision process of whether or not to continue pursuing the dream. For some, the dream continues and they do whatever it takes. Others hang 'em up and get different jobs to take care of their families.

The grind of a 142 game season can wear a player out, especially on a team that's not in playoff contention. Being away from home and on the road living in a hotel can really begin to wear on a player and can also be rough on relationships with loved ones. For some, the end of the season can't come quicker. For others, the reality of the off-season looming and getting a job to pay the rent is overwhelming. Either way you look at it, a player is always on the go, whether it be spring training or during the season. Traveling is part of the gig when you sign up to be a pro ball player. It's a lifestyle that can take some time to get adjusted to and for some can make or break a relationship. The uncertainty of not being able to control your future is a little scary as well. In the drop of a hat you could be traded or released, which adds pressure to your performance. Out of all sports, I think baseball has to be the toughest both mentally and physically. I can sum it up with one word: performance. If you don't perform you might as well pack your bags and go home.

As for myself, I won't say I've given up, rather, I'll say that I'm officially retiring. When you're 25, not in an organization, and know how the system works, it's a pretty clear decision. As much as the kid in me didn't want to hang 'em up and keep pursuing the dream, the right decision was made. You've got a hell of an uphill battle to fight with about a 1% chance to make it to the big leagues when you're 25 years old and switching positions. I gave it everything I had and came up short. Thus is the story with thousands of other guys trying to do the same thing. Not many people can say they've played professionally as a hitter and pitcher. I feel honored and privileged to have played this game for as long as I did. It's time for me to join the rest of the real world and pursue a different career. It's finally time for this player to "hang 'em up."


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