In May 2013, I graduated high school at age 18, then got drafted the first week of June and then maybe 7-10 days later, shipped off to the Gulf Coast League to begin my professional baseball career. Here are a few things I have learned in the four plus years that have followed.
In a sense, this is something as an 18 year old out of high school I would have liked to know.
Everything a player does in this game (on and off the field) is observed, critiqued, recorded, and sent to higher-ups. Baseball is a numbers game; promotions, demotions, and releases are all about numbers – meeting them, not meeting them, setting new goals,etc. My first year in pro ball I was naive enough to only focus on the end result (numbers) and not the process along the way. Four years later, numbers are just as important, but I have realized other things should be paid attention to as well. These have helped me in my career, and ultimately throughout my whole life.
Here are a few of the most important things I have learned.
1. Don’t be on time; be early.
2. Don’t ever shed blame, regardless of the circumstances.
3. Do everything in your power to do your job and do it right.
4. Never forget it is your career.
5. Be real.
In a sense, the five lessons listed above can all be encapsulated in one word: Accountability.
Be early: Most things in Pro Baseball are out of your control. You cannot control if a line-drive you hit will be caught, or if a broken bat single you let up scores two. You can, however, control your punctuality. The two organizations I have had the privilege to play for both stress this concept – showing early and be ready on time – and they are sure to let you know when you screw up. In a game full of uncontrollables, you must take advantage of the few things you can control.
Be a grown up: Never blame anyone else for something negative that happened during the game. The day you throw a teammate under the bus is the day you lose every shred of respect your teammates ever had for you. Respect is not easy to obtain and can be lost with one stupid answer to a question. Regardless of the situation or question the reporter asks you, blaming someone else is not the right response. Shoulder the blame. Learn from your mistakes.
Work hard and work smart: Everyone always says they are the hardest worker you’ll ever meet, but most of the time that is horse shit. Pro ball really opened my eyes to how hard guys work. It is no coincidence that the hardest and smartest workers tend to be the best players. Work smart, be open to new ideas, listen to your body and ultimately do what works.
People will come to you with many ideas and suggestions. Remember to always be respectful, but don’t feel the need to say yes to everyone. Learning to say no is crucial to your career. Be open to new things, but remember all stats go on your baseball card and land on your shoulders. Try things, do not force them just to appease someone. Do not rush to fix something, cause sometimes it isn’t even broken.
Lastly, keep it real: People can sense if you are genuine or fake so don’t put up a front. In this profession, you are about to spend a majority of the year with teammates in close quarters and under stressful circumstances, so be respectful and do your best to get along with everyone. At the very least, don’t go around trying to be a prick. The only thing worse than a 16-hour bus ride is a 16-hour bus ride with guys you dislike or who dislike you. I’m not saying you have to have 25 best friends every year – but be respectful and endeavor to be a good teammate. Be real. It makes those brutal days easier and makes winning even more fun.