Upon entering professional baseball, I was told by numerous people that it’s a business first and a game second. As a high school draftee, I did not understand what these people meant. I thought they were crazy. Baseball is a game and it is played by kids throughout the world at every age level…What can the big difference be? Why all the warnings?
Now I understand.
Baseball is not just a game. Baseball is a business – a billion dollar industry. Baseball players are employees of an organization just like any other employees of a company. Occasionally it feels like we’re pawns in a chess match.
Just a few days ago, I was on the bus after a series win versus the Brewers High A team in Florida. Around midnight, I got a phone call from a Cardinals representative regarding a trade I was involved in.
Thirty seconds into the phone call, I discovered that my time with the St. Louis Cardinals was over. Just like that, my career path was re-routed. I had literally a few hours to pack my stuff and say my goodbyes to my teammates, coaches, trainers, before I was scheduled to leave that next day. Simply put, I was no longer affiliated with my first professional team, all in the matter of a few seconds.
Does that happen at other types of jobs? Where you achieve a goal with your coworkers and immediately afterwards, you’re told you must pack all your belongings, say goodbye to your colleagues, and head elsewhere to work for a competitor?
Unique as that process may be to sports professions – i.e. being told you’re switching employers as opposed to choosing to do so – what it comes down to is that baseball is a business. Teams have needs and different plans for the future and the present. Imagine trading lawyers for lawyers? Or teachers for teachers? Sounds crazy, but this is the career path we athletes have chosen. It’s part of the job description, so we can’t say we didn’t know it could happen.
We have a few options on how to handle this situation: sulk and ask questions or simply, move on. The latter is healthier for your career.
But yes, baseball is also a game – hence the phrase, “Play ball.” But don’t assume it’s all roses and rainbows with no consequences or hardships. It’s not; it’s still a profession and a business in which winning comes before almost everything. And that responsibility is not just on us players, but the entire coaching staff and front office as well.
Just a few days ago, I was a player residing in Palm Beach, FL representing the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, I am a Cleveland Indian, playing in Lynchburg, VA. That is the result of something that is way more than just a game.
This happens every year to countless players. Players take it differently and have their own opinions on the matter. And by the way, it’s not just us players who have to deal with the change – it’s also our families and friends, who have developed allegiances to our former teams and now have to change them at the drop of a hat. That’s not easy for many people to grasp… After all, for people who aren’t immersed in this lifestyle every single day or who don’t understand the business aspect of the sport, it can feel like your former team is throwing you out to the curb and trading you in for something shinier and new.
But in my opinion, that is absolutely not the case.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how the player himself handles the situation. And I believe in handling the situation, instead of having the situation handle me.
During the draft or in the process of a trade, an opportunity to play (or to continue to play) professional baseball has been presented to you. Someone believes in you and is knocking at your door… What can you do but gratefully answer?
My family and I have received hundreds of texts, tweets, calls, messages, etc., regarding the trade – including so many from Indians fans and also Cardinals fans – and I want to express how thankful and appreciative I am of all the support. It will not be a breeze to “start over” with a new organization, but the support makes it much easier to swallow.
I even want to thank all the people who sent me negative messages regarding the trade. Your negativity will only make me want to represent the Cleveland Indian Organization even more. Look — I had a fantastic experience with the Cardinals for which I will be absolutely forever grateful. They taught me and trained me and cared about me beyond…. and I can only show them my appreciation. But now I am a member of the Cleveland Indians, and I couldn’t be any more excited.
And my family and friends in New Jersey are now officially die-hard Cleveland fans. And yes, it can happen overnight. Our flags, gear, and the stickers on my families’ cars are all already changed. It’s a part of the game and the business.
At the end of the day, the mound is 60’6 and the bases are 90’, and every fifth day, I am competing in a sport I love. That is awesome, no matter what city or state I may be in. The opportunity given to us athletes is something that can’t be explained…it is a privilege. The business side will work itself out, and in the end, it revolves around a fun past-time – a fun game.
Again, I’d like to thank the St. Louis Cardinal organization for a great couple of years. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the entire organization. Thank you for the life long relationships, the life long lessons, and the opportunity to play professional baseball. In 2013, 27 teams passed up on me to play out of high school, but you gave me a chance. For that, I am forever grateful.
And to the Cleveland Indians: Thank you for the great opportunity. I am extremely excited to be a part of the organization. Thanks to all the Cleveland fans that have been so welcoming, it’s appreciated. Also, thanks to my teammates that I’ve met these last few days for making me feel welcomed and making this transition much easier.
Can’t wait to get to work.