I wish I had a time machine. I wish I could go back and talk to the rookie I used to be. I wish I could tell him the things I’ve learned so he wouldn’t have to learn them the hard way. Like I did.
First thing I’d say is that there’s no hurry to get to the Show. It was there before you started in the minors and it will be there after you retire. No one is going to love you more for your being there a year earlier and they may love you less. You’ll make a bigger splash if you arrive with a stronger skillset.
As a player in the draft pool, you will be drafted by a team. Don’t demand to be drafted by a specific team or ask to be traded to a specific team. Team-hopping like that will make you undesirable as a free agent and that’s where the money is, in free agency.
And while you’re a rookie, don’t expect to be paid like a veteran. You aren’t. Some GMs do give rookies higher paying contracts but that’s the exception, not the rule.
I should also talk about development. Yes, you should work hard. But make sure you’re having fun. They say “Play ball!” and if you’re working ball instead you need to re-examine your life and the choices you’re making. One interview a week is enough. One blog entry. One update. If you view these as things that you *have* to do, then you’ll shy away from doing them or you’ll give less than your best effort. And if something doesn’t go as well as you’ve planned, well, there’s another week coming so you can do better next time.
As a pitcher, work on your stuff. It doesn’t matter what pitches you throw if you can throw them well. And listen to your coaches and your veteran teammates when they tell you what to work on. They have learned from bitter experience. You have the opportunity to have their knowledge handed to you. Take it.
In spring training it’s better to work hard on everything and not focus on a specific area. And when you have money, invest in your future. Increasing your ceiling may look like a waste now, but down the road, it has a larger payoff. Don’t borrow money unless you have no other choice. You shouldn’t mortgage your future for a quick pick-me-up. If there’s something special you want to train in, save up the money and buy it when you can pay cash. Nothing will make you good enough quick enough to make you enough extra money to cover that interest.
Don’t buy a car till you buy a house. That sounds backward, which is why I had to learn the hard way. But a house is an investment in your future and a car is an investment in your present. If you put it that way, it helps to see the wisdom of acquiring real estate.
Don’t spend all your money on things that don’t directly benefit you. Fancy graphic billboards are pretty but they don’t help you pitch. Besides, you never know when you could get hurt and need to pay a huge deductible. A website is a good idea, buying baubles to put on the website is not. And if you’re going to gamble, figure out how much you can afford to lose and stop there.
And don’t hire an agent. Half the fun of being a player is negotiating your contract. And all agents do is the fun part and then you have to pay them for having what should have been your fun.
Respect your team. Your teammates and your GM. If you are unhappy about something, address your GM and give him or her the opportunity to resolve it. If you’re going to be leaving, let your GM know so that plans can be made. Don’t just walk out. Because if you slam a door shut, it may never open again. And when you sign a contract, whether it’s with the club that drafted you or someplace you picked, make sure someone else besides you and your GM looks it over so nothing is skipped. And make sure you have an incentive clause for everything you want to be recognized for. They don’t think it’s important that you did it unless they have to pay you for it. The amount isn’t important, but the recognition is.
And while you’re saving your money…..don’t purchase a team, either. And especially don’t borrow money to do it. Because you would then have both principle and interest money going to the bank instead of into your personal development.
How do I know all this? Because I am you. I have lived what I’m talking about. I have made mistakes and discoveries. I pitched a no-no and gotten no-no recognition from my club and no-no bonus money. I pitched a perfecto, too. I struck out 475 batters in a season and 20 in a game. You will do all of this and more if you follow my advice.
It’s too late for me. But maybe it’s not too late for you.