Hey hey! Welcome back to The Bullpen Sessions! Each week, I deconstruct my journey and struggles through my professional baseball career. I take the lessons that I learned and help you apply them in your work and business so that you can live a life of purpose!
This week I am going to get really vulnerable with you, guys. I’m going to share a moment in my life that I really regret. So grab your glove, hold your ball, get ready to take the mound — this is going to be interesting.
Make sure to keep reading throughout this whole post because this story has a twist. It’s about a decision I made in my pro baseball career that had a much bigger impact on my life than I realized. With that, let’s get started.
Spring Training 2001
Let me take you back to my spring training in 2001 when I was playing with the Milwaukee Brewers. Each day I got to the spring training complex before sunrise and kept my stuff in the locker. Your locker could be next to someone playing AA or AAA who is just one step away from making it to the Major Leagues. It’s a great way to learn from guys who have been where you are and beyond!
Although, the thing about spring training is that it is very monotonous. Each day you go down for breakfast alongside the rest of the Minor League camp, you come back, relax, put on your uniform and head out for stretching and calisthenics, followed by eight-nine hours of practice. And if you don’t enjoy the entire process, it is going to get to you quickly.
And I admit that I probably did not enjoy the process as much as I could have. I allowed myself to view the game more as a job than a hobby or a passion. Yes, it is a business at that point, but you can still give yourself space to really enjoy the process of getting up every morning to play ball while getting paid for it.
But that year, I knew that if I stuck around spring training long enough and if I didn’t get cut, I had a chance to go break camp and pitch for the Beloit Snappers. The Beloit Snappers is a single A team in the Milwaukee Brewers organization located in Beloit, Wisconsin. And Beloit was just 50 miles away from where I grew up, which is why it was such a big deal to me! If I spent the summer pitching in Beloit, my friends and family could come and watch every single game that I played, and boy, was I excited about that!
So every day, I got up and worked on my mechanics. I might not have enjoyed the process much, but I did not take anything for granted. And I remember entering into the last week of the spring training, days away from breaking camp, and I felt good.
Two-three weeks into the spring training camp, you start playing games in the afternoon (sometimes teams will come to your spring training complex or vice versa). And on this particular day, we were heading over to the Scottsdale area to take on the Oakland Athletics. It was a beautiful complex, and I was pitching that day and had a really good outing. I didn’t give up any runs in the one or two innings that I played, and that made me feel really confident about what that summer was going to look like. I was excited about the possibility of my friends and family watching me play professional baseball consistently.
After the game, I headed over to the practice field, ran my sprints, and did my cool-down workout with the trainer. On the bus back to our spring training facility, I was sitting next to Billy Hall who at that time was playing AA or AAA, and we had an inspiring conversation. Everything was looking good for me, but then that all changed.
The Pink Slip
When I woke up the next morning, it was like any other day. But when I reached the spring training facility that day, there was something different. As I walked into the locker room, hanging on my locker was a pink slip. It was a very awkward moment. When you’re given a pink slip, everybody knows that you are being cut and let go, and so they tiptoe around you, pat you on the back trying not to offend you, and tell you how it has been a joy playing beside you.
I grabbed my playbook and took a walk of shame down to the Director of Personnel’s office. And here’s what was interesting — when I entered his office, I wasn’t just talking to the Director but also to two Minor League coaches who were sitting on either side of him. What were they doing there? And then it struck me — when some people are cut, they absolutely freak out. Those coaches were there for the Director’s protection.
They thanked me for my time and service, passed over a list of independent teams to me, and asked me to pick a team that I wanted to play for. They would make a call and refer me to that team. These independent teams are professional baseball teams but are not affiliated to any Minor League or Major League baseball teams. I could have spent the next summer playing in the independent leagues, and who knows another major league team might have shown interest and signed up a contract with me.
And so at that moment, I made a terrible decision. I told them that I was glad that I got the chance to play professional ball, but I already had my finance degree, so it was time for me to move on with the rest of my life. It was not this decision that I regretted the most, but it was a bad one nevertheless. I was 22-23 years old at the time, and I could have taken a year or two to play independent ball, enjoyed the travel, and had fun since I did not have too many responsibilities at that age. But my pride was hurt, so I wasted that opportunity.
If you are a young athlete reading this, then I have a piece of advice for you: Savour the joy that your sport brings you, regardless of whether you’re the MVP or not. If you have a chance to continue playing in independent leagues or have any other opportunity to pursue your sport, then don’t be so quick to end your career so abruptly as I did!
The Decision I Regret the Most: Letting That Experience Impact My Business Career
Now, this is where we get to the lesson that I want to teach you with this episode today. Here’s what I did regret the most. When somebody had literally fired me and told me that I was no longer good enough to play a sport that I had been playing since age four, that message impacted my business career for well over ten years. But how?
- Reason #1: I struggled with feeling good enough about myself. My self-worth was rock bottom for a long time. This definitely impacted my early career when I was selling financial planning or insurance. Am I good enough to win at this new game I’m playing? For a long time, I didn’t think so.
- Reason #2: I was never satisfied. Instead of looking back and seeing what I had accomplished as a 5’9” pitcher in professional baseball, I looked at myself as a failure. And again, this transitioned into my business career. I was never satisfied with my work. This is something I still struggle with today. Recently, I’ve really been trying to take the time to reflect and celebrate my progress about how far I have come in life!
- Reason #3: I know one of the reasons I was let go was because of my stats, or lack thereof. I also was considered “old” for the level I was in at the Minor Leagues. My stats the previous year were good, and so were my stats on the mound and the spring training, but they weren’t great. And I allowed that judgment of my abilities (based on some stats) to impact my business career. I was always tempted to compare my own stats to others, and I had this constant feeling like other people were judging me. Of course, now it was not about run averages or strike-outs, but about sales numbers, pipeline opportunities, or the amount of revenue I was bringing in. It was just a different type of stat.
Let’s face it —it stings when someone tells you that you are not good enough to play something that you have played all your life. It sucked. But what I really regret is letting that experience destroy my mindset. And as a result, for ten years, my business career suffered.
I also regret not taking the moment to celebrate victories. It’s good to be ambitious, but if you never reflect on everything you’ve accomplished, you’ll eventually burn out. And lastly, I regret the fact that I allowed myself to be judged because at the end of the day the only person that impacted my happiness and my success was me.
If you’re a young athlete, I gotta speak straight with you. At some point, your sports career is going to end, and you will have to move on to Chapter Two. You’ll have to start something new. And the advice that I want to give you is never to doubt your own abilities. Know that you are good at what you do but that your work doesn’t define you as a person. Be happy, find something that fulfills you, and enjoy the process. Celebrate your victories and the progress that you are making.
And what’s more, don’t let other people’s judgments impact you. Don’t get caught up in the comparison because at the end of the day, this is what kept my business away from success for far too long. And I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
Why You Should Listen to This Episode Right Now…
Guys, I leave this with you today — whenever a transition comes in your life, have faith in yourself. Enjoy the process and the journey to whatever your next chapter in life looks like. And most of all don’t let other people’s opinions determine your self-worth. Just stay in your lane, and know that success is coming just around the corner.
My man, thank you for taking the time to read this Friday Bullpen Sessions post, and don’t forget to listen to the episode as well. If you are enjoying these episodes, please go over to Apple Podcasts, subscribe, and give me a five-star rating — I’d be really grateful. Also, share this episode with a family member, friend, or coworker who needs to hear it, and tag me on Instagram, @andy_neary, with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways!
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