It’s probably unfortunate, having entered this phase at age 18. Most kids gave up on being involved in baseball when they didn’t get that Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card in that $5 pack, and went on to become aspiring astronauts, veterinarians, and doctors, in that order. But do most kids wake up in the middle of the night with ideas about how to optimize a team’s lineup, or possibilities for new, insightful statistics? Do most kids know the significance of UZR, VORP and RAR, or the difference between a flat cement-mixer curve and a nasty, biting deuce? Do most adults? Not a chance.
For better or worse, I contracted the “baseball fever” at a point in life when people our age are urged to think about plans for the future. A few years later, after reading everything I could find about statistics, scouting, and baseball management, my commitment to this dream has not been dampened, even by the numerous failures I have encountered. Landing a job with an MLB front office is not as hard as being a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but you’re talking about either flexing some serious industry connections or, more likely, making a profound, often financially debilitating commitment to a long-shot labor of love.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’ve loved baseball for my entire life. I played some little league, sure, but usually I’d stand at the plate terrified of being hit by the ball. Basically, I gave it up pretty quickly, and concentrated on other hobbies up through high school. My astronaut and veterinarian dreams have come and gone, but baseball keeps recurring as the one subject that holds my interest so much that I would dedicate my life to it. I can’t subjectively assess lots of aspects in the game, sure, but there’s a certain level of expertise necessary to be in any sort of high-ranking position, and this expertise is often learned along the way. All one needs is the chance to start at the bottom.
Breaking into professional baseball is hard. Unlike investment banking, grad school, or politics, you’re not going to get much help from Yale. Believe me, I’ve tried to drop the “Y Bomb.” It just doesn’t have the same impact that you might expect, especially now that the “Ivy League” angle has been exercised by Theo, Mark, Jon, Paul and all of the other saintly figures of modern baseball operations. I’ve learned a great deal during my time here, but not much of it has any place on the baseball field.
If you choose this path, you’ll also find that it is difficult to communicate your interests as being any more valid than those of the thousands of other candidates. So you go to Yale, and have been to every Toledo Mud Dogs game since you were seven. So what? These days, teams are looking for only the most knowledgeable, dynamic, intelligent candidates, with very eclectic backgrounds. Or you could sleep with Bud Selig’s daughter. Your choice. Also, be certain not to mention fantasy baseball. I love it as much as the next fanatic, but fantasy baseball is no more like real baseball than chess is like storming an al-Qaida training camp with an AK-47. Just keep it a secret, and log on to Yahoo to pick up Joey Gathright when nobody is looking.
For sure, there are times when I wonder what I’m doing with my life. Like many others, I often dream of cutting my hair, putting on a suit, and riding the wave of corporate America. After all, it’s a very respectable way of life, and lucrative too. Why struggle for years as an intern when I could more easily join a Fortune 500 company and make enough money to buy season tickets, enjoying my obsession as a hobby?
I would think that all sports fans struggle with this at some point. Most days, I have come to grips with my commitment to baseball. When I begin to question myself, all I need is to pick up a Baseball Prospectus or watch Marc Sawyer ’07 rip a double down the line to recharge my devotion to the dream.
After sending out two years’ worth of resumes, e-mailing GMs, making a few tenuous connections in the industry, and scouring the Internet for internships, I have accepted that I am at the outset of a very long and risky career path. But who isn’t? Hearing about the presidents and Nobel Laureates and Doctors Without Borders who have come out of this place has made me realize that Yale is all about long shots. It’s about crackpot schemes. It’s about doing what everyone said couldn’t be done. And, as I’ve been told by people in the business, sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.
So, this summer, you’ll find me as an intern in the stands writing publicity for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League. It’s not exactly the Yankees, but I’m looking forward to watching some good baseball and getting a foothold in the industry. And if it doesn’t pan out a few years down the line, I’ll shave the stubble, don the suit, and make the big bucks in the business world. And sure, I’ll always wish I had been able to make it in baseball — but when it comes to farfetched dreaming, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jason Pare is a junior in Morse College. He is the baseball beat reporter for the News.