Recently someone from my hometown got drafted and a slew of people—many i’ve not talked to in decades—came out of the woodwork, asking if I’d talk to the young man about what to expect on the professional journey.

Short answer: Bad locker rooms, peanut butter and jelly, and hard, small, coach bus seats.
Long answer: The defining quest of your life, distilled into a series of numbers that the untold masses will use to errantly measure your value as a human being.
As far as that first thing goes, my best advice is get noise canceling headphones, wear shower shoes, and don’t date the girl you see outside the locker room every night—she’s been there for years, bro.
As far as the life quest thing… well, I’ll do my best.
Here goes:
Remember: you are not what you do.
Countless pros have said it before me and hopefully countless pros will say it after me. Why then does everyone say it like it’s a fresh discovery? Because it’s so damn easy to forget in a world that loves you because of your job title.
Your life will now revolve around baseball. Practicing, playing, training, eating, sleeping… everything will be done in orbit of this sport. Moreover, it will be done on a scope and scale you’ve never experienced before. It will dictate more than you thought it ever would or could. And, at least at first, you’ll love it because you are “living the dream.” You allow baseball to take whatever it wants because the trade off is worth it.
It’s not.
On good days you’ll feel great about yourself. On bad days you’ll be mad at yourself. Over time you won’t be able to separate yourself—the player—from yourself—the person. If you have more good days than bad, you’ll think you’re awesome. If more bad than good, you’ll think yourself a failure. It’s a trap, kid. It’s a trap.
You’re perfectly capable of seeing yourself as a person first, with thoughts and interests and values unique to you, and a player second. You’re not cheating on baseball by doing this, you’re simply breaking free of the myth that you are the sum of your occupational parts.
No one is saying you can’t enjoy the good days—you totally should. But you’re not an awesome person because you played well, or play at all, and you don’t suck at life because you stunk today. Simply put; you get paid to play a kid’s game, and somedays the ball will bounce in your favor and others it won’t. All you can do is train to give yourself more chances at success than the standard distribution calls for. What happens after that is just an outcome, not a definition of your worth.
This is hard to remember. Mainly because you’ll be in a locker room of competitive personalities, happy to act like they’re awesome just because they got drafted higher, from a better school, or had a good day, week, or season. Let them act. Confidence and arrogance are always on display in this new world, and they are both volatile stocks. You don’t don’t have to display yours like peacock feathers, and you don’t have to let it waiver like many of your teammates will.
From here on everyone will have a critique for you— fans, teammates, coaches, even umpires. Decide who YOU are and what matters to you, and check and see if your behavior, regardless of baseball outcomes, is supporting that behavior. Then stick to it. You’ll have a lot of free advice coming your way so you need to know what is useful, how to test it, how to to pass on it, and how to break off relationships that are damaging your sense of value.
Don’t let others dictate what you think of yourself. You can let others advise you’re actions without letting them tell you who or what you are—two distinct and separate things. Note: this is NOT a free pass to be a swaggerfull, cocky douche bag, constantly letting others know—through how you dress, spend money or name drop—how awesome you are because you gotta be you. That’s insecurity. That’s a need for people to notice you. That’s you looking for someone else to look at you. It’s validation seeking and it’s addictive and you should strive to live with out it.
Remember: you are not the product of others outward insecurities. You are an anchored player and person who can decide for yourself.
If your family is supportive, rely on them. If they are not—and you should know this by now— find someone with wise council who does not see you as a chance to leverage their personal dreams at your expense. Family is a contextual term.
Ask a wise council to anchor your reasoning. If you can’t figure out who wise council is, you’ve got bigger problems than figuring out how to hit pro pitching or get outs against grown men.
Professional baseball is a toxic environment. Let me repeat that: your new job IS a toxic environment. You’ll be around a lot of stupid decision making justified by groupthink and masculine bravado. You’ll want to waste money. You’ll want to waste relationships. You’ll want to flaunt your sexuality and sexual conquests. You’ll want to waste yourself, your time, your future. Find someone outside the bubble of the game who can help you make sense of life inside it, where gravity is often inverted and the illogical seems logical, justified by the mass actions of others.
Keep your head down and keep your mouth shut—simple but brilliant. Baseball is a peculiar hierarchy. Older players, even if they’re older by a day, pray on the younger as sustenance for their own ego. The concept of having experience in sports, often expressed as “time,” is all powerful. Don’t speak up without doing anything for your club first—it makes you a target for those who need to measure how much they’ve done. Let your play speak and the rest will come: success, friends, money. If you build a solid career, it will all come, and you’ll never have to say anything about yourself because it will all be understood ahead of time.
Speaking of money, what you’ve made in this game—your singing bonus, the money coming in, and endorsements or contracts—is yours. It’s not your dad’s or mom’s or brother’s or sad-sack cousin’s or friend’s or girlfriend’s (however many you may have) or posse, or crew, or whatever the hell you call a group of young punk friends. Its yours. It will go fast if you let it, so don’t hand it out.
If your family is in a bad financial situation when you get this money and you don’t know what caused your family to be in a bad financial situation, don’t bail them out. Chances are they don’t know why they’re in a bad state either and fools don’t need more easy money. Sounds harsh, right? Good. It should. When you signed that pro contract, you signed up for a chance to take care of yourself for life. It’s chance that—if you make the most of it—can take care of a lot of things. It’s also a chance you’ll never get again. So be smart, the chance is fleeting, and while you want a short term memory with play results, you need a long term plan with financial ones.
Signing a pro-contract does not make you wealthy, it just makes you a kid with money. You’re no smarter or successful now than you were a week ago. All that changed was that you just got a flashy new job and some easy money. A person can have a good, well paying job and not be good with money. Put your new money in the bank and go look for a reputable education in how to manage it. You might be scared everyone is trying to take your money now that you have it, or, inclined to behave like it’s the first of untold riches you’re destined to make in baseball. Both are foolish. Take the money, put it in the bank. Keep a small amount in liquid cash and the bulk in a Vanguard Index fund. Come back to it later when you’re not a financial idiot.
I know, you want to get a car and a PS4 and a big screen, fix up your folks and so on and so forth. Don’t. Take the first half season of your new career and watch how others spend. Watch how fast their money goes. Watch how hard the minor league life is. Watch what money does to how people look at each other and treat each other. Watch how useless a pimped-out car is in a world where you can’t drive yourself anywhere and a windshield is just a landing zone for foul balls.
Most of all, watch how many players get released in their first season.
You’re mortal. Realizing it is not a weakness, it’s wisdom. I realize you may feel invincible now, and you should enjoy the feeling because there is a time and a place to celebrate what you’ve achieved. But this day is a pit stop on a much bigger journey, and that journey IS NOT getting to the big leagues. It’s getting to self actualization. It’s getting to a comfortable and fulfilling future. It’s getting to a safe and healthy harbor where you can pursue other goals, with or without baseball in your life.
You’re growing up, and you’re going to do the first portion of that through baseball. Therefore, always consider the person you want to become. You aren’t promised anything beyond a chance now, but if you want to make the most of that chance without breaking, going bust, or broke; be smart. Level your shoulders and your thinking. Fight to win, and make fall back plans for when you lose a few. Expand yourself, empower yourself, temper yourself. Do these things and, no matter what happens next, you will succeed.

Good luck.
–If you enjoyed this, please click an add on the site. I write this for free and your clicks help keep the site up and running. Thank you!–