Baseball Agent as a Career Path? Part 1 - Expenses
Let me say right up front that I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’ve developed with Players and their families for anything. These are folks whom I will count as friends for the rest of my life. Indeed, after 15 years in the business I have been blessed in this regard and the older I get, the more I realize that relationships are what life’s about.
But you’re not reading this article for “life lessons”. You want to know about the “Dream Job” of being a baseball agent. Well, don’t quit that day job just yet! (Or at least have a fallback Plan B.) The depiction in popular movies and the perception of the general public have little to do with the reality of everyday duties and responsibilities of a good hard-working agent.
What I hope to do is to provide some insight into the business in a series of articles, this being the first. My intent is to be as objective as I can so that you can actually make an informed decision regarding entering the business with eyes wide open.
I’m going to assume that you’re not one of the few fortunate ones who snags that job with a big Baseball Agency. (I can’t speak to that type of experience but imagine it’s a luxury to not worry about cash flow or travel budget constraints.) So what does it cost to run an agent practice?
Here’s the first revelation – YOU provide your players with equipment in the Minor Leagues. That means spikes, molded spikes, turfs, running shoes, gloves, batting gloves, sleeves, sliding shorts, bats, elbow guards and sunglasses. (Here’s a hint – Pitchers are cheaper!) People seem surprised that the Organizations (MLB Teams) don’t supply these things. But, except for a glove and pair of spikes upon initial signing, they simply don’t.
Now, if you’re fortunate to represent a high draft pick, there’s a good chance that you can secure a deal for shoes, apparel or gloves from an equipment company like NIKE, Rawlings, Wilson, Under Armour or New Balance. Cultivating relationships with these folks is obviously helpful. The savings, especially for catchers, can be huge.
Absent deals with companies, you’re probably looking in the neighborhood of $1,000-1,500 per Player annually in equipment expenses. (The good news from the equipment standpoint is that the higher your Player rises, the more opportunities for equipment deals exist. Ultimately, if he reaches the big leagues, equipment deals become relatively simple to obtain. Companies are looking for exposure for their products. Major Leaguers provide that immediately as opposed to Minor Leaguers who are more or less, risks for the companies.)
That doesn’t sound too bad you say. But we aren’t done. If you want to keep your Player, you better get out to see them during the season. I typically see a Player in Spring Training, during the season and usually, in the off season as well. (The best part about Spring Training is the fact that the Players are in two relatively close locations – Arizona and Florida. Once camps break, they can be anywhere from Visalia, California to Portland, Maine – and lots of places in between.)
Why is it so important to actually see them? Relationships. (There it is again.) I often correct folks who are under the impression that an agent has to “babysit” or “hand hold” his clients. I find such descriptions a little insulting to the player. Seeing them often helps create a relationship and hopefully a bond that will last through his rise through the ranks. It will show the Player that you actually do care about them and their life. The journey through the minor leagues is full of difficulties and doubt. Baseball really is a game of failure and the manner in which a Player handles it will determine how far he gets. Having a familiar face to play pool with after a game in Missoula, Montana or share a meal at Outback (standard fare!) in Hickory, North Carolina goes a long way to creating a bond that helps both of you.
So, you have to factor in travel costs in your budget – plane fare, car rental, hotel reservations and meals. I sometimes try and schedule trips when I can get a “2 for 1” where I have Players playing against each other. (It does sometimes make for an awkward post game dinner if one player has actually taken the other deep during the game! But they get over it.)
In general, I would estimate another $1,000 per Player per year for the travel expenses and meals noted above.
I haven’t addressed the typical administrative expenses incurred in running an office simply because they can include anything from office space, personnel, computers, phones, supplies etc. etc. You can actually run things with a cell phone, fax and an iPad out of your home or you can go with the full office set up and all the accruements associated with it. Obviously, the expenses are dependent on which way you go.
So that’s it for this episode. Hopefully it provides some insight for you regarding this particular aspect of the business. I hope to address additional areas of the “Dream Job” in future articles.