What You Can Learn From Minor League Baseball Players

I posted an article with this same title on a previous blog of mine, but I thought that in order to keep with by “Baseball, Psychology, and Life in General…” theme, it would be appropriate to post it on here as well.  I’ve made some slight modifications to my previous book review, so this isn’t just a flat out copy and paste from a previous blog.

Last summer I read Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein, which is a book about minor league baseball players.  I found the book to be pretty fascinating for a variety of reasons.  Obviously, part of the reason is because I’m a baseball aficionado who keeps tabs on the minor leagues.  But with my background in I/O psychology, it’s interesting to see how what I’ve learned translates into the real world.

A lot of people see the glamorous life of the Major League athletes and assume that all athletes experience the same perks and lifestyle, and that’s far from the case.  When you’re watching an MLB game, you’re seeing possibly only the top 10% of professional baseball players in North America (that number is assuming that each MLB organization has 25 players on each of the farm team, when in reality most teams have even more than that, so you’re really seeing less than the top 10% and maybe even closer to the top 5%).  In other words, you’re seeing the elite talents in their industry perform.

As I read Where Nobody Knows Your Name, I felt that the book actually illustrates the struggle that most working class citizens go through.  Long before I read the book, I had often felt that baseball is the most job-like of all the sports out there.  That’s not to say that the other sports aren’t difficult or job-like in their own right, but baseball is played practically every day from February until early October or even early November if your team makes it to the World Series, with minimal days off, so it most reflects the schedule of a typical working class employee than other jobs do.

To say that it’s a grind for minor leaguers to even just reach Triple-A is putting it mildly.  Along the way, players deal with all sorts of various stressors.  They play a sport they love for minimal money (some ball players in Triple-A make $2,100/month…that’s $10,500 for an entire year of work!) and many more make even less than that (of course, there are some instances where a Triple-A player with MLB experience makes six figures, but that’s few and far between).  Minor league baseball players play this game they love for minimal money, while trying to balance a family/social life away from the ballpark, dealing with the stress of living up to expectations (family expectations, their own expectations of themselves, the team that drafted them or owns their rights’ expectations), and dealing with all sorts of career uncertainty (when will they get promoted to the next level? Will they get demoted? Could they get traded? What if they get released? What’s next for them in their life after playing professional baseball?)

A big takeaway for me from reading this book, as it was when I read Jason Grilli’s Just My Game, is the importance of keeping things in perspective, and to take life as it comes to you one day at a time.  Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s important for you to be able to accept that life can change at any moment, for better or for worse, and your ability to adapt to that shapes who you are as person and the type of life that you ultimately live.

I leave you with the following points to provide food for thought:

  • Uncertainty is a part of life. Even those who go on to achieve great things in life were not always 100% sure they could achieve what they set out to achieve.  It takes confidence, hard work, and the ability to bounce back from adversity.
  • Pro athletes are people too. While their lives seem more glamorous and/or coveted than others, they live with the same stressors that other working class citizens live with.
  • Those self-doubts that you have are normal, and it’s okay to feel them. But when they take over your life, that’s when it becomes a problem.
  • Keep things in perspective. Because no matter how much you think your life sucks, and no matter how your life compares to your ideal life, you’re probably still doing pretty well and there’s probably someone out there who covets what you have.
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