Social Misfits

August 17, 2010

I’ve been spending a lot of my off the field time reading here in Italy. Just finished a great baseball book by Frank Deford called The Entitled. I highly recommend it. Anyway, in the book, there’s a passage talking about the immaturity of ballplayers…

A part of you never grows up when you stay in the game. This doesn’t affect you so much when you’re still playing, because nobody around you has grown up either. It’s away from the game, where playing a child’s game makes you different.

Which got me to thinking. After I got out of the game for a little while and had a chance to get my bearings, it became evident that I was (am) basically a social misfit. I’m recovering. And I highly suspect there’s quite a few ex-big leaguers (and current one’s too) who are in the same boat.

And here’s why. For the most part, for as long as you are in “the show,” you’re basically cut off from real life. You exist in a controlled bubble that doesn’t involve a whole lot of social interaction…except with your teammates and those within the tight circle of the traveling circus.

Yes, you’re in front of 40 thousand people a night, but for all intents and purposes they might as well be cardboard. For the most part, the fans are just a background. You’re there to do a job and they’re part of the workplace. Even if you’re signing 8,000 autographs a day, you’re not really having a lot of interaction. And even if you are interacting, it’s a strange type of interaction. Not like two normal people. I mean, one person is paying to see the other one. I don’t care how grounded a person you might be, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you’re on a different level than the guy on the other side on the fence.

So the ballplayer goes through his days shuffling from a bus to a chartered plane (right on the tarmac, not through the airport mind you), to the hotel, to the cab, to the ballpark, back into the cab, back to the hotel, back to the bus, which starts the whole cycle again. Repeat for 15 years or so. Then the off season comes and you’re so sick of the traveling and miss your family so much that all you want to do is be alone, take the phone off the hook, and hunker down.

Like I said, you don’t need to talk to anyone outside your tribe if you don’t want to.

How many big leaguers retire every year? Let’s say that number is 100. Basically MLB is spitting out 100 or so social misfits into society annually. A bunch of 16 year olds trapped in 40 year old bodies. If you’re one of those guys, the only smooth transition is if you can land a gig on the MLB network and can continue to yuck it up with other ex-players. Or stay in the game as a coach. Other than that, it’s gonna be bumpy.

The funny thing is, nobody warns you. Nothing at all. No de-briefing like the CIA, no schooling on how operate a washing machine or, God forbid, direction on how to go through an airport alone. Really? I have to wear a seatbelt and turn my ipod off? You’ve gotta be holy-cowing me. Never did it that before and we never crashed. Tell me again why I can’t sit in the cockpit.

Bert Blyleven...enough said.

So whats my point? I don’t know, I’m just talking. Definitely not complaining, just sharing my experience. I do know is it’s fortunate that there’s only a few of us out there at any given time. In the whole scheme of things, a few social misfits trying to adapt probably isn’t hurting the world too badly.

“I ain’t never had a job, I just always played baseball” ¬†- ¬†Satchel Paige

7 Responses to “Social Misfits”

  1. James says:

    Brent,

    Kicking back in Italy, hope its Amalfi or Venice, maybe Milan. But what about the offseason, don’t players have to become “normal” and play by rest of society’s rules?

  2. QTLAW says:

    Its not about misfits, its about being sheltered and being told that you’re special and accommodations will be made for you. As a father and coach of two young boys in Little League right now I can see the coddling/socialization of “star” athletes starting already and the cliques forming which gives the stars a sense of entitlement. That’s the most important thing that society has to confront and fix. A gifted athlete is no different than a scholar and should not be treated any differently; yet society has for the past 40?50? years told athletes and everyone else something different.

  3. Brent Mayne says:

    Great athletes are different. Not necessarily better, just different. Thats reality. And people love sports, so for better or worse, they’re gonna be on a pedestal.

  4. Brent Mayne says:

    James, sure, locked up in their chateau.

  5. Shawn Sedlacek says:

    Brent,

    If you’re calling me a social misfit it’s only becuase I had to wear a band uniform in the airport in Seattle….hopefully I can repair myself by the time I hit 40…….

    Hope all is well…..

    Shawn Sedlacek

  6. Patty Mayne says:

    Brent,
    Dad and I did not raise a social misfit! You worked at what you loved for 16 years and are still working today at what you love and what you are good at. You are now a teacher like us and that is a worthwhile and honorable profession. You’re also a great writer and funny. I laughed out loud reading this blog. Oh and another thing. You married a remarkable women and raised three beautiful and socially responsible kids, so how can that come from a socially misfit ex-major leaguer? Hang in there and keep your eye on the ball and you will continue to help a lot of people. We love you.
    Mom

  7. Royce the Cherokee says:

    I agree with everyone on this one. There were nights where I looked around and thought those 40 thousand in the stands were social mis-fits. It is what I love about hanging on this giant ball and spinning like crazy out here in space, what an awesome ride!
    p.s. Hey Brant, where do I get one of those Blyleven T-shirts; and people wonder why he’s not in the HOF; me too.

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