Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I was a September Call-Up

wrote this tonight on a whim. please don't judge grammar or structure.  wrote one draft only

I was a September Call-Up

It was 10-years ago tonight that I was getting ready to go out in the stands and work the radar for my Triple A team the Tucson Sidewinders. As I was making my way to my seat our Player Development Director, the late Tommy Jones told me not to leave too quickly after the game. Even for the date, I remember not thinking nothing of it. I thought maybe I was going to be invited to play in winter ball or something like that. I was having a good year but did not get caught up in “am I going to get called up, who's going to get called up” like a lot of players I was playing with was going through. The Diamondbacks were on there way to a World Series championship and rumors in the clubhouse was that they weren't going to call up a lot of rookies and mess with the chemistry of the club. Basically, I was not even remotely expecting that to happen.

I performed my duties on the “gun” that night and made my way to the clubhouse. I was already dressed so I was ready to eat and go home. As I prepared my post-game spread Tommy Jones came up to me and said he needed to see me in the manager's office. Still, I was not expecting a promotion. I got into the office and the first the TJ said to me was “Knotter, where would you rather go tomorrow? Would you like to head with the rest of the team to Nashville or would you like to head to San Diego?” It took a few seconds for it to sink it what he was saying. I was going to the big leagues. On the inside, I was feeling pure joy and a extreme sense of accomplishment. I had achieved what I set out to do since I was 10-years old. I was going to be a big leaguer. I received congratulations from my manager and a big hug from Tommy Jones, my first professional manager and undoubtedly one of the men who influenced me the most in pro baseball. I will write sometime some TJ stories in the future. The man left this earth too soon and i'm sure was a big influence on many players' careers, not just mine. I left the clubhouse on cloud nine. Even though it was 2 o'clock in the morning on the East Coast, I called my parents. I'll never forget the reaction of my parents, who must have thought something was wrong when the phone rang that night.

The next day me and the other call-ups had an early afternoon flight to San Diego. That morning, I went to the mall and bought what I thought was the most “big-league” luggage I could find. I couldn't carry my nasty suitcases into a big-league hotel. That would be bush. I did pack my big-league suitcase with my Old Navy jeans, busted out T-shirts and worn-out collared shirts. I owned one Stafford sport coat and a gray suit that was issued to me the year before from my team in Japan. Later that month and went out and bought a very mid-level black suit. The first time I wore it on the plane I forgot to take off the white thread that holds the label on the suit coat. Mark Grace noticed and told me that I needed to clean up my look.. I was just thrilled Mark Grace was talking to me. I had a Mark Grace and Andre Dawson poster in my room as a kid and now I was bullshitting with him. A true dream come true.

We went to the best hotel I had ever been in, the Marriot in San Diego. My room overlooked the bay and I took a minute to soak it all in. I was in the big leagues and I couldn't believe it. We took a cab over to the ballpark. Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is huge and remember watching big football and baseball games there as a kid and now I was going to play on it. I remember walking into the clubhouse and receiving congratulations from guys I barely knew and teammates that I had played with or wer re-habbing that year in Triple A. I remember thinking this clubhouse is bootleg, this place is a dump. I went to my locker and saw my jersey hanging in the old-metal locker and thought about whose jersey also hung in this locker, who also dressed here, who also showered here. I was now officially a part of “the show” and I couldn't believe it. The stands were full that night in San Diego. It was Saturday night and the weather was beautfiul.

I sat in the pen that night and was summoned early in the game to protect the catcher while one of our pitchers was warming up. I was terrified that someone was going to smoke the ball down the line and I was going to have to make a play.

As the game moved on, I was called to warm-up. Ryan Klesko was coming up in the order and I needed to be ready to face him. I did my best just not to uncork a wild pitch and send the ball down to the infield. I don't remember the details before but I was called in to face Klesko. I'll never forget this, I get to the mound and I look around at Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Jay Bell, and Tony Womack. These were guys I watched play while I was in high school and college and now I was competing with them. Grace had the ball, he threw it into my glove and said, “Let's go kid, you've been waiting your whole fucking life for this, have some fun.” Still gives me chills thinking about it. I don't remember my warm-up tosses. But I do remember Klesko stepping in, looking larger than ever. I watched the Braves almost everyday and now I'm facing him.

My leg was shaking uncontrollably. I've never seen a replay but I wonder if people could tell. I fell behind 2-0. I threw a nice 2-0 slider that he swung at and dribbled into the whole between first and second. Junior Spivey fielded the ball but he was too far into right field to get a good throw and throw him out. Single. I was promptly taken out. Erik Sabel came and walked Phil Nevin and then Byung-Hyun Kim came in and served up a grand slam to Ray Lankford. We lost the game. I gave up an earnie and the press ate Bob Brenly for bringing me in. I didn't walk anyone or give up the grand slam and made the pitch I needed to. Brenly took heat for bringing in a rookie and admitted he made a mistake and didn't back me up. I saved the paper from the next day. I didn't pitch again for 21 days. I hung with an infinite ERA until I threw a scoreless inning in Los Angeles, my favorite stadium I ever pitched in. I remember thinking that Vin Scully was up in the booth saying my name. It gave me chills thinking about it.

That whole month was incredible in many different ways. My fiance was in town during the week of September 11th. I was staying in a condo with Jack Cust and Mike Koplove while she wasn't there but we stayed at the Embassy Suites while she was in town. The morning of September 11th my phone kept ringing off the hook. We were both wondering why the hell was my phone ringing so much. I finally answered and turned on the TV. By that time both towers were down. I'll never forget looking out my window at Sky Harbor airport and noticing how silent it was. No activity. The National Guard was guarding the entrance near the hotel. Me and my wife drove around town that day and went to eat in Tempe. It was such a surreal feeling. One i'll never forget.

We practiced for a week. I remember us all working out at Bank One and then sticking around to watch the news. Such weird times. I remember those practices feeling like high school practices. I got to simulate a start to get the starters AB's. I threw the ball well. We headed to Colorado for the first game after 9/11. Lee Greenwood sand God Bless the USA. Both teams held a huge flag on the field. The country was united.

I never got the rookie treatment during that month. The veteran laden club was too focused on winning to make rookies dress up in outrageous costumes or carry candy to the bullpen. It was serious baseball and it was awesome. I had the ultimate front row seat. Veterans Mike Morgan and Greg Swindell held court every night in the bullpen. I could write another article on the “Mo Man”. Mike Morgan was a true classis. No wonder he stuck in the bigs for 24+ years. The guy was a great teamate. He and “Zeke” made me feel a part of the bullpen even though I wasn't pitching. Great memories from that one month from great guys.

I could continue to write about that month. Some of the highlights from that month

-Watching the Big Unit and Curt Schilling throw the team on their backs to  carry the Dbacks to the playoffs. Two great champions.

-Luis Gonzalez dropping bombs

-Staying in the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles

-Being invited up to Mark Grace's suite to talk baseball, drink beer, and imbibe. Mark Grace is baseball, that's the only way I can sum him up.

-Off day in LA visiting Santa Monica pier, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz in San Fran

-Low note-Curt Schilling spitting his dip in my coffe and making a rookie joke that no one at the table laughed at. Brian Anderson told him to shut the eff up.

-Champagne celebration for winning-division in Milwaukee. Had to do a dance on top of the table. Got ripped and started the next-day, the last game of the season. Gave up 8 unearned runs in 4+ innings. No one wanted to be there but me.

-Spending a month with Mike Morgan, I would love to hear or tell more stories about him. Guy was full of enormous amounts of energy

-Watching true pros like Matt Williams, Todd Stottlemyre, Jay Bell, Reggie Sanders, Mark Grace, and Greg Swindell conduct their business. True pros.

-My cousins, Cubs fans from Chicago came to Milwaukee. We went to breakfast, Grace was there and came and chatted with us for about 10 minutes. They still talk about it to this day

-Leaving my cousin with Luis Gonzalez and Gonzo taking care of him and sharing a cab with him back to the hotel. He still talks about it. Gonzo is another good guy.

-Going over Sunday NFL lines and odds with the Big Unit. He didn't say much to anyone but was a good dude.

-Seeing Barry Bonds hit number 60 in San Fran

-Protecting the pitcher in San Fran. Not an easy job

-Pitching in Dodger Stadium

-First big-league start

-All the security after 9/11.  Like I said truly strange times.

I'll never forget that month. Luckily I got back to the bigs with the Expos for another cup of coffee. If those were the only big league memories I ever had I would have been happy with that.

Thanks for letting me share this with all of you


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Profiles of Successful Ex-Athletes- Dwight Smith Tampa Bay Buccanneers

Dwight Smith, NFL star-turned-entrepreneur, to launch game-changing new recruiting website for high school athletes

The former NFL record-holder teams with a growing list of professional athletes to create a one-stop destination for any high school athlete looking for a college scholarship.

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Dwight Smith
 Former NFL star and emerging business mogul Dwight Smith launched to help high school atheltes better market themselves in order to help them receive a college scholarship.

PR NewsChannel) / October 12, 2010 / DETROIT / Dwight Smith, former star NFL safety and emerging entrepreneur, continues to establish himself in the business community with his latest venture,, an all-inclusive website designed to help high school athletes market themselves more effectively to college coaches. The site takes the features of existing recruiting websites like personalized video highlights, academic and athletic resumes, and up-to-date statistics and advances them a crucial step forward with its innovative new free social networking feature that lets high school athletes connect with one another to learn more about each other’s firsthand recruiting experiences.
Though the transition from professional athlete to successful businessman is never easy, Smith has thus far passed with flying colors. Already receiving buzz after the successful launch earlier this month, Smith’s new project has received considerable financial backing, and continues to draw interest and participation from a growing cast of college and professional athletes. Smith says he’s excited to collaborate with this diverse network of players from a variety of sports and to be able to focus his burgeoning entrepreneurial talents on a subject he knows from experience will help countless young people navigate the murky waters of the college recruiting process.
“When I was coming up, you got noticed by going to camps or clinics that different colleges would have,” says Smith. “It made the process a lot harder, and it took the control of the situation away from the player and their family. The social networking aspect of the site changes that because it puts high schoolers in touch with each other and with college and even pro athletes who have been through the recruiting process already.”
The NFL record holder says he wouldn’t change his own high school recruiting process because he loved his time at the University of Akron, but Smith’s own lack of options coming out of high school is what Profile Athletes will change for future generations of high school athletes. Smith is careful not to put too much emphasis on athletics, however, because he stresses the end game isn’t about sports at all. Instead, he says, his latest business enterprise is focused primarily on education and making it easier for young men and women to receive a college education.
“The Profile Athletes venture grabbed my attention because I see how these economic times are causing kids to not be able to go to college,” says Smith. “Profile Athletes can give them another way out. You want your kids to have the best education they can get, and if you can get it for free, you can’t beat that.”
For more information, please visit or
About Born out of a desire to make it easier for high school athletes receive a college education, is the new venture of former NFL star and emerging business mogul Dwight Smith. Smith spent eight seasons as one of the top safeties in the league and won a Super Bowl title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003 when he became the first player in history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same Super Bowl. Along with Smith’s inside knowledge of the highest levels of sports, incorporates the tips and advice of a growing cast of college and professional athletes to help high school athletes market themselves to colleges and college coaches around the country. The site’s free social networking design and feel makes it easier than ever for high schoolers to post video highlights, athletic accomplishments and academic résumés so that any coach at any school of any size can find them. For more information about, please visit
For interviews with Dwight Smith, please contact:
Katie Witkowski
Public Relations Director
Phone: (248) 719-8292

MLB getting involved in Continuing Education and Career Development

Retired players focusing on making ends meet

Andy Tracy expects this season, his 16th in professional baseball, to be his last.
Even if it belied his talent, the path the 37-year-old has taken looks like that of a quintessential "Four-A" player. He has 284 home runs in the Minor Leagues. He's played in just 149 games in the Major Leagues.
"You know you're getting to the end of your career and you're getting old and you just know that you're going to have to turn the page at some point," said Tracy, who is with the D-backs' Triple-A team in Reno, Nev. "I've been thinking about that on and off for the last four years."
Through Sunday, Andy Tracy was hitting .268 with 10 doubles, six homers and 23 RBIs in 39 games. (Dave Nelson/
A final reprise in the big leagues would be special for Tracy for all the expected reasons: posterity, a last hurrah. But when you retire from baseball without having ever landed a grand payday -- that is, when you're like most baseball players, Major League or Minor League -- there's a bit more to it.
"It'd be awesome for a guy like me with a family to get back up," said Tracy, whose children are two and four years old. "You got to look it from a healthcare perspective. I'd get [Major League] healthcare through Opening Day."
As for what career Tracy will find next, he's uncertain. For 16 years, he's been one class away from finishing his Bachelor's degree.
Tracy's situation is hardly unique, and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association knows it. It is developing a career-transition program to help players like Tracy ease into a second life after their playing days are over. Such a program is expected to be in place soon, possibly within a year, according to Dan Foster, chief executive officer of the alumni association.
"Both the [MLB] Players Association and the Alumni Association agree that there's a need to come up with a career-transition program, which we're working on currently," Foster said. "We're just getting into how this is going to work. Nobody has the answers yet."
The number of living former Major Leaguers is estimated to be about 8,000, although it's impossible to pinpoint, Foster said. Players who did not accrue 43 days in the bigs are not part of the Major League pension plan, putting some out of contact. The number of career Minor Leaguers is virtually impossible to estimate.
Some players retire and are financially comfortable for the rest of their lives. The majority, though, are not. For every multimillionaire All-Star, there are hundreds of players who did not make very much money in the game, especially if they spent most or all of their careers in the Minors. And a good number of those players turned pro after being drafted out of high school.
"The stories are all the way from the guys who have gone on to become doctors and dentists and lawyers to healthy businessmen, to guys who are literally digging ditches who have to work," Foster said. "I was talking to a guy last week who's trimming trees with his landscaping business. The stories are as vast as there are guys."
Jon Switzer is working his way into the real-estate business. Cut in Spring Training last year by the Astros after parts of five seasons in the Majors, the now 31-year-old went back to school, got his real-estate license and is trying to find a landing spot.
"I've just been trying to figure this thing out, the career transition is really what we'll call that, and getting accustomed to what it means not having baseball as a source of income," said Switzer, a 2001 second-round Draft pick of the Rays. "What I've discovered is that although we have a great skill set to go out into the real world and do things, it's hard to prove that to an employer with no actual work experience and nothing on a resume other than 'I threw a ball around.'
"Which is pretty cool, it might get you an interview or a discussion, but at the end of the day, those guys are making a living off of you and they're not going to [take a chance], especially in this economy when there are plenty of unemployed people with greater experience and awesome resumes sitting out there."
Switzer is a lucky one, and in terms of his money management, he's always been a smart one. He signed for a reported bonus of $850,000, money he put away and hasn't touched.
"I still have to go to work, but I don't have to do something I don't want to do," Switzer said.
Minor considerations
Baseball is one of the two major American sports to have an extensive farm system, hockey being the other. But none of the others boast as many professionals as baseball does, and none of the other sports, therefore, send as many former players into the workforce.
Phil Seibel, who received a 2004 World Series ring from the Red Sox for making the only two big league appearances of his career, advises ballplayers on their finances. He recalled making roughly $850 a month -- that's only during the season -- in his first year in the Minors. At Class A he reached $1,100 a month, then went up to $2,500 a month at Triple-A, figures he said remain close to the norm for players at those levels who are not on 40-man rosters.
Whether Minor Leaguers would be covered by the career-transition program, or to what extent they'd be covered, is one of the details that needs to be worked out. The same is true with the funding sources. About a decade ago, there was an attempt at a pilot.
"The end result was that there was no funding for it," Foster said.
That didn't mean that players were left or are without help, though.
If there is a financial crisis in the baseball family -- that includes everyone from former players, managers and umpires to widows, spouses and children -- the Baseball Assistance Team, known as B.A.T., has been a success since 1986.
Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball both have pensions and healthcare plans, although the Majors' plans are more comprehensive. And since the 1960s, the Professional Baseball Scholarship Plan has helped send players to school. Switzer tapped into that.
There are other organizations that can assist, too, from ones specifically dedicated to athletes to others with broader scopes, like The Kauffman Foundation, which is dedicated to entrepreneurship.
Still, there is a hope for more.
"There are those that need financially to continue to make a living to support their family, that is certainly one level," said Rex Gary, a longtime agent. "And then there's the other level of players who are more financially secure, at least for a period of time, but they want to do something that's worthwhile."
One of Gary's clients, Mickey Morandini, went from playing second base in the Major Leagues to running an upscale stationary and gift company with his wife.
Market watch
No matter how soon a career-transition program lifts off, players can help themselves be better prepared for their lives after baseball by managing their money effectively. That may be obvious in theory, but isn't always in practice.
"I don't drive expensive cars. I'm just trying to get the car and the house taken care of," Tracy said.
"It's pretty overwhelming once you get your first Major League paycheck," said 32-year-old Matt Smith, who pitched in 35 Major League games between the Phillies and Yankees and now works at R&R Partners, an advertising agency in Las Vegas. "You look at it and you compare it to what you've been making in the Minor leagues, it's mind-boggling. ... I'm not going to say I was a saint and I didn't spend my money, but for the most part I was pretty good."
How players manage their finances is varied. Agencies sometimes handle it, players sometimes do it on their own, and some just aren't concerned with it. Agents like Gary and Joe Sroba, the former of whom is Tracy's agent, have seen players run the spectrum with their desire to look after their funds. So, too, have most players.
Jody Gerut, a retired six-year Major Leaguer, is entering the world of financial management with the hopes of stemming that tide. Gerut's not yet sure how closely he'll be working with baseball players, though he does intend to work with athletes, while Seibel's group can already count a handful of Major Leaguers among its clients.
Seibel and a small group of other ex-ballplayers run the AWM Group, a division of Penniall and Associates that focuses on athletes. Seibel is the only one of the partners to have made the Majors, and works on the insurance side, but the idea behind the group was to work with those who come after him.
"Unfortunately and fortunately for me, I've kind of been through the ringer," Seibel said. "I've been injured, I've had contracts taken away, I've been to the top, I've played in the Major Leagues. I have the gamut of experiences where I can relate. The only thing I didn't get was that large contract signed, but there's a small percentage that do."
School and the job hunt
Navigating the college experience isn't always a 20-year-old's game. Tracy's going to finish his last class, but he hasn't yet figured out exactly what degree he'll receive from Bowling Green State.
"I've been procrastinating for 16 years," he said. "It'll be an upper-level business course just to finish my degree."
Still, Tracy, who was 22 and almost finished at Bowling Green when he was drafted, is better off than someone who signed out of high school might be. One class is better to worry about than two or four years worth of them.
Online courses have been a particularly useful to ballplayers. Smith used them to his advantage, as did Switzer.
"I took summer classes online with the idea that if something did come up," Switzer said, "I could sign and take the computer with me."
Pulling away from the game entirely is rarely easy. Like many, Tracy would love to stay around, be it as a coach or otherwise, but that's a family decision. Travel is the chief issue.
For Smith, who isn't involved in the game anymore, saying goodbye was "the hardest thing in this transition."
That's why Seibel believes he's found the best of both worlds. He worked in the D-backs' front office before entering the insurance world, and had aspirations of running a club someday. He stepped back, though, and he saw what that life would mean if he decided to have children.
"The reason I got into [the front office] was because I wanted to help players, and I wanted to be a resource for them as a guy who played in their shoes," Seibel said. "It didn't pan out the way that I was hoping it to, but I honestly believe I found that way: to earn a living, and then at the same time, hopefully help and educate these players."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Career Over: Now What?

Career Over: Now What?

I knew the moment I walked off the mound for the last time that my life had changed forever. As I gave the ball up to the manager I realized that I had spent my entire life striving to be the best baseball players I could be, and now I had no true goal to strive for. Sure I wanted to be a good husband, father, and son. I wanted to have a successful career after baseball. I wanted to provide well for my family and enjoy a comfortable life. The problem was, I had no idea how I was going to do it. I had not made any serious preparations for a career after baseball. I left college without earning my degree and hadn't returned to school in the eleven years I played professional baseball. Eleven tough years that I considered a success. I never made a lot of money in baseball but I achieved my childhood goal of pitching at the big league level and got to pitch in games all around the world. I got to live my dream and to me that was a success.

I remember getting back to the hotel that night and wondering what the hell I was going to do now. I had decided before I went to winter ball that if I didn't get an offer to pitch with a MLB organization for the following spring that I was ready to retire from baseball to go home and be with my wife and kids full-time. I was ready to be a full-time husband and father. At the time, starting the season in the Mexican League for the fourth season in a row was not a route I was ready to take again.

Even though I was prepared to step away from baseball, I was not ready to be a full-time non-professional baseball player. That was all that I wanted to be growing up and that was all that I was. Baseball was the only way I knew how to bring in consistent income. My various part-time jobs during the off-season: tile setter/helper, insurance inspector, and recruiter were not careers at the time that I was seriously interested in pursuing.

I knew I didn't want to do any of these things full-time but I didn't even know how to properly prepare a resume or interview for a job. My resume was weak compared to most other job candidates that were interviewing for the same positions. The only real job offers I got were from companies that operated boiler-room type phone centers or marketing services. Jobs where turnover was high and making good commissions was virtually impossible. These were not the type of jobs or careers I wanted to pursue.

That's the reason I decided to write about this. I've finally discovered what I want to do in my post-baseball career. I want to help other players and athletes avoid the mistakes that I have made along the way. I want to let players know that just because you start preparing for a life after baseball you are not accepting defeat in you athletic career. The facts are simple, professional athletes' careers have shelf lives. Only the top-tier players go on to sustain a career that brings lifelong financial security. Most guys never make it to the big leagues or if they do, their career is over in less than five years. That means most of us athletes are going to have to “make it” in something else also. The earlier your start preparing for this reality the better off you are going to be.

I look forward to sharing more of thoughts and ideas with those who are want to achieve success in the next level of their lives and careers. Remember, you'll probably be “pro” in something else a lot longer than your were a professional athlete.

You can read more of my thoughts and ideas on successful athlete transitioning on my blog at