2/15/22 : Baseball Bonds
It’s been seven years now since I retired from my corporate career at Pfizer yet I still remember my last day as if it was yesterday. I had asked my team to do me the honor of escorting me out of the building as I exited for the final time. It was an emotional moment, a chapter of thirty two years of my family’s life ending as we turned the page into a new one.
In many cases the work bonds that form over daily interaction grow distant and fade as separation and time passes. To me though it was more than just employee or colleague connections, it was extended family. I’ve kept in touch with most every team member, they are my friends first and foremost. Recently I went thru my LinkedIn connections and reached out to folks who we worked with beyond the immediate team. Just notes to see how they are doing, how their own families are, etc - people caring about people stuff. I remember someone telling me that when folks move on from work the life sharing often subsides, I told them I cared too much about the things we accomplished and the friendships formed to allow that to happen, I’m determined to keep my word.
Why the reminiscing ? In the years since my retirement I’ve had the great fortune to watch similar bonds develop in the world of the Phillies minor leagues. Getting to know the players, coaches, scouts, office folks, etc. a bit we have seen the friendships develop from their work that my family and I experienced in our previous setting.
In baseball it’s a bit different as the playing careers aren’t as long but that perhaps makes the bonds tighter. In pro baseball the time together entails actually living with one another as roommates or housemates. Families often become extended by the circumstances of daily life.
I’ve seen quite a few young men grow up relatively quickly these past seven years. Many of the players have experienced becoming husbands and some even fathers. I remember one ballplayer whom we had invited for dinner a few years back seeking my wife’s motherly like advice on how to propose to his girlfriend at the time, the young lady did eventually became his wife and is now an expectant mom herself.
During our baseball observances we’ve witnessed and shared a gamut of emotions - the heartaches of family losses and the joys of good times, the solemness of being released and the elation of promotions. The self doubts resulting from bad games and the joys of success. The disappointment of injuries and the satisfaction of recovery, the determination of drive and the face of reality. It’s a lifestyle of daily grinds, the interaction with others is vital to experience it all.
We’ve been privy to have seen photos of multiple weddings where baseball teammates have celebrated one of the great joys of life together. Often times they are not only invited guests but members of the wedding party as well.
Spring training has often reflected some of the work bonds that have become friendships. Previous groupings such as Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Alec Asher and Zach Eflin come to mind in a breakfast gathering at Lennys. Family bonds like Hector Neris and Luis Garcia ( now with the Padres ) where they become godparents to each other’s children form from work life together. Fellas realizing like hobbies such as fishing and spending baseball down times on the water formulating friendship bonds found in fun and common interest.
Not every player will reach the pinnacle of baseball success, the major leagues. Not everyone of my work colleagues at Pfizer became Managers or Directors or Vice Presidents yet we did become friends. When I see fellas like Connor Brogdon, Spencer Howard and Jo Jo Romero reach the majors that I know have spent times past as roomies and formed friendships it’s just as heartwarming to me as those fellas I know who have formed similar bonds in the minors. It’s as impactful as three Latin players we know who a few years back lived in a one car garage during their time at Clearwater, two of which reached the show - their work life time together I know became invaluable.
Years back a phrase was coined “It’s all Part of It” by a minor league player to symbolize the grind of a pro baseball career. We fueled the fire by investing in the purchase of the shirts they were selling. It’s a phrase that has stuck with me over the past years.
I’m a bit melancholy as I remember my past professional life and equate it to the pro baseball careers I now observe from the sidelines. Perhaps I left too early, something I began to contemplate the very next day after I retired. Perhaps it’s just the approach of spring camp and I see the potential of new work bonds forming in the lives of young players like Azuaje, Lee, Baylor, Viars, Painter, Abel, Pena, etc. Perhaps it’s just life.
Regardless of what it is … there’s one certainty - “it’s all part of it” and always likely will be. The bonds found in work life can be blessings and form life time ties and friendships - I know that mine did and for that I’m forever grateful. Life can often be work but work can also reward life - and that’s pretty cool.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️