Jody Gerut still insists I’m wrong. He’s told me time and again that he wasn’t reading historian David McCullough’s book John Adams when he and I met that midsummer in Buffalo a decade ago.
But I remember, Jody; I remember.
There you were in a corner stall, a book as thick as the Yellow Pages in your hands, reading it as your Triple A teammates on the Buffalo Bison had other things they preferred to do.
That’s just the way it was, Jody. Certain things a sportswriter doesn’t forget—he can’t forget, really.
I absolutely can’t forget that day because it was so atypical of ballplayers. They played cards, watched video, listened to CDs, stretched and just chatted away the minutes before they had to take the field for batting practice.
Not you, though. You were working on your mind. You were preparing for life after baseball. Not that you didn’t care about baseball in that moment, because you did. You’d figured out early in your career that playing baseball wasn’t a life sentence. You’d be paroled one day, free to pursue whatever you fancied.
Politics, perhaps. Maybe a career in a corporate setting—someplace where your Stanford degree might fit in better than it did in a baseball clubhouse.
Baseball might have been your calling; it was never your lifetime work. Something else awaited you—then and now.
“Now” is when that “something else” must present itself, much to my disappointment. In announcing your retirement, you’ve decided, at 33, to hang up your glove and spikes and walk away from a game that you enjoyed.
It’s time to pursue a second career. It’s time to spend more of your life with your two children and your wife. That’s what you’ve decided to do—to go full throttle with this part of your life, just as you did with the baseball part of it.
"Physically I'm fine,” you said in announcing your retirement. “But mentally my reasons for wanting to be in uniform have become so thin and narrow that I refuse to disrespect the game that has provided so generously for my family by playing it in a halfhearted way.
"This game of ours owes me nothing, but I owe the game at least that much.”
And there it is—The End.
His uniform comes off for the noblest of reasons: He couldn’t give baseball his all anymore. So he rode off into the sunset, prepared to become the global citizen he always wanted to be.
Jody told me often that he wanted to raise his family as citizens of the world. He has. He’s spent his offseasons living in South America, immersing his children in the Hispanic culture. He wanted them to have a global perspective. He wanted them to be more than just—well, a baseball player.
Playing baseball isn’t a bad gig; Jody will tell you as much. But it’s not everything to him. It shouldn’t be everything to anybody else either.
He’s had a wonderful time playing baseball and made a handsome living at it. It’s been a wonderful thing, too, to build a life around intellectual growth—to care as much about a sharp mind as you do about a sharp batting eye.
Jody worked hard on the latter. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have six seasons of Major League experience on his work record. Six seasons isn’t his lifetime, and all those thick books on history and politics and economics and business that he towed around with him will help him forge a successful second career.
For me, it will be just as interesting to watch that second career unfold as it was to watch Jody’s baseball career play out the way it did.