Life After the Show for MLB Players
Nothing lasts forever. Not even big league careers. Every Major League Baseball player has to walk away from the game at some point.
But how do they fill that void in retirement? What is MLB's role for health care, pensions and everything else? And, most importantly, how do ex-MLB players build a meaningful future when everyone just wants to talk about their past?
We talked to former major league players to learn about their post-MLB life. This is what happens after the Show.
After the Show: The Players
We talked to six ex-MLB players about their lives after baseball and the different challenges they face adjusting to life away from the game and spotlight. The players were Bronson Arroyo, Adron Chambers, Eric Wedge, Greg Brummett, Travis Fryman and Brian Jordan.
We wanted to know what role, if any, MLB played in educating them about the resources available to them once the careers were over. These players had a combined 51 years of MLB experience and racked up a combined $197.8 million in estimated MLB career earnings. Together, they also made seven All-Star appearances, won two World Series titles, two Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger Award.
For each player, we got their perspective on the following:
When It Ends
Filling the Void
Looking Back on a Career
The Other Side
What Comes Next?
When It Ends
Rare is the athlete who gets to plan out the end of his career. For the majority of players, that’s just not how it goes.
Most fight it tooth and nail. And when it’s over, it’s easy to see the things, on the surface, that go away. The fans. The adrenaline. And the most important thing – the money.
What’s not always taken into account is the support system that goes away and the structure that someone’s life has been built on is gone, sometimes almost immediately.
Filling the Void
It’s common for athletes to feel a void in their lives once their playing days are over, and each of the players we spoke with could identify with that to some degree. All agreed that there were two keys to making sure that the void didn’t turn into something problematic.
One key was having another major interest, whether that meant going right into coaching or broadcasting or going on tour with your band, in one case.
The second key was a support system. Having someone to lean on in those crucial moments where you’re searching and trying to rediscover yourself is invaluable, whether that’s family or friends or medical professionals.
MLB has the best pension program in sports (more on that later). You don’t need much of a career to qualify for lifetime benefits (43 days), and you can be fully vested in the pension plan after 10 years of service.
But it’s not all intuitive. For older players, that may mean rechecking in with the union to see if their benefits are still intact. For players in the latest era, that may have meant some work learning the ins and outs of benefits while they’re playing.
That's when most of the decisions regarding long-term financial health are made.
Looking Back on a Career
There’s advice everywhere you turn in an MLB clubhouse. And just like in life, not all of it is worth listening to. But there are avenues — and people — to seek out that will guide you down the right path.
Having the luxury of hindsight is something only afforded to those who have already gone through it, and there aren’t many people who have experienced playing Major League Baseball.
So finding people with shared experiences can be a bit challenging.
The Other Side
So what, exactly, did the players we talked to fill all those baseball-free hours with after they were done playing? Did it even come close to filling the void left by baseball? And what did they do once all of those big paychecks stopped rolling in?
More often than not, periods of listlessness can lead to trouble for ex-players, so staying busy in a positive, productive way is crucial.
As was making sure you had a firm handle on your finances, which was something that they hopefully started doing while they were playing.
What Comes Next?
The upside of playing in MLB is that for the rest of your life, it's something no one can never take away from you. And if you play your cards right, post-MLB, it should open a lot of doors.
The downside of playing in MLB (if you want to say there is one) is that, right or wrong, the perception is always going to be is that whenever you played was when you peaked. That it just wasn’t possible for life to get any better after that.
But does that really need to be true?
After the Show: Bronson Arroyo
Born: Feb. 24, 1977 (Key West, Florida)
Drafted: Round 3, 1995 (No. 69 overall), Pittsburgh Pirates
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Seasons: 18 (2000-17)
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (2000-02), Boston Red Sox (2003-05), Cincinnati Reds (2006-13, 2017), Arizona Diamondbacks (2014)
Career highlights: World Series champion (2004), All-Star (2006), Gold Glove Award (2010)
Bottom line: Bronson Arroyo was a basketball and baseball star at Hernando High in Brooksville, Florida, and went straight from high school to the minor leagues.
He hit his stride as a pro at the exact right time, breaking into the Red Sox starting pitching rotation in 2004 — the same year they won their first World Series title in 86 years.
In what may have been a first for MLB, if not all of sports, Arroyo’s band played a concert on the field following the last game of his career in 2017. And they’ve been on tour ever since.
When It Ends: Bronson Arroyo
"In my mind, the closest thing I could relate [retiring] to was graduating high school, because I hadn’t experienced college, or what that was like. I think there was also a bit of relief, too.
That came from knowing I wouldn’t have to take care of my body to the point of counting calories in everything I ate. It came from knowing I could go snow skiing again. But also, now, you have all these wide-open spaces in front of you as far as time.
And the most important part of what you were doing, the people that were there, are also removed from the equation. So you’re leaving your friends behind or they’re leaving you behind and you get bits and pieces of what’s going on [with them], but you’re not there to experience it.
And, of course, it’s a little more significant when the next season starts because no more bullpen, no more time on the mound, no more big-league games. It’s a mixed feeling.”
Filling the Void: Bronson Arroyo
“Because I felt like I’d exhausted my body completely and felt everything with my career had run its course, I didn’t experience that sharp feeling of having it taken away that I know some guys have.
I was 40 years old. I’d absolutely prepared for it from a mental standpoint. Now put me back to where I’m 27 or 28 years old, just won the World Series, and then all of a sudden, I’m not playing anymore? That would be much, much more difficult to deal with.
When I retired, I wasn’t thinking I needed a lot of time to myself or anything like that because my routine and my life were close to what it’s like now, with music and traveling and recording. I do get calls or texts from guys after they retire and try to go back to a regular thing, and they’re like, 'This real-life s--- is kicking my ass, I’m with my wife for 365 days in a row for the first time, I’m taking my kids to school. This sucks.'"
Filling the Void, Part II: Bronson Arroyo
"When you have a really good workout, you know how that kind of just takes the anxiety off your chest? That’s what baseball gives you when you prepare to win, and it’s never loneliest and there’s never a worse feeling than the day after you win, because it all starts over again. Guys miss that grind and don’t have some way to occupy their time.
If I didn’t have music, I think that would be a bit of a problem. I’ve got a handful of guys I’m still connected with, several catchers. If you’re a pitcher, those guys are really your steed when you’re playing, and it becomes a real bond.
Some of these guys you bond with go back to being young, when you would play Xbox, hit the bars and just run the streets."
MLB's Role: Bronson Arroyo
"In spring training, they set up five meetings over that 45-day period where people come and talk to you. Part of that is about trying to figure out how you can get help with monetary things and what options you have after your retirement and how they can help you there.
But the benefits stuff, I don’t think guys listen that intently when they’re younger. They miss out on some of the details because there’s not 1-on-1 sessions, stuff like our dental plan gets you two free teeth cleanings per year, or once you opt out of that health insurance plan, you can’t get back in.
There are people around to help you with stuff like if your wife is being stalked or you’re being stalked, because that’s MLB security. But to get a guy to sit down and go over stuff like insurance and figuring out when their retirement benefits kick in, that’s hard to get them to do that."
Looking Back on a Career: Bronson Arroyo
"I remember when I was coming up, there was still a little bit of urgency about the union, and guys were really serious about paying attention to the CBA and the fact that from the 1950s through the 1970s guys really put it down to set things up for us.
I think that’s softened a little bit over the years because everybody has been making good money, and everybody’s a little content, and that sense of urgency isn’t there. You can kind of see that a little bit in the locker rooms today.
There are some guys that have their space simple — neat and organized. But for most of them, that space is a disaster. Their shoes are everywhere, their gear is everywhere. Those guys who don’t take care of that, generally, also aren’t going to understand the mortgage on a house."
The Other Side: Bronson Arroyo
"I had surgery in 2014 that ended my 2015 season, and I knew my arm wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as we wanted so that was when the wheels of retirement started to spin, so to speak. Before that injury, there was no way of really knowing when the road was going to end, even though I didn’t know if pitching until I was 43 or 44 years old was really feasible.
When I was playing in Cincinnati, I was still driving the same car as when we won the World Series in 2004. I rode my bike half the time. I still had my flip phone. I tried to come at things from a different angle because I knew monetarily, to put the structures in place that would help me lead a decent life once I was out of the window of opportunity [as a baseball player]."
What Comes Next?: Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo spent the summer of 2019 touring with his band, The Bronson Arroyo Band, and has been churning out music and playing gigs all over the country for almost 15 years.
Arroyo’s band specializes in covers of popular artists and have carved out a niche in that regard, and there’s also the draw of baseball fans who want to see Arroyo up close after two decades as one of the more recognizable pitchers in MLB.
Don’t expect the music to stop anytime soon, either. He enjoys playing benefit concerts, and his band’s Facebook page continues to announce concert dates.
In His Own Words: Bronson Arroyo
"I never really asked for a lot of advice about what life was going to be like once I retired, but I was close with a few guys who all retired before me, and they did say stuff like, 'Hey man, it’s nice to have Labor Day off or Memorial Day off,' or that things in their lives were a little more peaceful or stable, but some of them were also fighting it in their way.
I did have a few guys drop in on me after I retired to check on me just to see how I’m doing, but it’s been all good."
After the Show: Adron Chambers
Born: Oct. 8, 1986 (Pensacola, Florida)
Drafted: Round 38, 2007 (No. 1,153 overall), St. Louis Cardinals
Seasons: 3 (2011-13)
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (2011-13)
Career highlights: World Series champion (2011), Can-Am League champion (2016)
Bottom line: Adron Chambers was an up-and-coming defensive back for Mississippi State University, but an arrest for simple assault and indecent exposure during his sophomore season led to him being thrown out of school.
Chambers turned to baseball, where he was drafted out of Pensacola State College. He caught lightning in a bottle in 2011, when he was called up by the St. Louis Cardinals during their late-season run to the playoffs and World Series.
Chambers has bounced back and forth between affiliated minor league baseball and independent baseball since his last MLB appearance in 2013.
When It Ends: Adron Chambers
"After we won the World Series in 2011 (with St. Louis), a couple of coaches told me to always remember this moment because you never know when you’re going to get a chance to go back.
But I was young. I didn’t really care or put much thought into what they were trying to say to me. I didn’t take the advice like I should have about being grateful for the opportunity (to play baseball) because that time will come to an end, because I never thought about the end.
With baseball, I didn’t think I was going to play until I was 70 years old or anything like that, but I always thought it was a sport you could play a little longer. I never wanted to stop being an athlete. I think that’s in a lot of us. ... The guys I looked up to as a kid were Brett Favre and Roy Jones Jr., who both had really long careers, so I think that’s why I had that in my head."
Filling the Void: Adron Chambers
"My mom was giving me a hard time because I was just leaving my World Series ring in the bathroom, like by the toilet, and she was like, 'Why do you just leave that there?' And I think, psychologically, it was kind of a response to this really powerful thing that had happened in my life and how maybe, after I wasn’t playing (in MLB) anymore, it took some of that love of the game away.
But then I realized there was no excuse for me to feel that way. So I started coaching a Little League traveling team, and I felt that happiness and excitement come back. I was that guy who would cheer louder for you if you hit a home run than anyone else would.
I also had a friend get me into yoga, which created kind of a safe space for me and got me in touch with my body and my nervous system and the connection I need to have with my body and myself.
Now, a few years later, I’m an instructor, and it’s a big part of my life. It keeps me centered."
MLB's Role: Adron Chambers
"Because I played so long in the minor leagues, that’s where I’m going to get a pension check from. And since it’s just now about to be two years after having played, I’m starting to get some information in the mail about all of this stuff and what benefits there are as a member of that union … but it’s definitely still some things I’m still learning about.
I didn’t have quite enough time in MLB to reap the full benefits there, but I spent so much time in the minor leagues I feel like that was the bulk of my career. With MLB, they’re gonna look out for you, but it goes back to sticking your neck out a little bit and being confident enough to ask about what’s going on.
I don’t feel like I did that enough when I was younger, but where I’m at now, whatever benefits there are out there for me, I’m trying to ask as many questions as I can and get as much info as possible to try and set myself up to reap the benefits as far as what’s available."
Looking Back on a Career: Adron Chambers
"From football, my approach to being an athlete was always kind of that part of what it was about was throwing your body around. And when I first got into the pros, playing in the outfield, making athletic plays out there to show what I could do meant that I ran my shoulder into the (outfield) wall a few times … and I feel like kind of a fool that I didn’t take into account the lasting impact that would have.
I had teammates who would go to the doctor to get it checked out if they had an eyelash in their eye. … For me, I didn’t care if I played with my ankle broken or a few times, where I felt like my wrist was going to fall off. Looking back, I wish I’d been more vocal about [injuries] and not tried to play the hero all the time.
By the time I got to pro baseball, I’d already played at the highest level of college football so there was some damage there."
The Other Side: Adron Chambers
"In my hometown, I think people look at me like I’m a millionaire or something because I’ve been a world champion and I’ve been on top of the world. And while I am a champion, as far as being a millionaire, that’s just not it. That’s not how my life is or how I act at all.
I know a lot of times as athletes we think we know everything or we think we have all the answers … and when things hit us in the face, we don’t know how to react. And that’s while we’re playing. After the game, my focus has been on thinking positive, moving forward and always thinking about tomorrow as another opportunity.
My mother has always told me that if you get to see tomorrow, that’s always going to be another opportunity. I draw a lot of inspiration from that."
What Comes Next?: Adron Chambers
Chambers, probably more than any player we talked to, continued to scrap and claw for a baseball career after his time in MLB was over. And he came close to getting back several times — making it all the way to Triple-A with the Astros, Blue Jays and Cubs.
His 50-game suspension before the 2016 season for a "drug of abuse" — he says it was marijuana — led to his release from the Cubs, and he’s largely played independent baseball since, aside from a brief stint in the Phillies' farm system in 2018.
He’s currently back in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida, teaching yoga and coaching baseball. His goal is to eventually open a baseball training facility in Pensacola.
In His Own Words: Adron Chambers
“I didn’t look at my life after baseball when I was playing, and I didn’t have the answers ready I should have, and that’s my fault.
But I also understand that you have to be willing to step out and be the type of man who asks questions of the people around him and himself so you can set yourself up for success down the road.
The people are there [from MLB] to help you when you’re playing, and they do that because you’re helping them, and they’re invested in your success. That’s how a good business is run."
After the Show: Eric Wedge
Born: Jan. 27, 1968 (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Drafted: Round 3, 1989 (No. 83 overall), Boston Red Sox
Seasons: 4 (1991-94)
Teams: Boston Red Sox (1991-92, 1994), Colorado Rockies (1993)
Career highlights: College World Series champion (1989), Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year (1989), American League Manager of the Year (2007)
Bottom line: After winning a national championship at Wichita State, Eric Wedge had a short but respectable career as a catcher in the majors for four years, before spending his final two years in the pros with the Triple-A clubs for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies.
It was his career as a coach that’s gained him the most notoriety — first as the manager of the Cleveland Indians from 2003 to 2009, then as manager of the Seattle Mariners from 2011 to 2013.
Wedge was hired as the head coach at Wichita State in May 2019.
When It Ends: Eric Wedge
"For me, it was kind of a slow burn to the end of my career because of injuries. I think I had something like eight surgeries in nine years, and that was all on knees and my right elbow, which is not good for a catcher, obviously.
Physically, at some point, I was having trouble just getting through the day, so in one sense, it was somewhat easy for me to know the end of my playing career was coming because my body dictated to me that it was time to retire.
I’m sure I could’ve kept hanging on, but the quality of play was not what I wanted to represent. That’s when I decided to turn the page and start the next part of my career."
Filling the Void: Eric Wedge
"The first thing to understand is that there is nothing like playing. I don’t care what anybody says. … I just don’t think there’s anything that you can ever do that fills the void of how it made you feel to actually play the sport. It’s just an incredibly unique experience, and the higher you get, the more unique that experience becomes.
I do think it made things a little bit easier for me because I went right into managing for the Indians in the minors and eventually ascended to the big leagues, so jumping right back into baseball in one form or another probably helped a lot."
MLB's Role: Eric Wedge
"There was a great sense of pride when I was coming up as a minor league player to the time I was in the bigs, and that came from the veterans. And they drew that sense of pride from the veterans they played with when they were younger, so it was passing down from generation to generation.
I also feel like some of that has been lost in the game, but ultimately, when I played, the other older players made sure we knew what was going on with our benefits. I know when I was managing in the big leagues, from a leadership standpoint, I thought it was important to make sure we got the right people in front of the young players.
Personally, I think it’s the best plan in all of pro sports [in MLB] when you look at health insurance, life insurances, pension plan, overall benefits. … With the firsthand knowledge I have of other pro sports, I know we’re probably the best."
Looking Back on a Career: Eric Wedge
"When you play, you make a commitment and you make a sacrifice. You make the decision to choose something, in a career, that is going to be really hard on your body. For me, the thing about my body getting beat up is what sticks out because that’s something that’s going to stay with you forever, and it’s not going to get better as you get older.
You do everything you can when you play to stay in shape, and you do what you have to do to play, then afterward, you kind of just deal with the consequences of what you put your body through.
All that being said, I know a lot of people that are a lot worse off than me [physically]."
The Other Side: Eric Wedge
"I’ve always been more of a loner when it comes to the big decisions you make in life. There are, maybe, a few people in my world that I will go talk to … but mostly it’s just myself and my thoughts and how I process those things.
That includes what was going on with the end of my career, which I’ve always thought is a really personal decision for any athlete and they should be able to go through that on their own, if they want.
For me, my passions and motivations and the things I want to do with my life have always been really clear. I feel really fortunate in that regard."
What Comes Next?: Eric Wedge
Wedge has proven himself at the highest level, spending 10 seasons as a major league manager for the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners, including winning American League Manager of the Year in 2007.
Wedge’s career took a scary turn when he suffered a stroke in July 2013 and had to miss 28 games with the Mariners, then declined a one-year contract extension from the team and stepped away from baseball in September 2013.
Wedge got back into baseball in 2016 as a player development advisor and was named head coach at his alma mater, Wichita State, in May 2019.
In His Own Words: Eric Wedge
"[Wichita State] is somewhere that’s very special to me, and it’s really a part of who I am in some really deep ways. It defined the trajectory of my life in a lot of ways, and I’m passionate about bringing the program back to that elite, national level.
I know we have a lot of work to do in that aspect, and that’s what I’m enjoying right now. I’m enjoying being able to build something at a place that means a lot to me, and a city that means a lot to me.
We are focused on the work we have to do in the short-term, of course, but we want to start to lay that foundation that’s going to make us good for years to come."
After the Show: Greg Brummett
Born: April 20, 1967 (Wichita, Kansas)
Drafted: Round 11, 1989 (No. 282 overall), San Francisco Giants
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Seasons: 1 (1993)
Teams: San Francisco Giants (1993), Minnesota Twins (1993)
Career highlights: College World Series Most Outstanding Player (1989), NCAA championship (1989), Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year (1989)
Bottom line: Greg Brummett shot to fame as a pitcher for Wichita State University in the late 1980s, leading his hometown college to a national title in 1989. His career in the majors lasted just 13 games for two teams, and he was out of baseball after the 1996 season, when he was just 29 years old.
Brummett carved out a lengthy career as a junior college baseball coach, where he was at Cloud County (Kansas) Community College for 13 seasons before resigning in 2016.
He’s been working in the private sector ever since.
When It Ends: Greg Brummett
"I had such a great support system with my parents and my family and my friends that it was never a time where I dreaded my career being over or anything like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wanted to keep playing as long as I could, but I had a pretty good sense of myself and what I wanted to do when I was done playing. That I was able to coach for as long as I did and build the relationships that I did was something I still am really fortunate for.
As far as my career though, everything seemed to come together just perfect to get me to the majors and to win the national championship in my hometown, which was something I dreamed of as a kid.”
Filling the Void: Greg Brummett
"I think it’s natural to want to extend your career as much as possible, because that kind of speaks to what got you to that level in the first place, right? You want to compete against the best because you think you’ve got what it takes. And when it’s over, it’s natural to think about a lot of the what-ifs.
I didn’t have a lot of that, though, because I really thought I got the most out of my talent. It wasn’t like I was some top recruit or high draft pick or anything like that. I had to scrap. I had to be tough.
When I was done playing, I was fortunate that I had things to focus on — coaching college baseball, for one, and raising my kids, for another, and following all their activities."
MLB's Role: Greg Brummett
"I only played the one year in MLB, and three years after I pitched in the majors, I was out of the game entirely, as a player, so there wasn’t a big window of opportunity to make money (off pitching), but I did qualify for the lifetime health-care plan, which is a phenomenal benefit for the amount of time I played.
It kind of hits home a little more as I get older because you look at kids coming out of college who don’t have health care for a couple of years or friends who get older and lose a job and then also lose their health-care coverage … but I’ve had it since the moment I started playing in the minors and will have it my whole life because of MLB.
And more than that, because of the sacrifices the players made in the 1960s and 1970s to put the union together so that opportunity exists."
Looking Back on a Career: Greg Brummett
"One thing I felt like I did really well was taking in the moment and enjoying things as they were happening.
When I made my first start, [the Giants] were playing in Atlanta, and as it so happened, my college team, Wichita State, was playing in an NCAA Super Regional in Atlanta at the exact same time we were there, so I got those guys as many tickets as I could, my college coach was on the [TBS] broadcast during the game getting interviewed, and my family was there as well.
I remember looking over at all of them during the game and thinking just kind of like, 'Wow, this is really happening,' and being able to take it all in. That’s the only thing I would tell somebody who is in that situation today. Try to take it all in. Enjoy those moments."
Note: Brummett’s first start was May 29, 1993, and he picked up the win, pitching 6 2/3 innings with three strikeouts — all of Ron Gant.
The Other Side: Greg Brummett
"There wasn’t much of a listless period or whatever you want to call it after I was done playing because I went right into coaching and right into having a family and raising my son and daughter. And I loved that part of it.
We talked about filling that void after you’re done playing, and I know I said I dealt with it pretty well, but I also feel like I cheated a little bit because I was still around the game.
Baseball was never really out of my life. I just moved into a different role within that structure of the game, from player to coach, and found that it was a really natural fit."
What Comes Next?: Greg Brummett
Brummett coached for 13 years at Cloud County Community College in Kansas, before resigning in 2016.
His son, Garrett, pitched two seasons for his father’s alma mater, Wichita State, and was a Freshman All-American there before finishing his career at Emporia State.
In His Own Words: Greg Brummett
"Getting to have the experience I did as a player and to make the friends I made, lifelong friends, has been probably the greatest thing I’d say came of me playing.
Everything that happened in my career, playing and coaching, happened for a reason, and I’m thankful for all those steps.
It’s made for a really incredible journey, and I’m always excited to see what’s next, to see what other experiences there are out there."
After the Show: Travis Fryman
Born: March 25, 1969 (Lexington, Kentucky)
Drafted: Round 1, 1987 (No. 30 overall), Detroit Tigers
Position: Third baseman
Seasons: 13 (1990-2002)
Teams: Detroit Tigers (1990-97), Cleveland Indians (1998-2002)
Career highlights: All-Star (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000), Gold Glove Award (2000), Silver Slugger Award (1992)
Bottom line: Travis Fryman cruised through the minor leagues and was called up to play for the Tigers by the time he was 21 years old.
He was one of the best third basemen in the American League for almost all of the 1990s for two teams, the Tigers and the Indians, while making five All-Star teams and earning $43.9 million in salary in 13 seasons.
Since retiring in 2002, Fryman has been a minor league manager in the Indians' farm system and is now a traveling hitting instructor throughout their farm system.
When It Ends: Travis Fryman
"It became really clear to me during that last year that I wasn’t able to play at what I considered an acceptable level. The year before, I’d had some injuries that led to me getting shoulder surgery in the offseason, but even before that, I’d had discussions with [management] on whether or not I was going to retire.
It was definitely frustrating because I spent the last two years dealing with a lot of injuries, but I had such great mentors and leadership early in my career with the Tigers, with Sparky Anderson and Alan Trammell, that I always had an understanding about knowing when it was time to walk away from the game, and tried to do it with some grace and dignity."
Filling the Void: Travis Fryman
"Being a minor league manager and hitting instructor, your schedule isn’t terribly different from when you were a player with one big exception – you’re not training like a madman in the offseason trying to get ready for the next year.
I know you said Bronson Arroyo mentioned he really liked not having to count calories which I thought was funny because you really do look at food and exercise and everything else in a really different sense.
I still stay in shape because I’m going to practices and running around with guys doing batting practice and drills, but it’s not the same, and that’s good because I’m old now."
MLB's Role: Travis Fryman
"Kind of like with the mentor roles I talked about, those same people set me straight pretty early on about what sort of things I needed to watch out for as far as money and stuff outside the game, but I did notice over the course of my career that MLB was becoming much more proactive in the education process as far as benefits and pensions.
When I started playing [in MLB], there were still guys playing who’d been through those battles with the league to form the unions, and we went on strike one year while I was playing and that was a time where we worried people were going to come back to baseball [as fans].
I always took the attitude that [benefits] and stuff like that were things I needed to pay attention to because of what the older players had done to make a better situation for generations to come."
Looking Back on a Career: Travis Fryman
"I’m actually around young players all the time because of working with the Indians' minor league teams, and I’ve been a minor league manager so I’ve got to experience myself, the first time through, then have gotten to see careers play out from this other perspective as well.
And what I’ve seen is that as much as we always say whatever new generation is coming up has really changed or are really different, there are still a lot of the baseline things that are the same. There’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of things pulling them in different directions.
But if you have the right focus, on doing the right things in your life in and out of the game, I’m confident that things are going to go well for you more often than not. It’s not always going to be perfect, but you’re always going to be able to live with your role in whatever happens because you put yourself in a position to succeed."
The Other Side: Travis Fryman
"I knew after I was hurt [in 2001] that retirement was something I needed to really think about, so I had time to discuss it with my family and plan out how things would go and be ready for it.
I know a lot of guys don’t have that luxury, and I’m not sure how I would’ve been able to handle it if it was just here one day, gone the next.
I know, for me, with the priority my wife and I put on raising our family and our kids the right way, that any extra we could put toward that with me done playing was just going to be a bonus."
What Comes Next: Travis Fryman
Fryman’s two sons have taken up the family mantle of being very, very good at the game that made their dad famous.
His oldest son, Branden, is a shortstop who was drafted by the New York Mets after playing at college ball at Samford, and his other son, Mason pitched at the University of Mobile.
In His Own Words: Travis Fryman
"We’re constantly on the move because of the boys playing and my job, and I really love it. My family and faith really took on a big role in my life while I was playing, and it’s been that way ever since.
I get as much enjoyment out of watching my kids succeed or the players I work with succeed as I got enjoyment out of my own success. Sometimes, it feels like it’s even more poignant because I know what they’re going through. And when they have setbacks, you feel that, too.
It’s all part of the ride, and I think being able to do that stuff together is what really makes it worth it."
After the Show: Brian Jordan
Born: March 29, 1967 (Baltimore, Maryland)
Drafted: Round 1, 1988 (No. 30 overall), St. Louis Cardinals
Seasons: 15 (1992-2006)
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1992-98), Atlanta Braves (1999-2001, 2005-06), Los Angeles Dodgers (2002-03), Texas Rangers (2004)
Career highlights: All-Star (1999), NL champion (1999), NL East champion (1999-2001, 2005)
Bottom line: After three years in the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system, Brian Jordan made his major league debut to open the 1992 season. But the Cardinals wanted assurances his other job — as the starting free safety for the Atlanta Falcons — wouldn’t get in the way.
It cost the Cardinals a $1.7 million signing bonus to get Jordan to quit the NFL after three seasons and embark on a 15-year MLB career.
Jordan has been the longtime pregame host for Atlanta Braves games on FSN South and SportSouth since he retired.
When It Ends: Brian Jordan
"Playing in the NFL really put things into perspective for me as far as what kind of a career I wanted to have in baseball. In football, it’s just so incredibly rare to have a really lengthy career, which I consider to be over a decade, but in baseball, it’s much more common, and I knew that was the type of career I wanted to have, that longevity.
And as far as the punishment I was going to put my body through, I think we all know the effects of playing football and what that puts you through, physically. Baseball is no cakewalk, either, but you’re not having the same repeated impact on your head as with football.
So my goal was to play baseball for a long time. I did that. When it was all over, I could look back and be content with knowing I put everything I had into it. There wasn’t regret or anything like that, and I had a good idea of where I wanted my life to go after that."
Filling the Void: Brian Jordan
"It was never really about filling up any time or anything like that for me. I never worried that I was going to go just lay on a beach somewhere and tune out or anything like that because I always had goals beyond my athletic career.
And when I was done playing, it seemed like a really good idea, after two decades of putting my body through an unusual amount of punishment, to go easy for a little while. My post-baseball career with television work started almost immediately, and while it wasn’t a field I necessarily knew well right away, it was a routine and sport I knew really well so I took that and ran with it."
MLB's Role: Brian Jordan
"With the NFL, you’re fully vested in their pension plan after you play three seasons, which is exactly what I played.
And I think that’s pretty common knowledge [about the three seasons], now and back then as well, so I felt pretty good about that when I decided just to focus on baseball.
Once I was a full-time MLB player, I started to understand a lot more about their pension plan and their benefits. … I can say that you really get the feeling they’re concerned with the long-term care of the players."
Looking Back on a Career: Brian Jordan
"I don’t really like to give advice because I know sometimes it can come off as you’re preaching … but I do know some of the things we’re going to talk about in [this story] are about how guys handle their money and stuff like that, so that’s the one thing I’d always hit on.
Watch who you’re going into business with, and not to say play dumb, but do ask too many questions. Do ask about every single little thing if you’re going to make some sort of investment. Watch who you’ve got on your payroll or whatever you’ve got going, and watch who has access to any of your money, which nowadays means a lot of digital stuff that didn’t exist when I first started playing.
Personally, I had such a long career there was enough time to really think about what I wanted to do when I was done playing, but I know it comes up on most people a lot faster and not being prepared for that moment can throw you for a loop, emotionally, financially, personally, it could be all of that."
The Other Side: Brian Jordan
"Part of playing for so long was that routine and always staying busy and always having something to do, so I didn’t want to really stray from that. Being able to stay busy as a commentator and work on my craft in that respect has been one way that’s happened.
Another has been through my foundation, where we’ve been able to work within the community of Atlanta by doing literacy programs and health and fitness programs for kids.
We have annual college scholarships we hand out as well, and they go to students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make that college dream happen."
What Comes Next: Brian Jordan
Along with his foundation, Jordan provides pregame analysis for Braves home games and has won several Emmys for his work with Fox Sports South.
He’s also managed to find time to write three children’s books – 2006’s "I Told You I Can Play!" and 2010’s "Overcoming the Fear of Baseball" and 2015’s "Time-Out for Bullies."
In His Own Words: Brian Jordan
"The background I came from was all about hard work, about putting in that work if you wanted to see positive results in your life. My mother was a schoolteacher, and my father was a steelworker, so they didn’t leave much to the imagination as far as what was expected in school and sports as far as effort.
I know those values, that need to give back to the community and that work ethic that I learned from them will never go away, and I’ve enjoyed applying that to different aspects of my life outside of my football and baseball careers."
Baseball's Humble Beginnings
Now that you have a sense of what happens to major league players after the Show, here' s a quick history lesson on how MLB got to this point. It’s a matter of some debate, but for all intents and purposes, the first game of organized baseball was played on June 19, 1846, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, between the Knickerbocker Club of New York City and the New York Nine.
The first year of an organized professional baseball league didn’t happen until 1871, when the National Association of Base Ball Players (NA) was born. It was a loose conglomerate of 25 teams with little oversight or regulation over schedules and player salaries.
After five seasons, the NA folded and the league’s six strongest teams broke off to form part of the National League. Those teams were the Boston Red Stockings, Philadelphia Athletics, Hartford Dark Blues, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Chicago White Stockings and New York Mutuals.
Pro Baseball Goes up in Flames
The Louisville Grays and Cincinnati Reds joined the six teams from the National Association for the National League’s first season in 1876. Other upstart leagues, including the American Association, Union Association and Players’ League all fell by the wayside until the NL almost destroyed itself at the turn of the century.
Players, rebelling against the league’s $2,400 salary cap, turned games into out-and-out brawls that culminated with a fire, originating from the stands during a game at Boston’s South End Grounds. The fire spread to downtown Boston and burned 100 buildings to the ground.
Into this void stepped the American League, and the two leagues joined in 1903 to become what we now know as Major League Baseball.
MLB Gets Off to a Shaky Start
With the American League quickly gaining the upper hand in both talent and attendance, the two leagues entered a pact to create the National Commission. This group oversaw the sport, even though the two leagues would remain separate legal entities until 2000.
The first modern World Series was played in 1903. The Boston Americans won the best-of-nine series, five games to three over the Pittsburgh Pirates, with all of the games in Boston.
John T. Brush, the owner of the NL pennant winner New York Giants, refused to have his team play in the 1904 World Series against an "inferior" AL pennant winner. Public vitriol was intense, but since then, the World Series has been played every year since except once, in 1994, when the players went on strike.
MLB Picks Its First Commissioner
By the late 1910s, rumors of fixed games were pulling baseball apart at the seams, with no leadership to fix the problem.
When eight players for the Chicago White Sox were accused of fixing the 1919 World Series — the infamous "Black Sox" scandal — owners appointed federal judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis as the first MLB commissioner.
They gave him a lifetime contract and almost unlimited power to oversee the two leagues, and his first move was lifetime bans for the eight players implicated in the scandal, including superstar Shoeless Joe Jackson.
First MLB Players Union Forms
Professional baseball players' attempts to unionize are as old as the game itself. It just took almost a century to come to fruition after failed attempts in 1885, 1900, 1912, 1922 and 1946.
In 1953, the Major League Baseball Players Association was formed, and in 1966, the MLBPA was formally recognized as a union. Minimum salaries, arbitration over salary disputes, bonuses, insurance and revenue sharing all came from this.
The National Hockey League and National Football League immediately followed suit, installing official unions in 1967.
Baseball's Unsung Hero: Marvin Miller
Famed sportswriter Red Barber once wrote that Marvin Miller was "one of the three most important people in the history of baseball, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson," even though most baseball fans may have never heard of him.
Barber wasn’t wrong. Miller, the executive director of the MLBPA from 1966 to 1983, was a former chief negotiator for the Union Steelworkers of America and negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in pro sports history in 1966, which raised MLB players' minimum salaries and set baseline standards for pensions, arbitration, benefits and revenue sharing.
Miller’s legacy can be boiled down to numbers. The average MLB salary in 1966 was $19,000. When Miller retired in 1982, it was $326,000. In 2019, it was $4.36 million.
How MLB Benefits Evolved
As MLB players' salaries skyrocketed, they collectively exhibited a determination that extended way beyond the field and across generations. The players wanted to take care of their own, and a large part of that meant making sure the transition to life after baseball went as smoothly as possible.
Now, MLB has the best pension program in sports. Players need just 43 days of service to qualify for a pension benefit and a guaranteed $34,000 per year in pension benefits. Just one day on an active roster qualifies players for full medical benefits.
After 10 years of service, MLB players are fully vested in their pension and, when they turn 62, stand to earn $100,000 annually from their pension fund.
MLB Salaries by the Decade
MLB began tracking minimum and average salaries beginning in 1967, with the formation of the MLB Players Union. Before then, player salary landmarks were usually marked by whoever was the highest-paid MLB player.
In that regard, Babe Ruth still holds two records — most seasons as the highest-paid player (15) and most consecutive seasons as the highest-paid player (15). That was capped off by his $35,000 salary in 1934.
While the minimum salary will probably always be drastically behind the average, it’s taken great leaps forward as part of different collective bargaining agreements.
What Are National League Teams Worth?
In 2019, according to Forbes magazine, every MLB team was worth at least $1 billion for the first time, a record-setting precedent considering that you could still buy one of those teams for under $100 million in the early 1990s, and until 2005, you could probably negotiate to buy a team for around $200 million.
Why did the value of the teams skyrocket as they did? The easy answer is massive television deals that create annual profits in the nine-figure range for large-market teams and in the mid-to-low eight-figure range for small-market teams.
In the National League, it's a relatively new group of owners. The longest-tenured owner is John Middleton, who bought the Philadelphia Phillies for $30 million in 1981.
What Are American League Teams Worth?
There will never be a greater return on investment than when George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees for $8.8 million in 1974. Today, the Yankees are worth an estimated $4.6 billion — a stunning ROI of over 52,000 percent.
Steinbrenner, a shipping magnate from Cleveland, turned the fortunes of the team around with a combination of forward-thinking, deft free agent signings and bombast.
The next closest American League team to the pinstripes is the Boston Red Sox, which are worth $3.2 billion. And every other AL team is worth over $1 billion.
How MLB Makes Money
MLB revenue hit $10.7 billion in 2019 after making $10.3 billion in 2018, marking the 17th straight year of record profits. Since 1992, revenue has increased 377 percent thanks to a series of lucrative television contracts, which now bring in a reported $1.5 billion per year. Licensing agreements, corporate sponsorships, local TV rights and ticket sales make up most of the rest of the pie.
MLB has found a way to cash in on its media rights since its inception in 1903, when Western Union gave teams $300 in free telegrams in exchange for sending play-by-play of games out over the wire, and its first national television contract with ABC in 1965 was worth just a shade over $10 million per year.
MLB Profits: 1990-Present
We’re able to track MLB revenues back fairly accurately through the early 1990s, but before then, numbers are scarce as far as how much money MLB was making as a whole.
Since those early 1990s, MLB profits have gone from $1.9 billion to almost $9 billion in just under 30 years.
How Does the MLB Pension Plan Stack Up?
There's a reason MLB’s pension plan is considered the best in sports. Once a player is on a Major League Baseball roster for 43 days, they’ve earned a $34,000 annual pension plan that can begin to be paid out when they’re 55 years old.
Just one day in the majors gets a player lifetime health-care coverage, including dental, and after 10 years of service, a player’s pension hits $100,000 annually when they turn 62.
Here’s how it compares to the other three top professional sports leagues in North America.
NHL Pension Plan
NHL players must be on an active roster for 160 games – essentially two seasons — to qualify for the maximum pension plan of $45,000 per year, and players can start drawing on those benefits at the age of 45, but they’re not fully vested until they’re 45, either.
Speaking to the maximum love that Canadians have for the game, players who are Canadian citizens don’t have to hit the 160 games to receive maximum benefits under Canadian law, and in the U.S. you can borrow up to 50 percent of your vested balance or $50,000 — whichever is less.
NBA Pension Plan
NBA players who put in at least three seasons on an active roster are eligible for a minimum benefit of $56,988 per year that they can begin receiving when they’re 62 years old. Players are totally vested in their pension plan after 11 years of service, which qualifies them for $195,000 per year.
The NBA really kicks in when it comes to the 401K, where they’ll match a whopping 140 percent of a player’s contributions.
In 2016, the NBA Players Union did something that was pretty amazing – and unprecedented – in professional sports. That’s when they voted unanimously to offer lifetime health-care coverage to any player – past, present or future – with at least four seasons of service.
NFL Pension Plan
NFL players are vested in the league’s pension plan after three seasons, but it’s done in a different way than other leagues. They earn $470 a month for each year played. So in order to get a pension that’s similar to the NBA and MLB, you’d have to make it 20 seasons, which would get you to $112,000 per year.
But hit that three years, and you also become part of the NFL’s lifetime health-care coverage plan. The NFL also kicks in 200 percent on players that choose to participate in their 401K plan, and players that hit four seasons are eligible for a $65,000 annuity bonus.
Pension and benefits are a sticky subject in the NFL right now as the league grapples with how to properly compensate former players experiencing the long-term effects of repeated concussions – the motivating factor behind the $620 million "Legacy Fund" established by the NFL and the NFLPA in 2011 that benefits former players who finished their careers before 1993.
The Show Must Go On
Baseball did not become America's pastime by accident. The game has played an active part in shaping the nation and shown tremendous growth in the past few decades.
But like with anything, times change, and baseball will need to continue to evolve and find ways to connect with new audiences to remain relevant and keep growing.
So future generations can enjoy the Show.