SportsProf

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

How Do Traded Ballplayers Move During the Season?

Did you ever wonder about that? I gleaned a little bit from Steve Fireovid's book, "26th Man", in which the former Padres pitcher described how he was always on the cusp of the majors and how he handled the shuttle from AAA to the big league. But that book was more about being a 26th man on a 25-man roster than addressing the practicalities of moving from one city to another during the season, when you're traded (or called up) on a Monday and are expected to be in a city 2800 miles away the next night and start.

How do ballplayers do this? How does Nomar Garciaparra wind up his affairs in Boston and move his house, his essentials, to Chicago, in time to live reasonably comfortably? And how does he get a place to live in Chicago? Where does he live? How does he know?

My guess is that basketball players, who have posses, have it easier, at least those who can rely upon their posses to help clean up their affairs, pack, etc., in a responsible fashion and not turn the well-paid hoopsters crib into a party palace from between the date of the trade and the end of the season. Baseball players don't have posses, or, at least, they're not written about the way they are in basketball. But all kidding aside, for those of us who have moved, even within the areas in which we live, moving is a huge hassle. Even if you're just renting a place. Even if for a short while.

I believe that Roberto Alomar lived at the hotel that is attached to the SkyDome while he played for the Blue Jays, and I gather that Manny Ramirez lives in the Ritz Carlton in Boston during the season. Many of these guys make such gobs of money that they can afford to rent a nice place, even on a short-term basis. But still, there is a question of getting your stuff and mail and all of that. And, if you're on the periphery of your professional league and get traded and don't have the type of money that can buy you the ultimate in conveniences, what do you do then?

Do teams have staff members who help the newly traded players get acclimated? Does the players' union offer any assistance? What does the checklist look like? You get the call from the GM, who tells you that you've been traded from Los Angeles to Florida. You get a call from the Florida GM, welcoming you to Florida during hurricane season, and asking you whether you can get to Milwaukee from Colorado (where your former team was playing) to start in left field the next night. Your pregnant wife and two year-old son are in Los Angeles, in your house. What the heck goes on in your mind other than you have to be in Milwaukee, on little sleep, getting there in the wee hours so that you can face Ben Sheets in his own ballpark.

Suppose you're a rookie, or you don't make the $8 million a year than some of your teammates do, but that you're closer to the minimum, which is still more than most Americans make in, say, a five-year if not ten-year span. How do you handle all of this and still hit Ben Sheets' heat?

My guess is that a combination of things happens. Your agent gets involved, your new team helps you find new digs, and either there are independent businesses out there or the players' union has hired some kind of service to help players with this sort of thing (if there isn't one, write the business plan and start the business. It could be lucrative). The union seems to have covered everything in the collective bargaining agreement, but how do you clean up your affairs in the other city? Wait for an off day? Wait until the end of the season? How do you at least get your clothes and some personal items to your hotel room at your hotel in Milwaukee, be it the fanciest place in town (courtesy of something that exists in the collective bargaining agreement) or Extended Stay America? What about your car? (You can always buy the Game Boy or XBox at a Circuit City near you).

Precipitious moves could be disruptive for many people. I suppose the difference is that baseball (and basketball) players are younger, more resilient, less settled in a community, they might not live full-time in the city in which they are playing and, because they're ballplayers, they've been conditioned to be traded and to move around (the minors certainly conditions them to move around).

Still, it cannot be easy, even if it happens with some frequency during every baseball season.

Dave LaPoint, you who at one time in your career had been traded so much that you were teammates with 25% of everyone on a Major League roster, where are you now that we need you?

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