On his baseball fandom as a youth in West Springfield, Mass.
I grew up watching Red Sox teams that had guys like Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice and John Valentin, who was later one of my coaches. Roger Clemens was a pitcher I loved to watch, and I have great memories watching a lot of those games, role playing in neighborhood wiffle ball games, and then later getting to compete against him during his run in Houston (and getting a solid base hit off him one game!). But I also watched a lot of Braves games. With TBS, we almost had more access to Braves games than Red Sox games. I was really a big fan of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux as I became more serious about baseball. I emulated those two guys a lot. They informed the way I thought about pitching and changing speeds. I was never a super-high velocity guy, so watching Glavine and Maddux really resonated with me, and it's why I like watching pitchers like Kyle Hendricks and Dallas Keuchel today.
On his involvement with the MLBPA as a player
When I first got called up by the Diamondbacks in 2003, it was a veteran team. There were guys like Craig Counsell, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Jay Bell, Matt Williams, Steve Finley and Mark Grace. I had come out of Duke, and a lot of times, the older guys will pick a couple of young players and say, ‘You’re going to go to the meetings and learn about the business side of the game.’ After my first couple of months in the big leagues, I started to become aware of the union and the players’ situation as it had evolved throughout baseball’s history.
I found I didn’t know a lot about the history -- the state of the game and certain rights that players enjoyed. It was a far cry from what it was in the first 100 years, from 1870 to the late 1960s, when there were only one-year contracts. Never at any point in your career did you have the opportunity to become a free agent and go to another team. I learned about the offseason jobs that players would take, and how inequitable the division of industry revenue was for a very long time.
On his background as a Duke economics major and MIT graduate student
I grew up playing baseball, basketball and soccer in New England, but my parents really stressed education. It was always my top priority to make sure I was taking care of business on the academic side in addition to the athletic side. My interest in lifelong learning was sparked at a young age and has remained important to me. I think part of my union involvement over the years was kind of a second education. It gave me another outlet to continue to learn and grow intellectually -- not just as an athlete.
On his time at MIT studying for his MBA
It was beyond anything I could have expected. I think the best part was learning from my classmates in the Sloan Fellows Program. It was a very international blend--out of 110 students, there were only 14 Americans and about 38 countries represented. And there is a wide array of industries as well -- from energy to health care to IT to finance. Only about 10 percent of the people in my class knew anything about baseball or had ever watched a game, so I went in there kind of anonymous. One of the great things about the experience was reconnecting with the game in a much different way than I had connected as a player. I took everyone to Fenway Park and organized a behind-the-scenes tour for them, which they absolutely loved. I organized a group outing to one of the Red Sox games last summer, and I was able to teach the game and see it through the eyes of people who had grown up in India or China or Germany never having watched baseball. It was an incredible experience for me and allowed me to reconnect with the game on a very basic and fun level.
On his duties with the MLBPA
Part of my job description will be to work with Tony Clark, Bruce Meyer and other staff around bargaining. I think about the collective bargaining agreement as a system with a lot of moving pieces. For me, it’s one of the most challenging and exciting parts of the role -- thinking about how to adjust the system and making sure it’s working well for everybody involved. From my very first day in the big leagues, I felt a sense of stewardship and respect for all the guys who came before me and made the game what it is.
I’ll also be working on the business development side and with the Players Trust, which is something I’ve been passionate about for a long time. As a player, I was always a big supporter of their programs. I tried to make myself available for things like Buses for Baseball, to be an ambassador when kids came in. I made sure to be at the city clinics and the annual fundraisers and golf tournaments. I think it’s important to draw attention to the good work that players are doing off the field. The Players Trust continues evolve -- especially the youth development piece, and I'm excited to work with staff in that area as well.
Career transition is also super-important to me. I saw so many players struggle with the transition away from the game, whether they had 45 days or 12 years in the big leagues. It’s a tough thing when your whole identity has been wrapped up in your career. It abruptly shifts and you say, ‘What’s my purpose--my reason for being now?’ A lot of guys struggle with that transition. One of the things I want to assist on is empowering players through education and other types of transition opportunities. I want to help educate players along the way and when they first come in. Financial literacy. Marketing, Leadership and communication skills. Anything that might help make that transition away from the game smoother and less disruptive.
On his fondness for golf (he’s a scratch golfer) and the outdoors
Before moving to New York, I made my home in Arizona for about 18 years. So I love hiking, running, golf and any kind of outdoor activities. Golf has a special place for me because I learned the game at a young age from my father. It’s no secret that a lot of the pitchers like to get out and compete away from the field on the golf course. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do with my dad. Some of my best memories with him are competing out on the course.
I had some misguided ideas about possibly pursuing golf after baseball. I did it for about six months after I retired. I started playing a little bit of competitive golf around Arizona and really enjoyed it, but I also realized just how good the guys out on tour actually are. I abandoned the idea of pursuing a professional career in golf pretty quickly and turned my attention towards graduate school!
On his other off-field interests
In addition to sporting-type stuff, I am also a foodie. I love cooking and finding new restaurants. I love movies and books, and exploring New York has become a new passion as well. I love learning the different neighborhoods, the culture, the shows and exploring the city.
I’m also interested in finance. My dad, Frank, was a financial planner, so I did a lot of my own investing as a player and helped out a lot of my teammates along the way in thinking about how to budget and plan for different events in their lives--when they got married, had kids, or had to plan for other life goals.
For a long time growing up, I had dreams of being an astronaut. I was fascinated with space. I went to space camp in sixth grade in Huntsville, Ala., and had a blast during a week-long program. It’s still a hobby of mine -- reading up on NASA missions and companies like Blue Origin and Space X. MIT has a vibrant history with space exploration and aeronautics. I explored a little bit of that as well when I was there, "drinking from the firehose" as the popular expression around campus goes.