I don’t usually write about baseball here, since I have a blog dedicated to it, but this is about business, entrepreneurship, and my identity.
Ever since I moved to Seattle and started coaching baseball players, I knew that I would want to do this for the rest of my life. Like most people, I thought: “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for a living?” Unlike most people, I was stupid enough to go down this road. I worked full-time as a professional gambler, software developer, systems analyst, and other IT jobs, but I always set aside money and time to focus on growing my business – nevermind the fact that my business only ever had two or three trainees at any given time.
I was able to identify a niche in my hobby – training baseball pitchers – and knew that I could eventually dominate it if I just studied and experimented enough. And I did. While I don’t dominate the market, I command a small but fair amount of respect amongst people who care to put one ounce of thought into training baseball players, and that’s a huge leap for me. Being invited to speak at the Ultimate Coaches’ Bootcamp was a tremendous honor, and one I will never forget.
However, as I progress further and further down the golden road where I can see my full-time income being derived from my hobby, I come across increasingly more difficult choices that force me to sacrifice or accommodate parts of my beliefs. On one side of the coin, I start to understand that to make money, I actually need to apply all those lessons I learned in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship – and when I was doubling down against a paint card, yelling “CHECKS PLAY” at the top of my lungs, drinking a gin and tonic, and playing the part of degenerate gambler along with my Korean friend, I didn’t have a care in the world. But when I started to realize that I was going to be taking money from people – and that some people will be unhappy with my service/product (and there’s nothing I can do about it) – it becomes… scary.
In this industry, you have a paradigm where the extremes can be seen as Pure Sales and the other extreme is Pure Integrity. The Pure Sales people don’t actually offer a good product or service, they’re just good at separating people from their money who are looking for a solution. The perfect example here is a guy named [name redacted], who has OptimizePress installed on a million servers and just sells crap eBooks and a membership where the information is simply parroted from various other sources. Close to the end of that scale is [name redacted], who has spurious “research” backing him up, but nothing really scientific that actually verifies his claims – and he, too, is excellent at Internet marketing.
The Pure Integrity people are the ridiculous outcasts who may have excellent information, but are laughably unapproachable. Perfect examples here are Dr. Mike Marshall and Fritz Outman (father of major leaguer Josh Outman), both of whom have important things to contribute to baseball, but are ignored by the public because of their personas.
Blending Integrity and Sales
To make it in this business with some sense of integrity, I understand the importance of sales/marketing, but it cannot ever intrude on my integrity or my methodical approach to training baseball players. This is how I carved my niche, and I will be damned if I lose it for a few thousand dollars. I do not want my legacy to be known as a good marketer who contributed nothing to the field of research that he so loved. People who I look up to and seem to balance on the middle of the paradigm are Eric Cressey and Ron Wolforth. Eric undoubtably does a better job marketing himself than most, but he is incredibly intelligent, educated, knowledgeable and experienced. Ron runs his fair share of services in an attempt to make money, but his meta-approach to understanding how to train pitchers so closely parallels my own.
And so when I get further and further into an integrated approach – selling products, services, supplements, and the like – I always check myself to remind myself where I came from. Most of my teachers in this industry were complete assholes who were wrong about a great many things – which I guess is a great analogy for baseball in general – but I will never forget the lessons I learned from them.
The Nagging Voice
I am an unabashed capitalist with a lot of libertarian sympathies; I will never lie about that.
But my love for this game transcends the logical. (Indeed, any person’s love for this stupid game does.) So anytime I start to evaluate how to expand my business, there is the nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me not to exploit it, not to leave it in worse shape.
There are some interesting life lessons to be learned on this path. I look forward to traversing it over the coming years, even if it is uncomfortable from time to time.
* I redacted two of the negative names. There’s no reason to point them out, and anyone familiar with the industry will know who they are without naming them.