Educating Ball Players: Pirates Believe

March 09, 2012

“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t then you are wasting your time on Earth.” – Roberto Clemente, Former Pirates Player, Current Hall of Famer

Nervous and a little lost for words, I went to my heart on what to say next. I looked out at the 160 young minor leaguers knowing they all dreamt of making it to the Show. I didn’t want to be the one to tell them they might not make it. I believe in dreams.

Larry Broadway, the Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations, is a Duke graduate and former 3rd round draft choice. I met Larry at the Baseball Winter Meetings and was immediately struck by how much he cared for his players. He seemed to have a balanced interpretation of how players could give everything to their baseball dream and still have a connection to the realities of the outside world.

Going after one’s baseball dream is not without sacrifice. Sociologist, Dr. Sudhir Venkatesh, examined the socioeconomic background and outcome of the 2001 baseball draft class. According to Dr. Venkatesh, the average draftee is probably making $20,000-$24,000 a year. He explained, a player is, “Probably working five to seven months playing baseball and then struggling to find part-time work in the off season. Might be coaching, might be doing some training, might be working on a construction site. Might be working in fast food” (

The decision to stick through the minors to follow a dream, when it may be economically disadvantageous for a player to do so, makes total sense to me. Because I love baseball. And these minor leaguers love baseball too. And when you love something, you will do anything to be a part of it.

So as I stood in front of those young men, I gave them my heart, and I shared that I too believed in dreams. That I had made history twice even though I was told my whole life it could never be done. But even though their dream is possible, they must still prepare for the realities of life after baseball.

When our presentation was over, 30 players came up to us and asked for more details on how to earn their college degree.

-To read more about Justine’s journey through spring training, visit