You Gotta Have Heart And Know How to Read a Contract
By Christine Ziegler and Steve Sullivan
Here's to those unsung souls toiling away in the trenches
of obscurity from the inner city playgrounds to the minor league ballparks in the
boonies they doggedly carry on, fueled by dreams of discovering the next athletic
wunderkind and then sticking it to the Dodgers for inking him before his fifteenth
That's right, we're saluting the sports agent.
Not the super shark, such as Leigh Steinberg (the model for
Jerry Maguire) or Scott Boras, whose raison d'etre seems to be making every major
league owner whimper like an abandoned puppy.
Rather, we're focusing on the little guy. The
players' rep who doesn't have a staff of 118, or a Harvard law degree. In
fact, he or she may not have a degree at all.
According to Garret Roberts, president of Roberts Sports
Management in Rhode Island, many of the first successful sports agents weren't attorneys
at all they were insurance salesman.
A business school grad, Roberts represents about
twenty-five baseball players at various levels, predominantly in the minor leagues.
"Of course, I took law classes and I have a group of people behind me,
including a couple of lawyers, but I think the most important thing a sports agent needs
After listening to his travel schedule we'd agree.
"I go to tons of baseball games," says Roberts. "I can't
always tell you what's going on in the "bigs," but I always know who's in first
in any division in any minor league team throughout the country.
"It's a big grind going from one single "A"
park to another in the middle of nowhere I"m talking upstate New York where
you're driving through woods and all of a sudden you come across a ball field with a train
going through it but it's fun. It's nostalgic stuff and I enjoy working with
the young kids, being not only their agent but also their friend."
This is very apparent when you hear Roberts speak about his
clients. "I'll never forget when David Goodwin, one of my players with the
Royals organization, phoned me from the airportat 7:30 a.m. He'd just been
called up to AA and I got as excited as he was."
"And, it's so great when one of my players gets called
up to the '40 man.' (Big league rosters expand to forty players in September.); I
can get on the phone and finally get them a decent equipment deal. I don't have any
kids, but I consider these guys my kids. I get so pumped up when they do well.
And when they're not doing good, I'm upset for them. It's kind of crazy, but
it's that way."
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