Friday, April 20, 2007

I better not cry

Today is Alumni Day at my high school. They invite back alums each year to speak to the seniors about their careers and try to give the kids some inspiration. This will be my eighth straight year attending. It's fun going back to Foothill High, even if there's fewer and fewer familiar faces every year. The alums speak to two classes and it's pretty much an open forum to say anything you want to kids aged 15-17 for 45-50 minutes.

As I left Modesto for Pleasanton, about an hour drive, I thought about how what I've said each year to the kids is the story of my career. My first year, in 2000, I was 26 years old and covering a major league baseball team for the first time. Pretty much had no idea what I was doing, but I faked it well. Couldn't contain the smile on my face. I pretty much bragged to the kids about how cool my job is, and why I'm the luckiest guy ever.

The next few years, the focus was the book I wrote about Barry Bonds, the pre-steroids book titled, "This Gracious Season: Barry Bonds & The Greatest Year in Baseball." It's about the 73-homer season that broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. (I still have copies if you want to buy one. So does Amazon.)

By year four, my tone wasn't as enthusiastic. Still enjoyed the job, but the grind of traveling everywhere started to show. It was as much job as it was fun. By year five, it was a brief return to enthusiasm because I switched from the Giants beat to the A's beat -- so it was about seeing new ballparks and new cities, comparing the differences in the two organizations, and which one I preferred.

Last year, my third on the A's beat and seventh overall, I'd just returned a couple days earlier from a job interview with The Seattle Times about covering the Seattle Mariners. Thought the interviews -- there was eight -- went extremely well. Felt very confident I would be offered the job. So confident, I started to have serious doubts about moving away from home. Yes, I love Seattle. One of my favorite cities in the league. But I loved San Francisco, it was my home, and I'd be going a place where I didn't know anybody. I actually used the two classes to get the kids advice, talk to them about what's most important to life, and have them decide if they'd take the job. I gave them all the financial data, personal information (I'd just met a chick who I really liked), etc.

Never got the Seattle job, as it turned out.

A bummer at the time, but now I feel fortunate. No way I try getting into broadcasting after a few months in Seattle.

So this year, I figured I'd talk to the kids about the choices you make in life regarding your career. It dawned on me there's three types of job.

1. Jobs that pay really well.
2. Jobs that you love.
3. Jobs that provide flexible hours.

Most people only get one of three options. Some get two. Very few are provided all three. I started to practice what I would say, give the examples of doctors and professional athletes, the hours away, the satisfaction gained, and all that good stuff.

I decided my overall message would be an inspirational one. I wanted to tell the kids, "you can do anything you want in life. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't. Not your parents. Not your friends. Not your teacher. And most of all, don't EVER tell yourself that you can't do something. Find a reason why you can, instead of a reason why you can't. It might not be easy. It might take awhile. You might have to make major sacrifices, like moving from San Francisco to Modesto, taking a massive pay cut, and waking up at 3:45 a.m. every morning after going to bed around midnight. But if you want it bad enough, you won't mind doing it."

As I practiced this, I felt myself getting choked up and water forming in my eyes.

Uh oh.

Not good.

I better not freakin' cry in front of these damn kids.

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