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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Sage advice for young players

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

Gather round, all you prospects just heading into your first season in the big leagues. Randy Johnson has something to say to help you make the most of your careers.

"Listen and ask questions. Because you don't know everything," Johnson said. "If a 20-year veteran doesn't know everything and he's still intrigued by everything, why would someone with a couple of years in the league think he knows everything? Every person I've ever talked to over my career has said one thing, and it's always been the same thing. 'I don't know everything.'"

But Johnson does know this: You need to ask questions.

"I didn't say a whole lot when I was younger, but when I did, I wanted to know how someone got to be so good," he said. "No question is too stupid to ask."

And while you're listening and questioning, here is some more advice. Appreciate each and every day. You may be young now with a thick head of hair and an arm that never gets sore, but before you know it, you'll be near the end of your career and wondering where the years and your hair went.

"[If] you play 10 years in the majors, that's a long time," Dodgers pitcher Jason Schmidt said. "But in the whole scheme of life and real jobs in the world? That's not any time at all. And it goes by really, really quick. So enjoy your time and use it wisely. And write down your experiences along the way, because there's a lot of stuff you're not going to remember. I wish I would have kept a notebook. People ask me if I have any great stories, and I'm sure I do, but I can't remember them."

Just don't get too caught up in enjoying yourself. You need to work hard and push yourself, too.

"You would think to say, 'Enjoy it and enjoy every minute,' but it's a lot of hard work," Giants outfielder Randy Winn said. "And if you work hard and respect the game, the game will respect you. I've had a wonderful career so far. I've enjoyed it, I've had fun, but I realize that it's my job, and to stay here and to continue to enjoy the good times, I have to work hard."

That's right, Giants veteran Rich Aurilia says. It may seem as if it was hard work to get to the majors, "but it's harder to stay here. You have to produce and do things the right way."

And then, once you establish yourself and you make so much money that it seems as if you could never run out, that's the time to be really careful.

"Don't trust too many people," Schmidt said. "Not as far as coaches go, but there are going to be a lot of people off the field who are going to try to get into your pockets, so you have to be very, very careful. Everyone has the next great investment and the next great thing."

Angels outfielder Torii Hunter can tell you about that. He learned a valuable experience when he got taken for $70,000 in a flood-protection scheme several years ago. He says he tells younger players to hold on to their cash because no investment they can make can earn them as much money as they can earn playing baseball.

"We're baseball players. We know baseball. We don't know anything about investing money, the same as anyone else," Hunter said. "Doctors and lawyers? They're not all great investors, either. How do you learn about money and investing? Plus, we're 21 years old. We're going to have fun with the money until we figure it out. And some people don't last long enough to figure it out."

"A lot of guys go out and say, 'I'm worth X amount of dollars and if I go out and invest it, I'll be worth double that," Schmidt said. "Why? You're going to have plenty anyway, why risk it? Be smart with it -- live on the principal, live off the interest."

That goes back to Schmidt's first point. Your career will end before you know it, and so will your baseball income. So save and plan for all those years after your final game. And work hard until then.

So let's review.

Listen.

And ask questions.

And record your thoughts.

And work hard.

But remember to enjoy yourself.

Just not too much, because baseball is harder work than it seems. As you'll soon realize your second time through the league.

"Work as hard as you can," Seattle's Mike Sweeney said. "When you think you've worked hard, continue to work even harder. And do things the right way and never take a shortcut. If you do things the right way and do the best you can with what the good Lord gave you, whether your career is two months in the minors or 15 years in the bigs, you'll be able to look yourself in the mirror and never have a regret."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.