Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd, with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life. I was, and still am, in love with baseball. But I quit.
It was strange, really.
I checked my Twitter shortly after waking up this morning, and was surprised to see the familiar name of former Athletics minor leaguer Adrian Cardenas flooding my timeline. A name that hadn’t entered my stream of thought in forever. Lost to the sands of time. Forgotten in my consciousness, as he slipped off the annual A’s top prospect lists–and eventually out of the organization altogether.
To my surprise, I quickly learned that with very little fanfare Cardenas retired after being demoted off the Chicago Cubs 40-man roster last season. At the ripe old age of 25, the Florida native walked away from a fledgeling major league career and onto the campus of New York University to continue the education he had started in previous off-seasons, as a creative writing and philosophy student.
Hence, the article that I found at the end of a lucky trail of tweets. An honest, brave, heartbreaking, yet refreshing look at a man who knew his days as a professional baseball player were ready to be over by his own accord. Authored by himself, and published in the New York Times, Cardenas holds nothing back as he provides the reasoning behind his decision. His dissolution and detachment with the business side of professional baseball, and his inability to enjoy on-field accomplishments without immediately dwelling on the next course of action.
In a way, I liken Cardenas’s story to that of the famed Jeremy Brown, of Moneyball notoriety. Another former Athletics prospect, who retired before his time at age 28 after briefly reaching the show. From what was revealed, the bad-bodied catcher grew a distaste after receiving unwanted publicity from the book and turned his back on the game for good in 2007.
Cardenas, who was acquired by Oakland in the Joe Blanton trade of 2008, mentions the fear of failure and in turn the fear of public embarrassment that comes with the territory of professional baseball. He cites the emptiness that comes from the withdrawal of close relationships, broken marriages, and missed family engagements due to all encompassing job that is a ballplayer.
Up until this article, I had a very limited opinion of Adrian Cardenas. I thought he was just another fringe ballplayer. Selfishly, maybe a little part of me hoped he wouldn’t turn into the next Andre Ethier and make the Athletics look back for giving him his walking papers. Nevertheless, his name elicited very little than an “oh, yeah that guy.” response from me. Perhaps, with a little research I could rattle off his 2011 minor league OPS, or explain how an accidental collision he had with Eric Chavez during the spring of 2010 caused a shoulder injury that sapped Chavvy of his ability to drive the ball. Just random, superfluous details about a ballplayer who no longer factored into the future of the Oakland Athletics.
Now I can finally share something of value about Adrian Cardenas, and maybe that’s not too strange after all.