Lars Anderson: Put Your Passions in the Driver's Seat

By Lars Anderson  \\\  MLB Baseball player

At 18, I experienced a “fork in the road moment” - go to UC Berkeley or sign a professional contract to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox.  After much deliberation, flip-flopping, and general consternation, I decided to chase my dream of playing in the big leagues.  

Upon signing, I operated under the assumption that I’d take classes in the off-season and chisel away at a degree....wrong!  I’ve been playing professional baseball for the last decade and still haven’t taken a single college course.  

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It hasn’t all been for naught - I’ve learned a lot of cool shit outside of the game.  I taught myself how to play the drums and paint, read great books, made electronic music, gardened, traveled, carved wood, played guitar, watched films and shows, sat in parks, did nothing, fell in and out of love, contemplated what I was going to do after baseball....wait, what am I going to do after baseball?! 

All my hobbies and passions are fulfilling and fun, but as potential careers they seem to scream either starving artist or professional hobbyist.  I know I am writing for a site called Frugal Athlete, but damn.... 

I’ve had a lot of time to at least put a dent in my degree.  While I don’t feel like I’ve been lazy or have wasted my time, I also could have been more economical with said time, especially DURING THE SEASON.  After all, how many times does one need to watch Breaking Bad in a motel room?  

It takes discipline to maybe wake up an hour early in the morning and knock out some school work before heading to the yard.  It takes discipline to finish an assignment after the game rather than grabbing a beer with teammates.  But I am an athlete after all, and it has taken plenty of discipline to play at the levels that I have played.  

Part of my college procrastination can be attributed to my desire of being fully immersed in the experience of the season.  That includes playing cards on the bus, deep conversations with teammates about life and its obstacles, and occasionally going out and partying a bit.  However, I wish I would have at least tried to see if taking online classes would have fit or even added to that experience.  No big deal if they didn’t - but there is no replacement for living what was once just an abstract projection. 

Obviously, one doesn’t need to go to college to be successful or happy, but it does allow for more options in the modern world.  I am now forced with the choice of being a 29 year old without a degree, looking for a job once baseball is finished, or starting to knock out my pre-reqs at school to usher in my third decade.  

"....wait, what am I going to do after baseball?!"

Lack of college progress hasn’t just affected my perception of the future.  Maybe the most subtle but important aspect of all this is that it has affected my peace of mind and potentially my performance on the field.  If, for example, I had two years of school under my belt, it would be much easier to be in the moment during the baseball season, knowing that I have momentum building outside of my very finite profession.  I won’t be playing baseball until I am 65 years old and the world beyond baseball comes quicker than expected.  I know that I have spent many moments, some quite uncomfortable, thinking about what I will do next.

School isn’t for everyone and that might include me.  But I wish I would’ve answered that question years ago so I could have a clearer picture of the path that lays ahead of me.  The most effective way to figure out likes and dislikes is firsthand experience.  

I have lived a rich, immersive, and often surreal life for the past 10 years in the absence of school; that being said, a professional career in sports and academic progress aren't mutually exclusive.  We as humans have a great capacity to juggle many interests at once.  My advice for those following athletic careers would be to start being aware of passions outside of the game and engage with them to see what feels right and fits.  Our careers in sports are all terminal, and there is a lot of life to be lived after its death.