On Sunday, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster walked away from the game of baseball for physical reasons and based on his desire to spend more time with his kids. Although Dempster still could pitch, he didn’t believe that he was capable of producing at a level he was accustomed to during his 16-year professional career. Dempster’s decision represents an important lesson of humility.
Ryan Dempster is not your typical professional athlete, which is signified by the fact he gave up the opportunity to earn $13.25 million to play for the Red Sox in 2014. Instead, Dempster made a gut decision to better the Red Sox organization and his teammates. “The money was not that difficult a decision,” Dempster stated. He further explained, “I’ve been really fortunate, extremely lucky, extremely humbled by the amount of money I have made that has provided for me and my family for years and years.”
While Dempster made a lofty $89 million during his baseball career, his leadership inside a clubhouse should not be undervalued. Red Sox veteran catcher David Ross reiterated his teammates’ feelings toward Dempster, “[w]e love that guy. He’s such a good piece for us, such a good person. He makes everybody better. You become a better person.” Even young MLB players looked up to the veteran Dempster because he continuously led by example. “He was there a lot for me, molding me, from beginning to end, whether it was how to pitch or how to go about your business when you’re not pitching,” said former teammate and Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Before Dempster made his decision to leave the game he likely spoke at length with his family, close friends, and agent. An agent’s role goes far beyond maximizing financial returns for his or her clients. Agents assist and support their clients with major life decisions. They must represent their clients’ goals and support decisions that will advance their clients’ best interests, whether negotiating a lucrative contract or establishing a non-profit foundation. Here, Dempster’s agent, Craig Landis of California Sports Management negotiated a deal with the Red Sox last off-season for him to pitch in 2014, but Dempster felt that it would be out of character for him to take the club’s money because he was “not capable of performing to the ability and standard that [he was] accustomed to.” Consequently, Landis had a unique role to support his client during what is likely a taxing time for Dempster even though Landis may actually lose money during the process.
Dempster should be celebrated for understanding his status as a role model for future generations of athletes and for demonstrating respect for the sport of baseball. “At the end of the day, if this is the end, this is the end, and what a great way to go out,” Dempster stated.
Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherrington best summed up Demspter’s legacy, “[i]n a career full of earning respect and building respect, he’s ending his time with the Red Sox in a way that only bolsters that, strengthens that feeling about him, . . . and I have great respect for him making the decision that way.”