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Photo Credit: Joe Hermitt

What Next?: My Journey After Pro Ball

July 5th, 2017

By Tim Pahuta

Featured Photo Credit: Joe Hermitt

My entire life changed in 2001 when I was a senior in high school. I was drafted in the 21st round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB first-year player draft.

After a few months of negotiations with the Pirates, while I continued to play American Legion ball in Flemington, NJ, they made their final offer before I was to attend Seton Hall University. They offered me $170,000 cash and $120,000 worth of scholarship to attend any school of my choosing once I retired. I only bring up the money for reasons that will become apparent shortly.

I chose school with the hopes that after three years of growing, learning and playing, My goal was to be drafted again after my junior year and commence a pro career then. However, I wasn’t drafted until after my senior year. As any senior sign will tell you, without the leverage of an additional year of school, the signing bonuses drop off very quickly. I signed my non-negotiable 7-year contract and collected my signing bonus of $1,000. I wasn’t rich, but I was finally a professional athlete. I started my pro career in July 2005 after being drafted by the Nationals in the 18th round of their first draft as a franchise.

I played for the Nationals for that entire first contract and signed back for one year on top. Following the 2012 season, my third in AA, the Nationals and every other team in the MLB was uninterested in signing me to play baseball. It turned out though that a couple of independent teams needed a power hitter. I had a couple of offers and ended up signing a 2-year deal to play in Sioux Falls, SD.

I wasn’t keen on signing a 2-year deal because I had never been to South Dakota or any of the cities in the league so I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I signed the contract reluctantly because of the 2 year deal that the league insists on with the reassurance that I would be able to have my release should I request it after the year. I should’ve had that amendment written into the contract but instead I took the wrong person’s word. Part of me had decided that if I didn’t get picked up by an MLB team during my year at Sioux Falls then I would be done and hopefully the second year wouldn’t matter.

After the statistically best year of my career at 30 years old as a DH but not getting picked up, I was on the fence about continuing to play. I had an opportunity to play for a team near my hometown in New Jersey called the Somerset Patriots but had some value to Sioux Falls once I had a good year so they wouldn’t release my contract. I couldn’t sign with the Patriots because I wasn’t a free agent.

Instead, Sioux Falls traded my contract out to a separate team in New Jersey that I had no desire to play for in order to pick up a couple of players that could help them the following year. The New Jersey Jackals manager refused to release my contract as well even after we had a conversation and explained everything that happened. If he had spoken to me before the trade he could’ve kept his other two players. I wasn’t going to play for him. It was Patriots or nothing for me. Since the Jackals wouldn’t release me it was nothing. I retired at 30 years old capping what had been a 9 year career as a professional athlete.

I found myself with $300 in my bank account, a host of bad habits and no idea what to do with the rest of my life. I had been nothing but a baseball player for as long as I could remember and poured everything I had into it.

I put together a resume highlighting my vast experiences in hitting a ball with a piece of wood and starting applying to jobs I thought sounded interesting…Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing, Writing positions. I got zero calls back from anyone.

I didn’t really know what to do so I did what every 30 year old who has $300 and no idea what to do does. I asked my father. I thought, “He’s a successful business man. He’ll know what to do.”

And he did. If I wanted to get into business and was truly done playing, there was an old business friend of my fathers who owned a company based out of New Jersey 50 miles from my family’s home who happened to be looking to hire a Regional Sales Manager for his company. I had very little sales experience at the time, outside of selling myself, but took the job.

The territories were scattered being a small company. After five months of working at the company, I was managing agencies in cities all over the US. I was traveling every other week to cities like San Francisco, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, parts of Texas and all over Florida.

Six months into my new career as Regional Sales Manager, the company was restructuring territories to make it more efficient and as a result were looking to hiring on a West Coast Regional Sales Manager based out of Los Angeles, CA.

I saw the ad on LinkedIn and decided to talk directly with the president of the company and my father’s business colleague. For the first time in a long time, I made an active decision to improve my life. I wanted the Los Angeles job. I had been to the West Coast only twice at that point. Once to Palm Springs for a sister’s field hockey tournament and once to SD to visit friends. I loved it and if the financials made sense I would move away from my family’s home and cross country to LA.

In my nine years of baseball, I had seen the vast majority of the east coast and the central US. With my company in a position to move me to LA and my ability to perform the position, the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2014 I packed my car and headed west.

After baseball and during my early time as a Regional Sales Manager, I was running into major problems with my health. This went beyond just physical issues. I played most of my career somewhat to moderately overweight with a slew of mismanaged poor habits that caught up with me in a hurry when I stopped exercising daily. I gained 30 pounds seemingly without even noticing and before I knew it I had ballooned to 275 pounds. At 6’4” and 275 pounds I was a large, unhappy individual.

I was feeling like a failure after baseball. My goal was to play professional baseball which I did accomplish. I was paid to play a game for a living. Did I play in the Major Leagues though? No.

It has taken me a long time and a lot of introspection to get to the point of not feeling like a failure but rather the exact opposite. I feel proud of everything I have accomplished. As former players, we should feel proud of our collective past and excited for our collective future.

In 2015, I was living in Los Angeles, playing tennis 5 days a week and making $125k per year to sell Italian lighting fixtures all over the western third of the US. However part of me wasn’t particularly happy doing a job that made me stressed out beyond belief. Lots of former athletes end up in sales because our competitiveness and work ethic give us an edge on the competition. If anyone has a position in regional sales or sales in general, you know how stressful that can be.

I had started to get back in physical shape, losing some weight and starting to feel more confident again before tearing my meniscus in my right knee. A knee that I had already had operated on years before for an ACL reconstruction. I went to a family physician for a pre-op check up just to make sure I would be ok under anesthesia. Some red flags showed most notably that my heart rate was extremely low.

I spent five weeks in and out of doctor’s offices seeing cardiologists, specialists, mentors doing ultrasounds and take home 24-hour EKGs all while seriously beginning to question whether I was healthy or had a real problem with my heart.

Five weeks of thinking you may be seriously sick has a profound mental effect on me. I started asking myself some really tough questions. Why are we here? What’s the point? What does it matter? Is it really about money?

I started coming up with some answers. Maybe we’re not here for work or our career impact– maybe we are here for family and love and connection. With baseball as my number one focus since I was a young boy, my relationships always took a second chair to my career. When I switched from baseball to lighting, I took the same mentality and approach there as well giving my career was top priority.

As I was contemplating my health and mortality, I consciously made a decision and came up with a new dynamic. I lined up some principles:

– IF the main focus of life is to build a family, be in a partnership, share and connect with other people

– AND the only way to be happy with another person is to first be happy with yourself

– THEN becoming the person that you truly want to be is the most important thing in the world

A total mindset shift on self-care and personal development developed as a result of my personal health scare. I’ve since come to realize that this dynamic of choosing one or the other doesn’t need to happen. Switching my mentality has led to the most amazing year of my life. It was a year in which I discovered coaching. Not baseball coaching but life-coaching. I went back to school, left my position in lighting, moved to Colorado, swapped volleyball for tennis, and took a job at Denver Country Club.

The reason I wanted to share this story is because I know that there are those among us retired professional baseball players who feel lost working in positions that make them unhappy, suffering from self-esteem and confidence issues and are defeated by baseball left feeling as a failure or inadequate. I often talk to ex-teammates who have labeled this as depression. Self-doubt and fear are the new characteristics that have replaced playfulness, joy and excitement.

The reason I wanted to share my story is for anyone that may be in that spot right now. I have been exactly where you are. I know what it is like to be depressed. I know what it is like to be heart-broken because you just couldn’t get it done or make it. I know what it feels like to wake up as a professional athlete and I know what it’s like to wake up and no longer be one.

I know what you are going through and I am here to tell you there is a completely different way. A better way, and you already have the skill set required- we all do. Of course, I’m talking about coaching.

As athletes, we have all been coached our entire lives. We have all spent time with people from all over the US and other countries. We know how to communicate. We know how to get along. We know how to lead. We have seen good leadership and bad leadership. Our aptitude for strategy, performing under pressure, boldness and gung ho spirit are all pluses. You cannot teach experience and we have experience that less that 1% of people have. While, we most certainly did not get financially rich in minor league baseball, I want to remind you that we have a skill set that is unparalleled in the market place and must be shared.

The point of this story, all this writing and all this reading on your part, is to let you know that coaching— life coaching, health coaching, business coaching, financial coaching, etc— is an area that you might want to take a look at.

It is an area that you will truly enjoy not only for the financial benefits but for the shear contribution and meaning of impacting someone’s life in a positive way. Every single day I meet new people and talk with them about their lives. I celebrate their successes and coach them through their challenges.

As a Mentality Coach, I’m watching my clients grow and progress in ways they never thought were possible every day because they are learning to finally take control of their minds, take responsibility in their own lives and learn to create exactly what they want through simple and fun exercises that I walk them through in a two month structured program.

From the time that I was 6 years old my dream was to play professional baseball. It turned out for me that dream #2 is helping people every single day in the most impactful way I can, coaching.

My name is Tim Pahuta. I played professional baseball for 9 years, sold lighting fixtures for 2.5 years, and am currently planning to move into an RV to travel the country coaching people.

I love my business and love my life. Thanks for reading!

Thanks Tim for sharing your story! If you are interested in connecting with Tim, click here to visit his LinkedIn profile.

7 Responses to “What Next?: My Journey After Pro Ball”

  1. Francisco Plasencia says:

    Tim nice words. And very good for you.

  2. Dan Battista says:

    Hi Tim, glad to read of your happiness, you played legion against us and Mike played against you in the GCL in FLA. Mike text me your article. Your vast experiences qualifys you to be a good coach to people. Mike coaches at SPLFD and has similar experiences like you. You guys have lots to share. Good luck and be well. Dan Battista

  3. Dave Stafford says:

    Nice piece, Tim. Best of luck with your new endeavor.

  4. Rachael says:

    I quite literally wanted to advise post-professional career ballplayers as a career of my own. No one seemed to be interested at the time. Good for you!

  5. Phyllis Mesick says:

    So good to hear you are happy and healthy. I am watching the Nats right now and Brian Goodwin just batted.


  6. Shane Hale says:

    Great read Tim and good for you. Our stories are remarkably similar in regards to baseball and after baseball. I’m printing your story out to save.

  7. Tim pahuuuuuuta. 2008 Sally league legend. Great article man, glad to see your doing well! I lived in a trailer my last 2 years in triple a, it was the best. If you ever get to traveling through Nashville, look me up!

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