SBJ/October 17 - 23, 2005/SBJ In Depth

A ‘how to’ for athletes

As a player, Dale Murphy was never betrayed by an agent. He was not tricked into investing in any “get rich quick” money schemes, and he successfully transitioned his way into retirement with his family intact and plenty of money in the bank.

So his new “how to” book on being a professional athlete (“The Scouting Report — Professional Athletics”) isn’t your typical “learn from my mistakes”-type book. However, it is a helpful tool designed to guide today’s athlete through the many challenges of a professional sports career.

Murphy, a seven-time All-Star and two-time National League MVP during his 18-year MLB career, divides the book into six chapters: “Define Yourself,” “Agents,” “Business Management,” “Giving Back,” “Career and Family” and “Retirement.” Murphy’s wife, Nancy, contributes a chapter titled “A Wife’s Perspective.”

Murphy said he wrote the book to offer “step-by-step instructions” for everything from hiring an agent to managing money to balancing life between a family and a career.

In the “Agents” chapter, Murphy gives readers a 10-topic questionnaire that he thinks all players should ask any potential agent, including questions about compensation, expenses, services and other clients.

“Your agent is an important part of your business management team,” Murphy writes. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking he is the only element. Although tradition might suggest that the agent fill every role, experience tells me there is a better way.”

And that better way, according to Murphy, is diversifying responsibility and taking a personal interest in all financial matters. But money management, Murphy argues, is often delegated and then forgotten because of a lack of education or, perhaps, simple laziness.

“Sometimes the money is so big, I just think some of the athletes get a little lazy and say, ‘What could go wrong?’” Murphy said in a telephone interview.

Throughout the book, Murphy offers his opinions but follows up with advice on how to avoid potential economic mishaps. Although basic and fairly short, Murphy’s collection of financial and personal advice is as much about the playing years as it is about preparing for retirement.

“You just think things are going to last forever,” Murphy said, referring to a player’s mind-set. “When you’re 23, you think 33 is a million years away and so preparing for life after sports, financially and emotionally, is something you don’t even think about.”

In today’s world, in which ex-athletes seemingly walk into positions as coaches, broadcasters or real estate agents, Murphy emphasizes the importance of athletes using their playing careers as a “springboard for life after ball.”

From the chapter called “Retirement,” Murphy writes, “Planning for a second career should be on your mind throughout your career as a professional athlete. If you are wise, you will have a plan in place so when that day comes you can step right into something else.”

Since retiring from baseball in 1993, Murphy has focused on his family, his church, several charities and motivational speaking. Regardless of how an athlete decides to spend his time, Murphy is suggesting that a plan is put into place sooner rather than later.

Put on the spot and asked what was next for him, Murphy laughed and said, “I haven’t given a lot of thought about what’s next.”

Maybe he should pick up a copy of “The Scouting Report.”


The following are excerpts from Dale Murphy’s new book, “The Scouting Report — Professional Athletics”

“It is important to define your relationship with your agent from the very beginning. He should be your agent, not necessarily your friend. That might sound harsh, but it is probably the best piece of advice you will get on the subject. Maintaining a business relationship makes it easier to do what’s in your best interest down the road.”

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“As professional athletes, we are given incredible opportunities. One of the greatest is the chance to achieve financial security at a relatively young age. Despite the fact that most professional athletes make tremendous amounts of money during their careers, many have ended up virtually destitute. Have you ever wondered how that could happen? Dishonest agents, over-the-top spending habits, carelessness, failure to pay attention, unwillingness to adjust outflow of money after retirement and a feeling of ‘no tomorrow’ are among the reasons a one-time financially solvent athlete can wind up in serious trouble. These reasons are like spokes on a wheel — all connecting to one central hub: inadequate business management.”

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“Even if you are fortunate enough to play into your 30s, there are still a lot of years left in your life. It’s often hard to imagine any other career that will bring the excitement or satisfaction of playing professional sports. Life as an athlete is like living in a dream — one that you usually don’t want to wake up from. But when reality sets in and your career ends, use what you have done in the past as a springboard to something even greater in the future. You can have an exciting, interesting and fulfilling career ahead.

“Start today to formulate a financial plan for your retirement — no matter how far into your career you are. There is no way around it, the responsibility for your financial future belongs to you. Throughout the years of your career, you must carefully consider and conscientiously implement a plan that will provide for you and your family after retirement. There are many years left to live after you leave the game; make sure there is money left, as well.”

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