A friend in need: How agents joined forces
Most rival agents in any sport compete so hard against each other it’s lucky if they aren’t enemies, let alone friends. But rival veteran baseball agents Joe Bick and Barry Meister have had a long and deep friendship which they say is based on common values. For more than 30 years, they’ve had each other’s backs.
Bick founded Pro Star Management in Cincinnati in 1986. Meister founded Meister Sports Management in the Chicago area in 1987. Both based in the Midwest, they often ran across or recruited the same baseball player prospects.
“We never took each other’s players,” Meister said. “There were times when players appealed to both of us and I would say, ‘If you don’t pick me, you can’t go wrong with Joe Bick,’” Meister said.
The friendship went ever deeper than that, Bick said.
“Barry and I always had an agreement with the other that we would cover each other’s rear end if anything happened to the other,” Bick said of those early days, when they were both running one-man shops. “If I would have died in that period of time, Barry would have been on the phone to my clients, telling them, ‘Joe and I have talked about this; we’ve got this under control, don’t worry.’ The same would have been true in reverse.”
Over the past three decades, both agencies have flourished. Pro Star’s clients over the years have included stars like outfielder Paul O’Neill and infielder Kevin Youkilis. In 2006, Joe’s son, Brett Bick, became an MLB Players Association-certified agent and joined the practice. Joe said it only took Brett three years to become a better agent than he is.
Meister, meanwhile, has had many star clients, including former pitcher Randy Johnson, and has a large baseball player practice, as well as a golf and broadcaster representation business. Meister’s two sons, Brandon and Andrew, who have also become MLBPA-certified, joined him in his business in the past 10 years. As the fathers are friends, so are the sons, and they see each other around baseball’s winter meetings, spring training, games and other events.
In August 2018, Bick learned his wife of almost 46 years, Pam, had been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. A month later, Bick saw Meister at an MLBPA meeting and shared the news with him.
Meister’s first words were how sorry he was to hear it, Bick related. Then Meister asked what it meant for Pro Star Management. “Barry says, ‘I just want you to know something. If anything were to happen where you would need to step away, temporarily, permanently, whatever, Brett’s got a home with us,’” Bick said.
After more than a year of talks, a deal was struck. Now the two agencies are one, as Pro Star has quietly merged into and become part of Meister Sports Management. Joe Bick and Brett Bick are now agents of Meister Sports Management, and Meister remains CEO. The Bicks will continue to be based in Cincinnati and the Meisters in Chicago.
Under the new company, clients of the former Pro Star have become clients of MSM, including free-agent outfielder Brett Gardner and free-agent infielder Travis Shaw, as well as Diamondbacks pitcher Andrew Chafin and A’s pitcher Chris Bassitt, both of whom are arbitration eligible. Meister’s free-agent clients include pitchers Sergio Romo, Cody Allen and Blake Parker.
“The first thing we did as a merged company is send out a merged free-agent list to all the teams and the synergy of that has already paid dividends,” Bick said. Baseball is a relationship business and club execs he has deep relationships with have reached out to him about Meister’s clients and vice versa, he said.
Pam Bick, meanwhile, is doing well, responding to new Alzheimer’s treatments and a specialized diet and exercise regimen. But Alzheimer’s is a progressive and unpredictable disease. “My wife can go 10 years with very little changes or she might go six months and everything changes,” Bick said.
Either way, he will be able to be there for her, as she was for him. They had a deal, early in their marriage, where he took care of growing his business and she took care of everything else, including cooking, cleaning, raising their children and taking care of household expenses. “Until this happened, I never paid a personal bill,” he said.
Now, Bick knows the future for his clients and his son is secure. For the first 20 years of Pro Star, Bick was a one-man operation representing between 30 and 40 players, but the business has changed and become more complex.
“I didn’t want Brett to be in a position where he was a one-man company,” Bick said. “It’s just too hard now in this day and age. … This is just a wonderful result for our future and our company.”