Nobody wants to hear that their career is over. Ever. That goes right on the top of the list of things you never want said to you.
When you're a professional athlete, the pill is even more difficult to swallow. For the most part, the sport you play has been a part of your daily routine since childhood, through high school and college, and for your entire adult life. You don't get to work until you're 65, and usually you don't retire on your own terms.
Instead, you deal with things like being "designated for assignment," or "placed on waivers," or even the dreaded "unconditionally released." Or maybe you simply don't have a contract.
Whatever it may be, the result is the same. You don't have a spot on the field anymore.
This is where your options get a little complicated, but also where it's good to have played for a club like the San Francisco Giants. You can stay on and become an instructor, like Shawon Dunston, Will Clark, or JT Snow. You can coach, like Mark Gardner, Steve Kline, or minor league manager Steve Decker.
You can jump to the front office, like many Giants legends, and contribute to the organization on that side, joining the ranks of special assistants Felipe Alou, Willie Mays, and Jim Davenport, along with senior advisor Willie McCovey.
Or you can head upstairs to the broadcast booth.
That's worked out pretty well for a couple former Giants players. Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper both ended their careers with the Giants, and have since been broadcasting for the team's flagship station, KNBR, picking up five Emmys each.
There are also television opportunities, like doing pregame and postgame shows. In the Bay Area, this has been pursued by former players like Snow, F.P. Santangelo, and Bip Roberts.
The latest to make this jump from the field to the pressbox is Rich Aurilia. As evidenced by a previous article, I'm a big fan .
One of my first autographs is a Rich Aurilia ball. The only jersey I have in my closet is number 35. So when I got the chance to interview him on his switch from the dugout to the Giants Pregame and Postgame shows on CSN-BayArea, I jumped at the chance.
Aurilia finished last year on a high note, with momentous ovations throughout his final home game at AT&T Park. When it became clear that the Giants had no intentions of re-signing him, he looked for other opportunities. But that transition hasn't been easy either.
"I haven't officially retired yet," Aurilia stressed. "I still have those competitive juices in me."
Those juices should translate well to the sports desk. Aurilia has always been one of the more articulate Giants, and his interviews as a player hinted at a possible future in broadcasting or media. But with that competitive attitude, even something as simple as analyzing a win or a loss can be hazardous.
For some players, this is the most difficult part.
If you're recently removed from the team, like Aurilia, the players you're being asked to analyze are your teammates, your buddies, your roommates on the road from only months before. But Aurilia, working with former teammate F.P. Santangelo on the show, will have to refrain from dishing out criticism.
"You have to walk a fine line there," he said. "On one side, you know how hard it is to play, but on the other side, its very easy to point out what a player does wrong."
Aurilia knows what it's like to be criticized. He knows what it's like to see your name in the papers and all the negative press that can come with it. But he also knows the value that fans place on special players.
He's earned a spot on the Wall of Fame once he qualifies, and was recently voted on the Giants All-Decade team as the shortstop.
"San Francisco was a place that I never wanted to leave," Aurilia admitted. "For me to cover that team is an honor."
For the Giants to have Aurilia hang around is an honor as well. His short-term goals are on the postgame show, but he has aspirations of staying in the organization as a coach or front office assistant in the future.
But we'll have the privilege of hearing him, for the next season at least, speaking his mind and preaching his hustle from the CSN-BayArea desk.
Again, no one wants to hear that their career is over. But if you play for the Giants, you'll probably get handed a microphone.
So be ready to start a new one.
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